Stull More Comfortable

There are many reasons why Bill Stull's play is markedly different this season than it was during the last one, but no matter how the remaining games play out the fifth-year senior quarterback has been a major reason why the Pitt football team is 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big East.

Some believe it's amazing that Bill Stull is third in the Conference with 209.3 passing yards per game, and he also leads it and is fourth nationally in passing efficiency at 163.54.

And Stull's performance will be crucial to any offensive success by Pitt against Rutgers (4-1, 0-1) Friday night at 8 at RU Stadium in Piscataway, N.J. and televised nationally by ESPN.

"I keep saying that once we get going on all cylinders -- offense, defense and special teams -- it's going to be exciting to watch,'' Stull said. "We have a lot of options on offense, and Coach Cignetti and I will do our best to get everybody involved. He calls all the right plays, and it's my job to execute them.

"I just feel more comfortable now. I know my starting points on every play, and I know what to expect on every play and what my job is on every play. We're taking a shot downfield, but if that's not there then I can check down and find somebody who's open. Whatever it is, the offensive line gives me time.

"And Coach Cignetti does a great job explaining things to me and getting me ready to play,'' Stull added. "Everyone knows where to go and what to do. This offense really complements my style of play and our offense's style of play, so that's why I'm more comfortable now than I've ever been at Pitt.''

Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt was thrilled to see Stull bounce back after a poor first half against Connecticut. He led the Panthers to 21 second-half points and a comeback victory. At one point, he completed nine straight passes and was 21-for-31 overall with two TD tosses after suffering through two interceptions, including a pick-six play by UConn and several drops and wide-open misses.

"You hope that there's carryover (this week),'' Wannstedt said. "You've got to assume that there will be. We watched the tape. You reinforce some of the good things that happened. The good decisions, the good physical plays. ... He made some good throws, but he also made good decisions.''

Pitt's offensive line also deserves credit for Stull's success, primarily because the unit has kept him pretty clean -- limited sacks and hits -- and senior center Robb Houser discussed why this situation improved from last season.

"Bill has done a great job this year, and Coach Cignetti has done a great job coaching him,'' Houser said. "The things that he's doing good, we only have 3-4 sacks this season, and Coach Cignetti tells us that it's a team effort. ... Bill, he's been getting rid of the ball instead of taking sacks and holding onto the ball when he gets hit. So, I'm really confident with him back there.''

Fifth-year senior Oderick Turner has experienced some ups and downs during his career at Pitt, similar to Stull, but he quickly pointed out the reason he believed Stull has shown much improvement.

"Billy is having a good season, and he's improved a lot since last season,'' Turner said. "I think Coach Cignetti has helped him a lot in that regard, and he feels more comfortable than ever back there. His reading ability, standing back there and looking over a defense.

"And he'll take some shots if necessary to get the ball out. He'll take a hit if he needs to, so we want to come down with them to help him out as much as possible. But he's doing a great job right now, and I think the time he's put in with Coach Cignetti really has paid off for everyone.''

Turner continued to discuss Cignetti and Pitt's offense.

"Coach Cignetti, he's very open to a lot of things, and he takes a lot of chances,'' Turner said. "He also can adjust really well on the run and adjust during a game. ... He's very smart with that aspect of the game, and things are working real well for us on offense so far. A lot of guys are involved.

"You really can't key on one person. Our tight ends, our backs and our receivers all can hurt you. We kind of have a competition to see who can get the most YAC (yards after catch) yards. Right now, JB (Jonathan Baldwin) is leading, but we're all doing our best to catch him.''

And with Stull's continued development, everyone should get an opportunity.

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