Was USF Win Bigger Than WVU?

Going into Pitt's game against South Florida, some believed it had a chance to surpass the Panthers game against West Virginia, as far as the hype was concerned with both being highly ranked and the Big East ramifications.

After the fact, however, Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt said 13-9 still reigned supreme.

"West Virginia, obviously, is always going to be the best because they're our backyard rivals ... the Backyard Brawl and all that,'' Wannstedt said. "We do so much more recruiting against West Virginia. Personally, I've played against them, so that's one that probably will stay on top of the list.

"And this win against South Florida is a very close second right now. But every year's a new year, and this game ... that win (against South Florida) was the most important win of this season. Two weeks from now, it'll be Navy, and we'll just keep taking them game to game.''

Redshirt junior quarterback Bill Stull believed the USF win could serve a purpose.

"We need to utilize this win and build on it,'' Stull said. "I think that we proved to a lot of people that we are a good football team, and we're capable of beating a good football team. And South Florida is a very good team.

"We beat them on the road, in front of a big, loud crowd, and it was warm. It had to be in the 70s, a little too hot for us, but it was a nice night. And it ended up being great for us. So, it was all right.''

Wannstedt took it a step further as well.

"I think that when you stop at look at it, the No. 1 benefit of the win is that it was our second Conference win, and it's the second on the road,'' Wannstedt said. "And that's really where our football team is focused right now. So, being able to win on the road and overcome some things and fight back the way that we did, those are situations that will play dividends down the road.''

Even Wannstedt said this Panthers team surprises him.

"That's in a very positive and excited type of way,'' Wannstedt said. "These kids are amazing. We had so many thing happen to us against USF that would have presented opportunities to question whether we could overcome them or not, but these kids have been very even keel.

"Their feet are always on the ground. They're very businesslike, and they're tough-minded kids, and that's always a reflections on your leaders ... the seniors of this team. That's probably closer to their personalities.''

So, where does this win rank with the WVU one last fall. The Mountaineers were ranked higher, and Pitt knocked a hated rival out of the BCS title game. That should vault it to the top in some minds alone. But it also spurred the Panthers' recruiting interests immensely. It remains to be seen if the USF win does that, but it certainly should help.

One way that the recent win can benefit Pitt is to give it a boost this season. The WVU win was the season-ender. Sure, it was great to live off that all winter and summer, but once camp started it was over. The USF win somewhat erased the Bowling Green loss and shook up the Big East. Pitt basically is in the driver's seat there, at least for now, with some time to get ready for the second half of the season.

Wannstedt downplayed Pitt's Conference positioning.

"We've got a lot of room to improve, but that's the encouraging thing,'' Wannstedt said. "You've got to throw the ball to score points, which we did (against USF), but you run the ball to win games.

"And in the fourth quarter, when you've got a lead and have to make first downs, you've got to be able to run the ball to close people out and win games. So, that's what we've done the past few weeks, and I think that does develop a mindset and a sense of confidence.''

Pitt sophomore tailback LeSean McCoy, when asked to categorize the upset win, said he didn't view it that way since the Panthers believe they're a good team.

"In all, the offense is starting to come together,'' McCoy said. "That's the sign of a good team. The win's great, but we knew we could do it. We just can't think that far into the future and worry about the Big East because that will come. We have to take some time and get ready for Navy first.''

And that's where Pitt finds itself this weekend, able to watch some football games, revel in a big victory and then gear up for some payback against the Midshipmen Oct. 18 at 3:30 p.m. in Annapolis, Md.

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