A first-year starter, Scott McKillop replaced three-year starter H.B. Blades this season and has been a diamond during the Panthers' rough defensive play. He has 142 total tackles in 11 games and leads the nation with 13 stops per game. He had an amazing 16 tackles last week at Rutgers and surpassed that with 18 against USF.
Instead of taking props for his individual performance, McKillop preferred to talk about a play he didn't make when USF quarterback Matt Grothe bolted 80 yards for a score on the opening play in the second half.
"I have to be there, and I have to stop it,'' McKillop said. "We needed to account for him, and we didn't stop it. We've seen it before, but I have to get over and make that play.''
McKillop noted that his performance wasn't good enough, since Pittsburgh lost to South Florida, but his tackle total put him in the top 10 for the Panthers. Linebacker Troy Benson has Pitt's single-season record with 168 in 1984.
"Scott's having a great season,'' fifth-year senior defensive end Joe Clermond said. "It's a shame that we weren't able to help him out in some of these games, but he had another big game against South Florida today. He's made the plays, more often than not, when he's had a chance.''
McKillop made three stops behind the line against USF, including one during the Bulls' second possession, and he also forced a fumble on that series. But USF recovered. He also did a fairly decent job containing Grothe, who has run wild against every opponent this year. Not that his 80-yard run can be taken away, but he finished with 67 yards rushing. So, he would have had negative rushing yardage if not for that big run.
"I guess we did a pretty good job, and we knew he was a great athlete that accounted for about 75-percent of their offense,'' McKillop said. "They want the ball in his hands, but he really didn't get as many yards as he usually gets. That's what so upsetting to me. We did a decent job against him, other than that one play, but we have to put that behind us and move on.''
McKillop and Pitt's defense also responded pretty well despite its offense basically giving up three touchdowns on interceptions.
"We still have to trust our offense, that it'll make some plays,'' McKillop said. "If we start to doubt them, our team would split. And we can't have that. After that 80-yard run, they still had to trust us, so both sides of the ball make mistakes, and we both have to hang in there after them.
"I definitely think we're making strides on defense, and we have made them this season. But there have been several plays here and there where we've given up a lot of yardage, and we have to cut down on those. Those big plays have really hurt us, so that's one area that has been disappointing.''
For McKillop and Pitt's defense, there's one game remaining Saturday at West Virginia, and the Panthers can make their season with an upset win.
"West Virginia is a great team, and we have to play all phases really well to beat them,'' McKillop said. "So, we just need to come out and play hard from the opening snap and cut down on giving up the big plays. That's what they like to do, score on big plays, and we need to stop them from doling it.''
With a sure-tackler like McKillop leading the way, Pitt at least has a chance.
Scott McKillop Keeps Making Plays
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