Buddy Morris, Conditioning Credited For Win

It was widely reported when Buddy Morris was hired at Pitt again that he would return the football program to playing physically dominant again, and the Panthers conditioning was most evident in the fourth quarter against Iowa during a 21-20 win Saturday at Heinz Field.

All the Pittsburgh players brought into the media room gave credit to Morris for the victory against the Hawkeyes.

"I think our team got stronger as the game went on,'' bloodied and bruised middle linebacker Scott McKillop said. "I think that's a credit to strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris. I think in the third and fourth quarter, we were the best team. ... We grew up a little bit, and we had to grow up because we have the Big East (schedule) coming up. So, we need to be ready.''

Neither of Iowa's three previous opponents reached the end zone against its defense, but Pitt scored on its second position and scored in the fourth quarter on a spectacular 80-yard drive that was capped by tailback LeSean McCoy's fabulous 27-yard run. McCoy was held to 78 yards on 18 carries (4.3 per run), but he believed the Panthers showed their mettle at the end.

"We're a well-conditioned team, a strong team, and we proved we could battle with anybody,'' McCoy said. "But every game's a big game to us. The first game, we slipped up a bit, but we're battling every week. We proved you have to come to play against us. We're back on track and ready for the Big East schedule now. So, we're looking forward to Syracuse.''

When discussing Iowa's mammoth offensive line, in particular its tackles, it was noted that they are decidedly different than Pitt's defensive front. In particular, redshirt freshman end Tony Tucker was undersized at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds. But all that talk just motivated Tucker to make the play of the game with a forced fumble at the end.

"All week, everybody was saying that we're undersized, too small to play against Iowa,'' Tucker said. "But we're quick and strong and in great shape, thanks to Buddy, and that was the difference for us in the end. We just kept coming at them and kept coming at them, and we finally got there.''

Tucker's play wasn't a sack, but the Panthers recorded six sacks against Iowa and now have 11 in three games. They are on pace for 44 this season, but that's probably a low number as Pitt's defense steadily improves.

"I think their O-line got a little tired in the second half, especially the fourth quarter,'' defensive tackle Mick Williams said. "We condition all the time, and this was our game in the second half. Our DBs did a tremendous job and really helped us out up front. The D-line, I think we let them down early.

"But we started to get it together and started to make more plays as the game went on. We have a great rotation, so everybody stays fresh, and we're in great shape. We wanted to keep getting after them, and ... those Iowa boys, they were getting tired in the second half. It was a lot of fun.''

Pitt's defensive ends were criticized by some for their performances in the first two games, but with Tucker's play and solid efforts by starters Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard they earned their stripes against Iowa. Romeus had 1.5 sacks and recovered the fumble that Tucker caused. Sheard had a stop behind the line and battled down two passes.

"They definitely brought the wood in the first half, but we kept going and kept pushing and pressuring them,'' Romeus said. "We had a lot of guys step up. ... I definitely give a lot of credit to Buddy for that.

"We were more physically and mentally tough than they were, I think. All our offseason work is paying off now. We were energized and strong, and Iowa really looked tired in the fourth quarter. That quarter was ours.''

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt was effusive in praising the defense.

"The most encouraging thing was at the end when we had to make some plays,'' Wannstedt said. "The two series right before the half, our defense stepped up and got two three-and-outs. Then, there was the end of the game.

"The defense stepped up big-time. (So), this was a good team win. Now, we start to get into the Big East a little bit. Nothing can give you momentum like a big win, and we have that. Now, we have to get ready for Syracuse.''

The Panthers visit Syracuse Saturday at noon at the Carrier Dome.

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