Caught In A Trap

Dave Wannstedt will do just about anything to motivate his football team, and the Pitt head coach pulled out an oldie, but goodie when he placed mousetraps around the Panthers practice facility this week.

Wannstedt believes that when Pittsburgh (2-1) visits Syracuse (1-3) for its Big East opener Saturday at noon at the Carrier Dome, it could be a trap game for the Panthers with an ESPN-televised Oct. 2 contest at 12th-ranked South Florida (4-0) quickly approaching as well.

"Anytime you're coming off a big game like we had last week, it wouldn't make any difference who we're playing,'' Wannstedt said. "You have to get your feet back on the ground and get re-focused and make sure you know what we've got to do and not get caught up in records and things like that.

"So, I educated the guys on the history of playing against Syracuse and how difficult it's been playing up there in the Carrier Dome over the years. They recruit the same players that we do, so let's not be fooled about this. We've got to go up there and play a heckuva lot better than we played last week.''

Pitt senior tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling is used to Wannstedt's theatrics, but that doesn't mean Pitt's head coach hasn't gotten his message across.

"There's definitely a lot of mousetraps hanging around here, but nobody's getting caught,'' Stephens-Howling said. "Everybody is coming out, working hard and trying to get better to get ready for Syracuse.

"The message is that we have South Florida coming up next week, on Thursday, so it would be easy to look past Syracuse. But that's definitely not going to happen, and I'm sure that Syracuse won't let it happen to them. So, we have to make sure we don't get trapped and look ahead to South Florida.''

Sophomore tailback LeSean McCoy always seems to be smiling, but his Pitt teammates were all a bit more bubbly this week since the Panthers are coming off consecutive victories. Fifth-year senior outside linebacker Austin Ransom, expected to start his fourth straight game at Syracuse, explained.

"It was a big confidence-booster to win that game against Iowa, a Big Ten school, a big, physical team, and beating them gave us a lot of confidence,'' Ransom said. "It showed us what we can do as a team. ... Everyone's spirits are more positive this week, and our practices have been real good. (But) we can't take Syracuse lightly or take them for granted.''

Junior quarterback Bill Stull believes that Wannstedt's tactics are successful, although that won't officially be determined until sometime Saturday afternoon.

"We kind of laugh about the traps, but the point comes across,'' Stull said. "We understand what Coach is trying to say, and we're not going to be trapped. We just got done with our statement game and feel pretty good about ourselves, but now we're on to our first Conference game.

"(And) we're reminded not to fall into a trap. Even though Syracuse has been beaten a couple times, we have to stay focused and not look past them. I'm sure we won't do that, because we know they have some good players, and we'll get beat if we don't stay focused.''

And that's all the motivation any team should need.

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