The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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October 5, 2010

Pitt hoping that third time is the charm

PITTSBURGH — The Pitt football team has had two chances to shine on a national stage with Thursday night games at Utah and at home against Miami (Fla.) and the Panthers came up short in both contests.

That’s one reason why Pitt (2-2) needs to win on one of the biggest stages this week, against Notre Dame (2-3) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in South Bend, Ind. The game will be broadcast nationally by NBC.

This also is the Panthers’ final non-conference game. Pitt’s Big East schedule begins Oct. 16 at Syracuse.

“Anytime that you can get that type of exposure, it’s great for the program,” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said Monday. “We had a lot of recruits at the Miami game.

“It’s interesting because, while it was disappointing, the result of the game, I think the recruits were excited to see the stadium full, the atmosphere and everything else that went along with it. I think that yes, you want to go out there and win every game.

“That’s not even a question, particularly when you’re on national television,” Wannstedt added. “But every team doesn’t get the chance to play on national TV. Our recruits know that, and we try to use it to our advantage.”

The Notre Dame mystique, so to speak, is always there. However, Wannstedt noted that many Pitt players made the trip to see the Golden Dome two years ago, so the Panthers are “somewhat familiar with that environment.”

But that doesn’t matter once the game begins.

“We need to clean up some things this week, and ... winning this game should be a boost to our confidence going into our conference play,” Wannstedt said.

Pitt junior wideout Jon Baldwin was heavily recruited by Notre Dame, and he even took a visit to South Bend before committing to the Panthers.

Baldwin made a second trip to see the Fighting Irish as a freshman at Pitt in 2008, but that wasn’t as memorable as last year’s game at Heinz Field.

On the third try, Baldwin caught a fade pass for a touchdown at Notre Dame as a freshman, but his diving, 36-yard reception for a score last fall was as spectacular as it gets. He averaged 28.4 yards on just five catches.

“My freshman year, the environment was great,” Baldwin said. “There’s a great tradition out there, but I could have done better. So, I just circled that game on my calendar for last season, and I ended up having a great game.

“I circled it on my calendar again this year, so I plan to have a great game this time, too. I took one trip out to Notre Dame, so I wasn’t surprised by anything. I went there on a visit, but I’m really looking forward to going back this year.”

Pitt junior right offensive guard Lucas Nix also made the trip to Notre Dame as a freshman in 2008. He played sparingly that season, but hopes to make an impact on the Irish defense this year.

“I was recruited by them, and it was nice – I guess an honor, you could say – for them to come to my school,” Nix said. “But I never took an unofficial visit out there. I stayed in Pittsburgh, pretty much, but I remember the last time we went out there. It’s definitely an experience.

“So, some of these younger guys will get to see a different atmosphere for a college football game. It’s nice to go up there and show them what we can do, especially guys who were recruited by Notre Dame and maybe even some who weren’t recruited by them. It’s a nice trip and should be a great game.

“When I went out there two years ago, it was my first time, and it was pretty neat,” Nix added. “Everybody knows about ‘Rudy’ and the Golden Dome. I guess you could say it’s like an old-fashioned setting, but once you step on the field it’s all the same. They have to play the game like everybody else.”

Notes: Pitt’s Conference opener Oct. 16 at noon at Syracuse is an ESPN Regional telecast as the Big East game of the week. ... Pitt RB Ray Graham (277 rushing yards, three touchdowns, 374 all-purpose yards) and PK/P Dan Hutchins (38-yard punt out at the 2 and 14 points on five extra points and field goals from 30, 38 and 38 yards) were Big East players of the week on offense and special teams, respectively. ... Wannstedt noted that fifth-year senior DE Greg Romeus is expected to begin a rehab program today after back surgery Sept. 16 to repair a herniated disk. “It’s just a matter of him getting his strength back,” Wannstedt said. ... Sophomore MLB Dan Mason had knee surgery Friday and finally left the hospital Sunday. He will begin the rehab process as soon as possible in an attempt to get ready for spring practice. Mason will get a medical redshirt for this season and will have three years of eligibility remaining.

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