After sophomore Andrew Taglianetti was injured in the opener, Elijah Fields was tabbed to start alongside junior Dom DeCicco. And Fields was off-limits to the media throughout the week.
Pittsburgh beat Navy 27-14 Saturday night at Heinz Field, and the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Fields let his actions speak for themselves. And after the game, Fields was as outspoken as ever.
"I hope this shows the fans that I've worked hard to improve and that I'm ready to take the next step in my career at Pitt,'' Fields said. "My coaches and teammates already knew it, and I knew it.
"Hopefully, now, everybody knows it. (So), I'm happy with my first start this week. My biggest thing is trying to be consistent. I feel like I made some big steps, but there's always a lot of work to do.''
Fields played a solid second half against Buffalo two weeks ago and had an interception he returned 30 yards. Against the Midshipmen, Fields appeared to get beaten deep just once, but he made up a lot of ground at the end. Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs had to throw over the top and was too long and high.
Fields finished with four solo tackles against Navy, and he has 12 tackles overall this season with nine solo stops.
"Elijah Fields had his first start and played every snap, and I thought he played well,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "This is a difficult scheme to get ready for, but I thought our defensive coaches did a great job and our players really bought into what we had to do from a focus standpoint to get ready.
"So, I was pleased with that. ... Elijah, we've always kind of looked at him as a starter, but this is the first time that we really knew. And I think he knew that we were committed to him. So, he had to get the job done. (But) it's his job now. He put in the time and worked hard, and now his opportunity is here.''
Fields' athleticism was on display several times against Navy. In the first quarter, he made a saving tackle against Midshipman sophomore slotback Marcus Curry after a 16-yard gain. He also nailed Curry in the open field after just a three-yard run in the second quarter, as Fields' tackle was secure.
Fields jammed Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs at the line after just a two-yard gain late in the third quarter and dropped him again after a couple yards in the fourth. So, while there weren't a lot of big plays, there didn't appear to be too many poor ones. Unless one asked Fields.
"For the most part, I played pretty good,'' Fields said. "I had a couple mistakes, but they were physical mistakes. So, I can correct them, and we got the win. And nobody can complain about that. ... I really haven't had a chance to let loose, yet, in a game. But I think it's going to come as the season goes on.
"I've had a couple big plays and a couple big hits, but I want to do more. (And) making big plays, coming up for a hit, that's a big confidence-builder for me. Just to make a play like that, it really loosens you up so you're not too timid back there. I didn't want to miss a tackle, and they really got me going.''
Fields didn't have to rely on DeCicco or Pitt's cornerbacks to keep him in the game, either. He was able to maintain focus from the outset.
"I was holding my own, for the most part, but I just had to get my confidence up by making some plays,'' Fields said. "But the biggest thing was to help us get a victory tonight. I know a lot of people were depending on me and watching me to see if I'd have a good game. (And) I think I did a good job.''
And after that performance, everyone else knows that about Fields as well.
Fields Answers The Bell
Panther More Top Stories
WATCH: Peterman's postgame remarks - UNCPitt quarterback Nathan Peterman went 14 of 18 without throwing a pick Saturday at UNC, but a couple of those misses came at crucial moments. Peterman spoke to reporters after Pitt…
Panther More10:31 AM
WATCH: Whitehead's UNC postgame commentsPitt safety Jordan Whitehead is 23rd nationally in tackles (23). Whitehead spoke after Pitt's last-minute loss at UNC.
Panther More9:58 AM
WATCH: Narduzzi's UNC postgame remarksPitt coach Pat Narduzzi addresses the media after Pitt's loss to UNC.
Panther MoreYesterday at 10:04 PM
Pitt-UNC: Participation reportForty-five players toed the playing field for Pitt Saturday at North Carolina. Below is a report of who all played.
Panther MoreYesterday at 5:29 PM