Knock It Down

Pitt's athletic administration put together the world's largest block party as a marketing tool in an attempt to sell out Panthers' home games, and the football team has responded this season with a version of its own.

No. 24 Pittsburgh (4-1) has four blocked kicks in five games. Defensive end Greg Romeus knocked down an extra point late in the opener against Bowling Green, and tackle Tommie Duhart deflected a field-goal attempt by Buffalo.

Also, freshman Andrew Taglianetti stuffed an Iowa punt, and cornerback Aaron Berry came off the edge to tip a field-goal attempt at South Florida. Redshirt freshman Greg Williams quickly followed with a put-back on that play.

Also, defensive end Jabaal Sheard has three pass breakups at the line, while Mick Williams and Romeus have two each. Rashaad Duncan and Duhart have one apiece.

"It's always been Scott McKillop in the middle, but we've never rushed a linebacker before,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "So, that was a game plan thing to take advantage of South Florida. But Aaron came off the edge, got a nice jump off the ball and got a nice body lean.

"So, it was a great individual effort. Sometimes, it's just effort. A lot of sacks come that way, too. And that's how we got our punt blocked (against USF). We were late moving. They beat us to the punch, and the other guy was quick and blocked it. So, really it was no different from our field-goal block.''

The interesting thing about Pitt's field-goal block against the Bulls was that the game plan was not installed until the final practice beforehand, and the team only practiced it twice. Wannstedt said that McKillop initially was to be used, but he believed Williams gave the Panthers a better chance to get the block.

Sure, Berry's individual effort trumped that call, but the scheme still was effective, as Williams hammered his teammate's tip to the ground.

"Speed and quickness, those are the two best qualities for me,'' Williams said. "Going against some lineman on the strong side, that can be the toughest thing for me, so I have to work on taking on the blocks a lot better. But my speed really helps me out a lot, and that's definitely my best asset.

On that field-goal block, I went up the middle and was kind of shocked that I was able to get in there. I thought I would get tripped up, but A.B. tipped it a little bit, and then I got it, too. I think maybe A.B. got it first, and I got it after that.''

Williams added that after initially talking to McKillop about it, defensive line coach Greg Gattuso approached him at the last minute in practice to ask if the young linebacker believed he could make the play. The Pitt coaching staff noticed a tendency by the USF center that left a brief opening in the line.

"I told them I could get it done,'' Williams said, even though he never blocked a kick before in his life. "I just thought that with my speed, if a gap opened, I would be quick enough to get through it. (And) that really was a rush to get that block.

"They really needed those points, so it was a good thing for our team that me and A.B. got it. Also, I was able to do that in front of a big crowd that included my family and friends.''

The field-goal try was from 42 yards and was the culmination to USF's third drive in the first half. The score was 7-7 at that point, so the play was crucial.

The Bulls opened the scoring by blocking a Dave Brytus punt and returning it 26 yards for a touchdown. Pitt came right back with quarterback Bill Stull's 52-yard scoring connection with freshman wideout Jonathan Baldwin. USF didn't score again until the third quarter, as the Panthers led 17-7 at the half.

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