BY NATALIE BIGLEY
The last time Pitt played Temple in football came in 2004. That game resulted in a 27-22 victory for the Panthers and lowly Temple was booted from the Big East Conference following the season.
Eight years later, the Owls find themselves transitioning back into the Big East, while the Panthers are on the way out.
Temple rejoined the conference in March. Pitt, on the other hand, will join the Atlantic Coast Conference next year. But the Panthers (3-4) still hope for a strong finish in their final Big East season.
In order to do that, they need to win today’s game against Temple (3-3) at Heinz Field.
Kickoff is scheduled for noon.
The two schools, located on opposite sides of Pennsylvania, are looking to pick up their fourth win and more importantly, keep their bowl hopes alive.
Originally, Pitt and Temple both needed to win three of their five remaining games to become bowl-eligible.
However, these odds may soon change. Recent reports
on ESPN.com and NBCSports.com suggest Temple is trying to schedule a 12th game against Hawaii in early December.
The good news for the Panthers is that today’s game is at Heinz Field, where they’ve played well offensively.
The bad news is that Temple has transitioned into the Big East better than most expected.
The Owls are 2-1 in the conference with wins against South Florida and Connecticut. They also had two relatively close losses to Maryland and Penn State.
Pitt head coach Paul Chryst said on Monday that he is not surprised at Temple’s success.
He also said a win against the Owls will depend on how both team’s ground game performs.
“They have a couple different ways to hurt you with the run,” Chryst said. “A couple different players and different types of schemes. I think that’ll be a key to the game – can we stop or minimize their run game and can we get a run game going that is consistent.”
Statistically speaking, both teams run the ball with equal effectiveness. Temple ranks fifth in the Big East with 1,003 rushing yards. Pitt has rushed for 9965yards.
But Panthers running backs Ray Graham and Rushel Shell did not perform up to their potential in last week’s 20-6 win at Buffalo. They combined for 126 yards.
In Temple’s last game against Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights beat the Owls 35-10. Temple rushed for only 119 yards in the loss.
If Pitt, which is seeking its first conference victory, can mimic what Rutgers did, they should have a good chance at beating Temple. Chryst addressed this, saying Pitt’s defensive ends need to act disruptive in order to stop Temple.
“Certainly our ends know what their job is,” Chryst said.
“We need to have two pressures out of them. We need to have knock downs, we need to have four tackles and one tackle for a loss.”
He also said that defensive stats do not determine how the unit performs.
“Just because a guy doesn’t have a lot of numbers, it may translate into that he’s doing his job extremely well,” Chryst added.
“He is keeping the ball contained or he is forcing it to bounce to someone else or he is knocking it back to where the running back has to cut back.”
In the air, Pitt has the clear advantage. Quarterback Tino Sunseri has had a strong senior year. He’s thrown for almost 1,900 yards and has only two interceptions on the season.
Sunseri owes some of this success to his wide receivers.
He’s had a lot of help down field thanks to Mike Shanahan and Devin Street, who are the top two receivers in the Big East.
Temple’s passing game is a completely different story. Quarterback Chris Coyer has yet to throw the ball for over 200 yards in a game and is ranked last in the Big East in passing yards.
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