Hutchins Earns Big East Honor

After being solid through six games in his first season as a starting place-kicker and punter for the Pitt football team, redshirt junior Dan Hutchins finally was recognized nationally for his achievements.

Dan Hutchins recorded 10 points in the Panthers' dramatic comeback win against Connecticut Saturday, including an 18-yard field goal as time expired to secure the 24-21 victory for Pittsburgh (5-1 overall, 2-0 in the Big East).

"I wasn't nervous or anything like that,'' Hutchins said. "It's a tougher angle, when we're that close, because they're easier to block. So, I just try to get the kick up quickly. (But) it was a big win, so I'm the happiest about that.''

Hutchins (Williamsport, Pa./Loyalsock Township High School) was named the Big East Conference special teams player of the week for his performance against the Huskies. He made a career-best 42-yard field goal in the first quarter and added successful kicks from 19 and 18 yards, as well as an extra point.

"I thought the pressure of kicking a little longer field goal than he has in the past, in addition to kicking the game-winner, has to give him a confidence-boost from where he was before that,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said.

Hutchins also contributed to the victory as Pitt's punter with an average at 43 yards on three attempts. He had two punts downed inside the UConn 20 with one of those landing inside the 10.

For the season, Hutchins has converted each of his seven field goal attempts and is Pitt's second-leading scorer with 45 points. He also averages 41.5 yards on 24 punts with 11 downed inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

Hutchins has had six punts better than 50 yards with a long for 54. He has had only one touchback and four punts were fair caught. The only downside is that Hutchins has missed two of his 26 extra-point attempts, but neither hurt the Panthers' in the game.

"When you really think about what he has done up to this point, not only did he come on and be our punter, but he also became our field-goal kicker,'' Wannstedt said. "He earned a scholarship here. He was a walk-on here. You've got to take your hat off to him. He's done a great job in competing, and he did a great job staying with the program.

"A year ago, we brought in a scholarship kicker -- Kevin Harper -- and in his mind, he probably wondered if he was going to get an opportunity. Did that eliminate him from the competition? So, I'm happy for him. You love to see success stories like that, guys who stay with the program, stays with his commitment and then has success.''

The Panthers travel to Piscataway, New Jersey to face Rutgers (4-1, 0-1) Friday at 8 p.m. The game will be a national ESPN telecast. The Scarlet Knights have won four straight this season, after an opening loss to Cincinnati, and have four straight wins against Pitt in the series.

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