Pitt Football In The Spotlight

Despite going 13-15 in two-plus seasons for head coach Dave Wannstedt, the Pitt football team is back in the spotlight when ESPN comes to town to televise its game against Navy Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Heinz Field.

The nonconference matchup between Pittsburgh (2-3) and the Midshipmen (3-2) will be the Panthers' fourth straight television game and second national broadcast by ESPN.

"Nobody's really talking about Pitt right now,'' sophomore cornerback Aaron Berry said. "When you turn on ESPN, you never see Pitt on there, so this is a chance for us to really make a name for ourselves. (And) a win against Navy can bring us right back up. So, I feel that's what we're going to do.''

Former Pitt offensive lineman Mark May will handle commentary with analyst Lou Holtz, play-by-play man Rece Davis and sideline reporter Quint Kessenich also comprising the broadcast crew. Former Pitt running back Curtis Martin will be honored at halftime, and 1976 Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett is an honorary captain with Navy's 1963 Heisman winner Roger Staubach.

"I know that our guys are looking forward to getting out there in front of a national audience,'' Wannstedt said. "We have a lot of good things going on here, as everyone is aware of, with Tony (Dorsett) coming back and Curtis Martin coming into town. It will be an exciting night for our players.

"They're looking forward to it, and we'll be ready to go. I talked to the kids this week, and that's why they all came here, to be on TV and get out there and show what you can do. We've got that chance this week, and we just have to go out and do it. The guys are excited about it.

"With the guys we have coming back,'' Wannstedt added, "And (with) Mark May and Lou Holtz broadcasting the game. ... That's all part of that college experience that the kids talk about and look forward to. That's something, along with our tradition, that we sell. Now, what are we going to do with this opportunity that we have?''

Wannstedt said that he'd like to have Dorsett and Martin talk to the team prior to the game, but it depends on the former players' schedules. The head coach then praised his small senior class for its leadership and keeping the team together despite criticism during a three-game losing streak.

"I've been through it on a lot of different levels for a lot of different things,'' Wannstedt said. "You have to focus on what you're doing. You know the reasons why you're struggling, and you look at it very objectively. ... Then, you act accordingly.

"(But) the young kids, LeSean McCoy and Pat Bostick, if they were in here right now, you'd think we were 6-0, from just an excitement standpoint and how badly they want to play. That's good, and they should be that way. I think the guys that take it the hardest are the upperclassmen, the seniors.

"We have a small group of seniors,'' Wannstedt added, "but ... they're great kids and they've worked as hard as anybody out there everyday. You look at your leaders and see what these kids are about and that's usually a reflection of how your guys are going to respond.''

Apparently, nothing has changed much on the injury front for Pitt. Even junior left guard C.J. Davis, who missed a few days with a hamstring injury, appears to be on track to play Wednesday night.

"Other than (Jason) Pinkston being out for the year, everybody should be ready to go,'' Wannstedt said. "(Davis) is OK. He's practiced every day.''

Junior quarterback Bill Stull is working out with Nerf balls to "increase his strength and flexibility, but it's just a week-to-week thing,'' Wannstedt said.

"(And) Doug Fulmer is getting closer as well. There's not a definite date yet, but the target date was the end of October. So we're hoping to get him back for the last four games or so, which will be good because he's already used up his redshirt. There's no advantage to saving him.''

Pitt's game captains are Jeff Otah and Mike McGlynn on offense, Joe Clermond and Mike Phillips on defense and Mark Estermyer on special teams.

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