Panthers Hope Fans Are Fired Up

The Pitt football team has had several high-profile games in recent years, and the boisterous sellout crowd has always provided the Panthers with a boost.

All those games, however, were either late afternoon or night games. Pitt has had some problems selling out games with noon kickoffs, but that should change this week.

When No. 14 Pittsburgh (9-2) faces No. 5 Cincinnati (11-0) for the Big East title at noon Saturday at Heinz Field, a sellout crowd is expected. And the Panthers are hopeful that the atmosphere is just as electric as in a night game.

"I really hope so, because this is my last game here,'' Pitt senior tight end Nate Byham said. "I'm a senior, so this is going to be my senior night. The atmosphere against Notre Dame was amazing, but this game is for the Big East championship. And I really hope everybody comes out to watch us this game.

"I know we disappointed a lot of people by dropping that game last week, but we want to make up for that to our fans and everyone else. And for ourselves, most importantly, but it's going to be a big game. And I don't think it should be any different in the afternoon. Myself, I like playing early games better.

"I don't like sitting around in the hotel and waiting all day to play,'' Byham added. "I just want to get out on the field and hit some people, and that's just what I want to do this week. So, noon's the best time for me. Actually, I'd play at 8 a.m. if we had a game then. I'd be ready for that, too.''

Pitt senior tight end Dorin Dickerson is hopeful that the Notre Dame game was just a baseline for fans who are going to be in attendance this week. So, Dickerson expects an even more rabid crowd cheering the Panthers to victory.

"I think everybody in Pittsburgh's going to be there to see what we can do,'' Dickerson said. "If we win, we can go to a BCS game, and that would be nice for the city and Pitt. It's such a big game, so it should be really exciting.''

Fifth-year senior wideout Cedric McGee has been with the Panthers since Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt returned to his alma mater, and he's played in a lot of big games. But none were as significant as this one against the Bearcats.

"It's a championship game, even though there's really not a Big East Conference championship,'' McGee said. "But this is still a championship game, and I'm more than sure that everybody will be hyped for it. There should be a lot of people there, and I'm really looking forward to it.''

Wannstedt is hopeful that the Panthers can give their fans something to cheer about from the outset.

"You're talking about selling out Heinz Field, so our fans will get into it, and our players definitely are looking forward to it,'' Wannstedt said. "So, all we need to do is come out strong and have a good start to take advantage of that.''

Pitt redshirt junior defensive end Greg Romeus is kind of a quiet and relatively unassuming guy off the football field, but he noted that with a loud home crowd cheering for the Panthers it's easy to get fired up.

"Well, if you can't get excited about this game, you shouldn't be playing college football,'' Romeus said. "But when we have our fans behind us, we really get going. I think we feed off that energy, and we'll need all the help we can get Saturday because Cincinnati is a good team and a great offense. But I have faith that our fans are going to do their part to help us out.''

The Pitt faithful will just have to start a little earlier than usual for a big game.

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