Pitt Needs To Create Turnovers

Like most college football fans, Dave Wannstedt spent Saturday watching his favorite sport from morning through the night, but Pitt's head coach had an ulterior motive.

Wannstedt watched with a discerning eye in an attempt to determine what the Panthers can do to force a turnover. Pittsburgh (2-4) has secured four interceptions and forced four fumbles this season, recovering just two, but it has not had a pick since getting three in Game 2 against Grambling and has not had a fumble recovery since the loss at Virginia.

The Panthers, who have lost four straight, face No. 23 Cincinnati (6-1) Saturday at noon at Heinz Field.

"I think I watched 50 games on Saturday,'' Wannstedt said. "I got up and got a notepad and pencil, and that's all I did was watch games all day looking for things that people are doing that might be of help. It's crazy some of the turnovers that happen in football games.

"Most of them happen because people are under distress and they're running, and they make a crazy decision or they're pressing to make an extra yard. We have got to get ourselves in that position. ... I was just watching some of the pressure stuff, how much pressure in certain situations.''

Despite watching all those games, Wannstedt apparently did not come up with a different approach to his defensive scheme.

"It was just reaffirming to me that we're doing the right things, and we just have to continue to work on them and do them better,'' Wannstedt said. "And the good things are going to happen. Our players are working too hard.

"And our coaches are working too hard for good things not to happen. ... We're working on stripping the ball, and we're doing everything that the Steelers are doing, as far as turnovers and stuff. Trust me. We just haven't come up with them, and that's a big part of winning.''

The Panthers probably won't make any drastic changes to their defense, either, at least from a personnel standpoint. Although Wannstedt did say that freshman Dom DeCicco will get a little more playing time at free safety.

"We're going to continue to rotate our defensive linemen,'' Wannstedt said. "Mick Williams and Rashaad Duncan are both back and healthy, and that'll help. We're going to get Dom DeCicco a little bit more playing time at safety. That's something that we're going to do.

"Dorin (Dickerson) and Adam Gunn are pretty much splitting time right now. ... At the corner position, we'll try to get Lowell Robinson and Ricky Gary in there, but we've already been mixing guys there a little bit.''

One player who doesn't come off the field too often is redshirt junior middle linebacker Scott McKillop. And Pitt can't afford to take him out, because McKillop leads the Big East with 11.8 tackles per game and is third in the NCAA in overall stops and second with 7.33 solo stops.

"We've got to create turnovers and put our offense in good field position,'' McKillop said. "I take the blame for that. I've got to create turnovers, too.

"We have to fly to the ball faster and make more plays and just be at the right place at the right time. ... I trust Coach Rhoads and Coach Wannstedt and whatever they're going to call toward me. There's no doubting it.''

Wannstedt believed there was just one way for Pitt's defense to create more turnovers in the remaining six games this season.

"You have to just keep gang tackling and (have more) violent hits and strip the ball and pressure the quarterback,'' Wannstedt said. "There's a lot of different ways and a lot of strange ways.''

Notes: Wannstedt basically denied the recent story that he approached Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg to discuss a contract extension to let prospective recruits know that he'll be around for at least a few more years. Wannstedt is halfway through his initial five-year contract.

"That thing got blown way out of proportion,'' Wannstedt said. "Any time that I'm on campus, we talk usually weekly about the game and what's going on. He was on this side of the hill and called to ask about what time we were practicing. He came by practice and said a few words to the players and watched practice, and that was it. That thing took on a life of its own.''

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