Holley Solid In 1st Start

Jarred Holley had big shoulder pads to fill in his first start against Connecticut Saturday afternoon, as the redshirt freshman had to replace injured safety Elijah Fields in the Big East contest.

And Jarred Holley was a defensive stalwart for Pittsburgh in a stunning 24-21 win against the Huskies.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Holley got the nod when Fields couldn't go after suffering an ankle sprain last week at Louisville. Fields and return specialist Cameron Saddler both had ankle injuries, but Saddler's was believed to be more serious. Both missed the Connecticut game.

"He played the entire game at safety and did a fine job,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said.

The highly-recruited Holley from Easton, Pa High School, took advantage of his opportunity. He made six tackles, including three solo stops, and broke up a pass early in the game UConn quarterback Cody Endres threw a bullet to wide receiver Brad Kanuch, but Holley was there with tight coverage to knock it to the ground and stall a Huskies' drive.

The 44,893 who gathered at Heinz Field, might have been surprised to see No. 18 in the secondary, because Wannstedt said all week that Fields was fine, getting better every day and possibly able to play. In reality, the 6-2, 225-pound redshirt junior did not practice all week, despite constant treatment on the ankle. It didn't respond, and Fields spent the entire game on the sideline in a sweatsuit.

"He wasn't able to go, and he didn't even dress,'' Wannstedt said.

But Holley was more than ready, according to sixth-year senior middle linebacker Adam Gunn.

"He knew he was in a position to play, and he practiced great all week,'' Gunn said. "He's been good on special teams all year and has done a good job when he's had a chance to play.''

Pitt's secondary has been banged up in recent weeks. Fields took over the starting role for the third game after sophomore Andrew Taglianetti suffered a season-ending knee injury in Game 2 at Buffalo.

Taglianetti won the starting position in a training-camp battle with Fields, but the two shared time in those opening two games. Holley played both safety and cornerback in camp, but moved exclusively to safety after Taglianetti's injury. Fields is expected to be ready for the game Friday night at Rutgers, but if he's not then Holley will get a second straight start.

"(Holley) is doing great for us,'' Gunn said. "Injuries happen in football, and he stepped in and has been great. There hasn't been a step backward whatsoever. That's what is so great about (him). He had a great game (against UConn), and we hope he keeps it up.''

There's a good chance that Holley will get more opportunities no matter what happens to Fields.

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