Mustakas, D-Line Ready To Pick Up Play

Pitt's defensive line was praised often going into this season by the Panthers media, coaches and fans, but some of those same groups believe it hasn't lived up to expectations through the opening two games.

Don't count University of Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt among them.

"Our defensive staff changed around a bit,'' Wannstedt said. "So, you're combining new coaches with some changing players. ... (But) I like where we're at right now. We made a little bit of improvement, and we'll make some more improvement in this bye week. And I expect us to be a better football team next week than the one that we are today.''

Pitt defensive coordinator Phil Bennett believed the Panthers got a lot closer against Buffalo in Game 2.

"We were three plays away from playing a very good game (on defense),'' Bennett said, "but our margin for improvement is great. We can get a lot better. Mick (Williams) didn't play a whole lot, and that hurt us a bit. Jabaal (Sheard) got banged up, so we had to play some other guys up front.

"The thing that I see right now about us defensively is that ... there's been too many third-and-short (situations). When it's third and longer, we're 10 of 12, I think, in that area with getting them off the field. But your margin of error goes down significantly when there are third and short-yardage situations.''

Pitt has allowed 189 rushing yards in two games, 3.2 per attempt, and 419 passing yards. And 4.4 yards per play. That's not too bad.

However, improved play by the defensive line, in particular the pass rush, would enhance those statistics. Just ask redshirt junior defensive tackle Gus Mustakas.

"Buffalo did a good job against us, but we got a decent pass rush,'' Mustakas said. "We have such high expectations that we didn't play well enough for us. We want to get even more pressure and definitely have to finish more plays to get more sacks and hits on the quarterback. We'll correct that against Iowa.''

Since Williams and Mustakas have been slow to come along, Williams after an ankle injury limited his playing time and Mustakas still rusty after last season's knee surgery, the bye week couldn't have come at a better time.

"Every week I feel like I'm getting better and stronger,'' Mustakas said. "My knee's getting stronger all the time, and I feel like I'll be 100 percent by the Iowa game. With a little rest this week, I'll be ready. I got 10 snaps the first week and 30 against Buffalo, so I'll be up to 40 or so for Iowa. That'll be great.

"I really needed a week to rest, though, after camp and jumping right into the season. So, my knee is a little sore, but I'm OK. I'll be fine with some rest this weekend. We planned on this progression, so I think we're right on track for the Iowa game. That's really where we thought we'd be at this point.''

Then, maybe Pitt's defensive line will perform the way many believed it would.

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