Back To Basics

Bye weeks can be an enigma in football, as some teams get away from their regular schedule a bit, while others keep their noses to the grindstone.

For Pittsburgh (1-1), which does not play until facing Iowa (2-0) Sept. 20 at noon at Heinz Field, it basically will be business as usual. The Panthers will practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before taking the weekend off. The Hawkeyes face rival Iowa State this Saturday.

"We're still approaching things the same way, other than getting some guys some rest this week,'' redshirt junior defensive tackle Gus Mustakas said. "But our practices are just as intense during bye weeks as in any other week, and we'll be ready for Iowa.''

The bye week came at a good time for Pitt, it's believed, because players like Mustakas -- who had knee surgery last year -- need more rest after a hard camp and opening two practices weeks. It's also good for redshirt junior outside linebacker Shane Murray (right knee strain) and redshirt junior defensive tackle Mick Williams (left ankle sprain) to get healthier.

Murray missed the opening two games, but is hopeful to be ready by the Iowa game next week. Williams played sparingly against Buffalo last week and barring any setbacks most assuredly will be pumped to face the Hawkeyes. Along with getting rest for some players, Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt believed it was time for the Panthers to work on fundamentals.

Sophomore tailback LeSean McCoy noted that while the team certainly can hone its skills this week, each individual player can do the same thing.

"We're just trying to get better, get healthier and get more treatment,'' McCoy said. "We need to sharpen things up, so that's what we're working on this week. We need to stay focused this week on things that we can do better.

"I have to look at what I can do better, too. I feel like this is a good time for a bye week. We're 1-1 and are facing a good team, a Big Ten team, in Iowa. So, we have to be ready for them. So, I think it's a good week for a bye week.''

Pitt quarterback Bill Stull believed this was a statement game for the Panthers against a Big Ten team in Iowa. Pitt is 0-2 against that conference with losses to Michigan State the past two seasons.

"It is kind of weird that we have a bye week this early in the season, but it is beneficial for us at this time,'' Stull said. "And it's not a bye week for us. We have three full practices this week, but the only difference is that we don't play on Saturday. We're practicing just like we have a game, though.

"And this next game ... we did a good job getting a victory going into it. With this extra week, we need to stay focused just like we have a game on Saturday. We can't let up at all. Then, we need to get better every single day to get ready for Iowa. (So), we're just going back to the fundamentals, touching up a few things.

"So, it's a great opportunity to have an extra week of preparation,'' Stull added. "And we're utilizing that to our fullest, practicing every day and getting extra film work in. So, we're thankful to have another full week of preparation for Iowa. They're a good team, so we need to be ready.''

Stull believed the Panthers mostly would watch the Iowa-Iowa State game Saturday, but wasn't sure if anybody had a rooting interest.

"We can watch the game and see the emotion of their players and how they carry themselves,'' Stull said. "You can just see the flow the game better, how they react to the crowd, and we also get a chance to relax and actually watch a game. So, it's a good opportunity. (And) we want to face the best possible Iowa team, win or lose, this week. We have to be ready for them no matter what.''

And during this bye week the Panthers can get a head start on that.

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