Sure, a loss to West Virginia is painful for all associated with the Pittsburgh football program -- players, coaches, administrators and fans -- but a win against Cincinnati Saturday clinches the Big East title and the Conference's BCS bowl bid. A win in that game would give the Panthers an 11-2 record and top-10 finish for the first time in nearly three decades.
And that's not too shabby. So, all Pitt (9-2) has to do is put the WVU game in the past and move on to Cincinnati (11-0) Saturday at noon at Heinz Field.
"That will not be a problem,'' Wannstedt said. "We've got high-character kids, and they're highly-motivated. So, we'll turn the page on this one in a hurry, and we'll get ready for Cincinnati. ... Obviously, our goal at the beginning of the season is to win the Big East championship, and we can still accomplish that next week (by beating Cincinnati).''
One local reporter asked Wannstedt later if his message to the team was that it can still have a good season. Wannstedt was not amused.
"Are you kidding me, a nice season?'' Wannstedt responded. "If we can win the Big East championship, it would be more than nice. We've got a lot of character, and as I said earlier every game takes on a special meaning of its own. This was the Pitt-West Virginia rivalry game.
"At the beginning of the season, we talked about winning the Big East championship. We can accomplish that next week, so we'll turn the page on this week fast. And we'll take advantage of the extra day (Saturday) and rest up and then get ready for Cincinnati.''
Some Pitt players had another idea.
"We just talked about it,'' sixth-year senior middle linebacker Adam Gunn said. "(Saturday) is supposed to be a day off, but we told everyone that we're coming in at (noon) and we're going to get going on Cincinnati. Our goal this year is to win the Big East championship.
"And that's still a possibility for us. So, we're going to come in to get ready for Cincinnati. ... All us senior captains spoke up and said that we wanted to win the Backyard Brawl, but now it's time to win the Big East.''
Redshirt junior defensive end Greg Romeus expanded on that thought a bit.
"Sure, it's encouraging that we can still accomplish our goal to win the Big East, but these are our biggest rivals,'' Romeus said. "Coach told us not to dwell on this one too much, but it's still tough. And it hurts, but we have another game next week.
"And we have to move forward to get ready for that one. (So), we're just going to come in as a team, without the coaches. There are some things that need to be talked about, so we're going to do that and then put the WVU game behind us for good.''
One just has the feeling that there was a lost opportunity here for Pitt. Sure, two more wins would make for a spectacular season, and there's certainly no one who would not have taken an 11-2 record this year after the way the Panthers ended this past season.
But the loss to North Carolina State and now to WVU, those games clearly were there for the taking for Pitt. Of course, it would have been just awful for the Panthers to end their season with this loss.
"Thank God we have an opportunity to go out next week and play another game to still accomplish our goal,'' senior right offensive guard Malecki said. "It won't be easy to forget about this game, but we need to turn the page and move on to next week to prepare for Cincinnati.''
Fifth-year senior quarterback Bill Stull probably summed things up the best.
"This loss is tough, and it's going to be tough,'' Stull said. "Just considering the type of game this was, the Backyard Brawl, the last one for our seniors to be part of. ... It hurts, but we're going to come in (Saturday) and close the door on that chapter. Then, we can get ready to go win (the Big East).
"We've got to be true to ourselves, look at the tape to see the mistakes that we made, and we have to accept the chewing out we get from ourselves and the coaches. The only way we can get better is to correct our mistakes, and once that's over it's over. And then we can move on to Cincinnati.''
That chapter begins in earnest on Sunday for the Panthers.
A Light At The End Of The Tunnel
Panther Digest Top Stories
C Golden Talks Up Terps LookThe Maryland staff has identified a couple prime big-man targets in the 2018 class, and April 24 head coach Mark Turgeon extended an offer to another. After watching local center…
Mayock on Vikings’ ‘splash’ decisionWithout a first-round pick, what does NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock expect from the Minnesota Vikings’ second-round pick?
Viking Update12:36 PM
Penn State Visit Impresses LB Brian AsamoahOhio linebacker Brian Asamoah is a wanted man in recruiting circles, and he is in the process of finding the right school after backing off an earlier commitment date. Asamoah…
Scout Football11:42 AM
Steve's Weekly Recruiting TalkIn this weekly feature from Pack Pride Recruiting Analyst Steve Williams, gives a brief update on NC State football recruiting. Check back each week for this audio feature from…
Pack Pride11:36 AM