McKillop Takes Game To Another Level

Pitt redshirt junior middle linebacker Scott McKillop, like many athletes, strives for perfection in his work ethic and on-field performance.

But few football players, if any, could come as close to their goals as Scott McKillop did during the Panthers' game at Rutgers this past Saturday. Sure, there have been more dominant performances, the Steelers' James Harrison against the Baltimore Ravens a few weeks ago comes to mind, but none rated as highly as McKillop's.

McKillop's spectacular performance against the Scarlet Knights, which earned him Big East defensive player of the week honors, was nearly perfect when graded by the Pittsburgh coaches in terms of participation in the team's defensive plays. In other words, if he plays 50 plays and makes a sack, but that's the only play he participates in then his ration is one in 50.

"An outstanding ratio for linebackers, H.B. (Blades) used to be one in five, one in four, (and) Zach Thomas was always about the same,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "Scott was one in two. It's tough to really comprehend that.

"One out of every two plays he was involved in somehow ... that's really how you evaluate defensive players across the board. It's not how many plays or how many big plays they had, but how many times are they participating in relationship to the number of downs that they play.''

Officially, McKillop was credited with 16 total tackles against Rutgers. He has 124 in 10 games this season, an NCAA-leading 12.4 per game, and is second nationally with 7.8 solo stops per game. Along with the high tackle total against the Scarlet Knights, McKillop tallied 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and an interception.

In one amazing sequence, McKillop sacked RU quarterback Jabu Lovelace, forced a fumble and then recovered it. The play set up Pitt's lone touchdown on the afternoon, a one-yard scoring toss from freshman quarterback Pat Bostick to senior tight end Darrell Strong.

"Off the top of my head, maybe in high school I had a better game,'' McKillop said. "I think I had 24 tackles in a game. The stats were great against Rutgers, but we didn't win. So, it's a little unfulfilling.''

Nevertheless, McKillop has been Pitt's most consistent and arguably its best defensive player this season. And few outside of close followers of the team believed he would reach this level so quickly in his first season as a starter. Even McKillop has been a little bit taken aback by his lofty status.

"It kind of hasn't set in yet for me, because if you had told me at the beginning of the season that this is where I would have been after 10 games, I would've probably told you that you were lying,'' McKillop said. "So, it's been very fulfilling for me, but our team isn't doing as well as I'd like it to.

"So, that's more important than how I'm doing. It's all about the team for me, so it's nice to be where I'm at. But I'm not happy. I wish I was doing more in the games, and maybe they'd have a better outcome.''

McKillop would be hard-pressed to repeat the outstanding performance he turned in against Rutgers, at least from a statistical standpoint.

"I think I played pretty well, but there's probably a few places where I could've played better,'' McKillop said. "There was one time in the first quarter where we were in a coverage, and we got messed up. I didn't get the front set right.

"I also could cover routes a lot better. That big first down they got on a third down, I could've covered better, so there's always areas in my game where I can improve. So, I always look to that, and the coaches say that I can react quicker. So, there's always room for improvement, no matter how I play.

"I guess I would say I'm the hardest (critic) on myself,'' McKillop added. "I'd like to be (rated) one in one, but I know that's hard. I guess we'll see what I can do in the next game.''

And that would mean McKillop had finally reached his goal for perfection.

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