Pitt O-Line Near Perfect Through 2 Games

It might be hard to believe, but Pitt fifth-year senior quarterback Bill Stull says the Panthers can play a lot better on offense.

Pittsburgh has run the ball well and protected Bill Stull impeccably in winning its opening two games, and the catalyst for that has been the play by the Panthers' offensive line. That unit has not allowed a sack and has led freshman tailback Dion Lewis to be ranked among the NCAA's best so far.

"Our guys up front have handled themselves very well, and I don't think (we've) been sacked at all in either game,'' Stull said. "We've had a few hits here and there, but that's awesome for (Tino Sunseri and Stull), and it's very enjoyable to see how well we're coming together. It's really awesome to be part of this.

"(But) we've left some plays out there on the field. I think we scored on seven of 13 drives, which is really good. But we understand that we still left some plays on the field. We had two penalties, and that's not us. We weren't the least-penalized team in the Big East for nothing last year.

"We understand that we had to punt a couple times because of the penalties,'' Stull added, "when we should have still been driving. ... We know you can't have the perfect game, but we have to strive for it. (And) we have to correct our mistakes and make sure that they don't happen again.''

With Stull staying upright throughout Pitt's opening two games, the offensive line has received a lot of credit for that success. Some believe that Stull being able to get rid of the ball quickly gets an assist, but the result has been excellent nonetheless. What might surprise some is that the O-line success isn't, well, it's not a surprise to the O-line.

"We're meshing real well, and everybody is responding to the coaching points from Coach Wise,'' Pitt senior left guard Joe Thomas said. "So, everybody is just stepping up and doing what they're coached to do. So, it's all good. We've got a lot of experienced guys on the line, and this is what we expect.

"Everybody's putting in the time that we need and doing extra work. We're focused on the field and working real hard, so this is what we expected to be happening right now. Jason Pinkston and I have been playing together a couple years now, while John Malecki and Robb Houser are in their second years on the O-line. And Lucas Nix has jumped right in there. This is our time now.''

Some would say that it's about time, but that's another story. Thomas believed the group could be an even better unit with continued hard work from themselves as well as the backups. Redshirt sophomore Chris Jacobson battled Thomas for the starting left guard spot throughout camp.

"That really helped me a lot, because Chris is a great player,'' Thomas said. "He was an All-American in high school, and he came here. Unfortunately, he got hurt, but he came back and has been playing real well.

"He competed with me and was always pushing me, and that made me push a lot harder and step up my game a lot. So, it was great for me. We work hard to improve our techniques, and we're always fine-tuning. I think we're getting better all the time, and I'm a pretty tough critic.''

Thomas even praised Pitt's defensive line, guys like ends Jabaal Sheard and Greg Romeus and tackles Gus Mustakas, Mick Williams and Myles Caragein for pushing the offense in practice. The D-line got a lot of credit in the offseason for its prospective success, and their dominance early in camp was an asset to their counterparts across the line.

"From the front-line guys to freshmen like Tyrone Ezell, who's strong and quick, they really do a great job against us in practice against us,'' Thomas said. "They have a lot of good moves, and their depth really helps us out.''

Sure, it's early, but even Pitt O-line coach Tony Wise believed it would take a couple games for his unit to jell. Thomas had a simple reason.

"Lucas played behind me last year, so he always took notes on things that I did well and what I did wrong,'' Thomas said. "I think that probably helped him a lot this season, and I think he picked up right where I left off last season. So, that's real good for him. He worked hard to get ready for this year.

"And for the rest of us, we've all been here for a while. Lucas was around us last year, and he's like a brother to us. We're all like a big family, and that really helps us out a lot. We can be honest with each other and go all out. So, it's all good for us on the offensive line.''

And that means it's good for Stull and the Pitt offense as well.

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