Lewis Up For Another Award

Pitt freshman tailback Dion Lewis already has made his mark on the Panthers' record books, and now he is attempting to raise his national stature as well.

Dion Lewis has received several recent awards, including being named among 10 semifinalists for the prestigious Doak Walker Award that is annually presented to the nation's top running back. Lewis also was named a semifinalist for the Maxwell College Football Player of the Year Award and honored as a "Midseason All-American'' by CBSSports.com and SI.com.

With a big game this week, as No. 8 Pittsburgh (8-1) takes on Notre Dame (6-3) Saturday at 8 p.m. at Heinz Field, Lewis could seal a spot on postseason awards lists as well. The game will be broadcast nationally by ABC-TV.

"I guess you could say that,'' Lewis said. "It's Notre Dame, and every time you play Notre Dame it's a big game. So, everybody's looking forward to this game, and we'll be ready. Everybody's talking about this game right now, but we just have to go out there and do our job and not worry about anything else.

"For me, I just have to keep running hard and doing what I've been coached to do. I'm expected to get the yardage, touchdowns and make big plays, so that's what I try to do. My O-line and the coaches and everybody else on offense deserve all the credit for everything I get. So, I'm grateful for that.''

Lewis (Albany, N.Y./Blair Academy N.J.) is the only first-year freshman on the list. Through nine games, he has rushed for 1,139 yards on 203 carries (5.6 avg.) and 12 touchdowns. Lewis has scored 13 total TDs on the year.

Lewis matched the legendary Tony Dorsett's Pitt record by needing just eight games to reach 1,000 yards as a freshman. The NCAA record is seven games, but that was achieved by only five players.

Lewis also could become the first player since former Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick in 1999 to be selected the Big East's Offensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year in the same season. He leads the Big East in rushing (126.56 yards per game), scoring (8.67 points per game), rushing touchdowns (tied) and total touchdowns.

"Dion deserves every honor he's received so far, but we look at them more as team awards,'' senior offensive guard John Malecki said. "It's all about the team for us, and if we all work together and play hard the players will get the stats and we'll win games. And that's the bottom line, winning the rest of our games and the Big East championship.''

Three finalists for the 2009 Doak Walker Award will be announced Nov. 23, and the winner will be announced live on The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards Show Dec. 10.

Joining Lewis as Doak Walker semifinalists are Donald Buckram (Jr., UTEP), Jonathan Dwyer (Jr., Georgia Tech), Toby Gerhart (Sr., Stanford), Mark Ingram (So., Alabama), Ryan Mathews (Jr., Fresno State), Jacquizz Rodgers (So., Oregon State), C.J. Spiller (Sr., Clemson), Ben Tate (Sr., Auburn) and Ryan Williams (Redshirt-Fr., Virginia Tech).

Ranked No. 8 by The Associated Press writers and No. 9 in the USA Today coaches' poll, Pitt has its highest November ranking since 1982. The Panthers are 12th in this week's Bowl Championship Series ratings, their highest BCS listing since those rankings were created.

"After the bye week, we all knew we were in for a tough final stretch of games,'' Lewis said. "So, it was good to get the first win in that stretch against Syracuse, and now we have Notre Dame this week. We'll look forward to West Virginia and especially Cincinnati after that, but we're only focused on Notre Dame right now.

"These are the games that we all dreamed about playing in when we were little, national TV, everybody watching, two good teams going at it. So, this is the time to make plays, because we're not out there just for the show. We're out there to play hard and win the game. And that's what we're going to do our best to get the job done.''

Pitt achieved its lofty rankings after winning five consecutive games to improve to 8-1 on the season, its best start since the 1982 Panthers, led by Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino, also started with an 8-1 record.

The Pitt-Notre Dame game is being televised as part of this week's ABC Saturday Night Football package and has the network's top announcing team with Brent Musburger (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (color) and Lisa Salters (sideline) forming the broadcast crew.

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