Pitt-falls Possible

The Pitt football team has played in front of larger and more boisterous crowds than it will see than the 34,000-plus that will jam Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Field Saturday afternoon, but it likely has not experienced the pomp and circumstance displayed by the U.S. Naval Academy's Midshipmen.

Head coach Dave Wannstedt has played and coached there during his previous time at Pittsburgh, and he's well aware about what the No. 23 Panthers (4-1) will face against Navy (4-2).

"That's where Tony Dorsett broke the NCAA rushing record (in 1976),'' Wannstedt said. "I was on the sideline for that (as a graduate assistant coach). Tony broke Archie Griffin's rushing record.''

Wannstedt also played against Navy all four years and noted that the noise level and the enthusiasm will be at a fever pitch for the game.

"I remember playing against Navy, all the service academies, and I was as sore as I've ever been,'' Wannstedt said. "The same as if I was going against Penn State and Randy Crowder or playing Syracuse and going against Joe Ehrman. They were both great players and No. 1 picks.

"But when you got done playing the academies you were as sore as you were all year long. They were always very physical games, and they were always games that went from start to finish. And that hasn't changed. The only thing that has is that Navy is having much more success than it's had in past years.''

While Navy's history and game pageantry provide a marvelous setting for the Pitt players this week, they have so much at stake that they can't afford to get caught up in anything but the business at hand.

"I'm sure it'll be a great setting, but we can't get involved with that,'' Pitt middle linebacker Scott McKillop said. "We need to concentrate on what we need to do, stay in our keys and be precise with our tackling.

"They're a very disciplined team that doesn't make many mistakes, so we'll have to force them to play our game. That probably will be the only way to get them out of their game. And that's controlling the ball.''

McKillop is the Panthers' quarterback on defense, setting things up and keying on the fullback. His play will be critical to Pitt's defensive success against Navy.

"He's the guy who gets everybody lined up, and he's a guy who is the anchor of that defense,'' Wannstedt said. "He runs the show. And it all starts in the middle, so he'll be involved with the fullback a lot. And that will be important.''

Pitt's quarterback on offense, Bill Stull, also must run the show. He knows it could get pretty hectic at Navy, but he's confident that the Panthers can control the ball no matter what the Midshipmen throw at them.

"We've proven that we can move the ball and control the clock,'' Stull said. "If we can do that against the team's that we've already played, especially a good defense like South Florida down there, we can do it against Navy.''

Just in case there's something Pitt might have missed in its preparation for Navy, the coaching staff can go to 6-foot-3, 275-pound redshirt junior offensive lineman Josh Novotny. He played for the Midshipmen during the 2005-06 seasons and is sitting out this year with the Panthers due to NCAA transfer rules.

"It's been a help to have somebody who's been there and has been through that,'' Wannstedt said. "I haven't had him talk to the team or anything, but I think he's talked to our defensive guys enough for them to get a feel for it.''

And that edge might just be what Pitt needs to beat Navy.

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