A Win Could Change Everything

To say that this is a big game for the Pitt football team when it plays host to Iowa today at noon at Heinz Field would be an understatement.

It's more than that for the University of Pittsburgh (1-1). Sure, the Hawkeyes (3-0) are unbeaten, so it would be a chance for the Panthers to knock off a good opponent from a BCS conference, something they haven't done too often under fourth-year head coach Dave Wannstedt. And it would give Pitt a boost going into its Big East schedule next week.

But there's more to it than that. There's a lengthy list of recruits attending this game, both 2009 prospects who are still undecided like Beaver Falls, Pa. wideout Todd Thomas and Thomas Jefferson, Pa. tight end Brock DeCicco, as well as excellent 2010 ones like the Sto-Rox duo of quarterback Paul Jones and wideout Andrew Carswell. These players already have Pitt among their favorites, and a big win could seal the deal.

There also are some big-time basketball recruits in attendance. Dante Taylor, Durand Scott, James Padgett, Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna are all expected to watch the Pitt-Iowa game. Taylor already has committed, but a raucous crowd and winning performance by the Panthers could sway the others.

So, this game isn't just important for this year's Pitt football team, as well as the basketball team, but it's critical for the program's future as well.

"We want to come out and hit them right away,'' Pitt fifth-year senior middle linebacker Scott McKillop said. "We have to make a statement right away.''

Playing hard-nosed defense isn't the only way for the Pitt to do that. It can hit the Hawkeyes with a big play on offense to knock them for a loop as well.

"For our offense, I think it's important from a confidence standpoint for us to score early,'' Wannstedt said. "I think we've done some good things (with) some nice drives, bit we have to go out and do it again against a team like Iowa.''

Sophomore tailback LeSean McCoy said the Panthers are ready for anything.

"I think it will be a close game, but that doesn't matter,'' McCoy said. "We look forward to that. We're well-conditioned and ready for it, and we're looking forward to this matchup. Whatever we get from them.''

This Iowa game was expected to be Pitt's first real test after playing to solid MAC teams in Bowling Green and Buffalo, but things have rarely gone the Panthers' way on the field since Wannstedt arrived. So, this is an opportunity to wash away most of that. But it won't be easy for Pitt by any means.

That's because there's a significant difference from Pitt's opening two opponents to Iowa, a powerful Big Ten team. The Hawkeyes will be among the most talented teams the Panthers will face this season, and in particular they will be strongest along the offensive and defensive lines.

Pitt has not been able to win too many games in the trenches, but this is an opportunity to turn that stat around. Iowa likely won't do anything too fancy, just hammer away at the Panthers until something breaks.

"Their lines are big and strong, so we'll have our work cut out for us,'' Pitt junior right guard John Malecki said. "We definitely have to win those line battles to be successful this week. It won't be easy, but we're confident.

"I love running the ball. It's more fun for me, and getting the ball in the end zone is always a great time. They haven't been scored upon, but we're not really thinking about that too much, at least I haven't. ... We're just trying to win football games here, and we'll have to score to do that.''

And if the Panthers are able to pull out a win against Iowa, it could be the turning point for Wannstedt and the Pitt football program.

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