McKillop Wants More Than Bowl Eligibility

With six wins in eight games, the Pitt football team is bowl eligible, but realistically needs a win this week to seal the deal.

No. 25 Pittsburgh (6-2 overall, 2-1 in the Big East) plays host to Louisville (5-3, 1-2) Saturday at noon at Heinz Field with that opportunity in front of it.

"It's important for our kids and this program, so there's no pressure on them,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "Look, we've got a game this week and an opportunity, and that's how we'll approach it.''

Pitt senior center C.J. Davis has not played in a bowl game since he arrived, so he wants this seventh win as much as any Panthers player.

"For any team, it's always special to get to a bowl game, and it's always our goal in the offseason,'' Davis said. "All the true seniors, the four-year players, we haven't been to a bowl game yet. So, looking at everything, I think I have to get to a bowl game before I leave.

"If I don't get to a bowl game this year, I feel like my whole career's a failure. So, I'm definitely getting ready for Louisville, because a win against them would probably seal us getting a bowl game.''

Fifth-year senior middle linebacker Scott McKillop was a true freshman on Pitt's Fiesta Bowl team in 2004, but he has not yet played in a bowl game, either.

"It's very important for us to get this seventh win,'' McKillop said. "Louisville's a good team with a couple big wins this year, but we need this win to prove that Pitt can win a game when it's in the national spotlight. It's a big game for us at home and a good team to get a win against here.

"We haven't played as well as we can at home, but we're looking to turn this around this week. Any time you play at home, you don't want to lose, no matter whether you're ranked or not. You never want to lose at home.''

The Panthers have not been too successful at home this season, losing to Bowling Green in the opener after they were ranked in the preseason and also to Rutgers two weeks ago after they returned to the top 25.

"We weren't as sharp as I'd like us to be in those losses,'' Wannstedt said. "Things happen in the course of a game. The one thing I would say in all of our games, even the couple that we lost, our kids came back at some point in the game and gave us a chance to win.

"Against Rutgers it was 31-34, and we were going to get the ball back. We had the crowd and the momentum, and we turned the ball over. How do I explain that? I can't. I wish I could.''

One thing that can be confirmed is that Pitt opened Wannstedt's second season, 2006, with a 6-1 record, but finished at 6-6 and never made a bowl game. McKillop was asked what would prevent that from happening again.

"Hopefully, our experience pays off,'' McKillop said. "We got to six wins that year, and we were happy. Then, we thought we were going to a bowl game, but we ended up at 6-6 and didn't make it to a bowl game.

"So, we just can't be happy with being bowl eligible. Our ultimate goal is to win the Big East and make it to a BCS bowl game. So, we'll just take it one week at a time and focus on Louisville Saturday, and we'll take it from there.

"We basically had to get used to Coach Wannstedt, and he had to get used to us,'' McKillop added. "There was an adjustment for him going from the NFL to college, and we just didn't go out and play as well as we should have. Hopefully, it's a lesson that we learned, and we won't go out and do that again.''

McKillop was certain now that Pitt is back on track this season.

"We're back in Big East play now, and it's been proven in the Conference that any team can beat another team regardless of their record or what the other team is ranked,'' McKillop said. "And we have Louisville this week. I don't believe that I've beaten Louisville yet in my career, and that's something I'd like to take care of before I leave here.

"Our team's playing better, not as well as we can, but we've come a long way. So, we're just trying to improve week by week. We'd like to play at home the way we've played on the road, and we'd like to turn that around this week because we have a Big East game with Louisville. And we need to get back on track in the Big East.

"The leaders on this team, the seniors and upperclassmen, it's up to us to get going with these four Big East games remaining,'' McKillop added. "And this is a good time to start this week against Louisville, so this is a big game for us. And we're looking forward to the challenge.''

After facing Louisville, Pitt has Big East games at Cincinnati (Nov. 22), at home with West Virginia (Nov. 28 at noon) and at Connecticut (Dec. 6).

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