Oct. 10, 2012
Clint ~nbsp>Hurtt | Preston ~nbsp>Brown | Calvin ~nbsp>Pryor
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Last year, the Cardinals had their hands full with the Pittsburgh offense. The Panthers came into Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and walked out with a 21-14 victory with a ball-control offense and proficient game by Panthers' quarterback Tino Sunseri, who completed 16-of-22 passes for 196 yards and one touchdown.
The Panthers controlled the football for over 32 minutes and the Cardinals couldn't get off the field, as Pitt was a solid 7-of-14 on third-down conversions.
Playing without Ray Graham, their leading rusher, the Panthers plowed for 200 yards on the ground behind Zach Brown's 87 yards and another 69 by Issac Bennett.
However, the Cardinals are facing an entirely new coaching staff as Paul Chryst replaces Todd Graham, who left for Arizona State. But one thing many know about Pittsburgh - regardless of coach - is that the Panthers are are going to be a physical football team that plays extremely hard.
The Panthers are 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the BIG EAST, but do have a dominating win over Virginia Tech at Heinz Field, so the Cardinals have to be prepared for a 60-minute contest.
"Conceptually, they are totally different," said defensive line coach Clint Hurtt. "I have to give coach Chryst and their staff a lot of credit. They are doing a great. It's going to be a physical football game, which is typical of BIG EAST play. Our kids will be prepared for it. It will be a great challenge for us."
The Panthers have put together a pretty solid offensive display in the first five games. They are averaging over 155 yards on the ground and more than 300 yards through the air, meaning the Cardinals' defense will be dealt a tough task in their conference opener.
"They do such a good job of running the football," said Hurtt of Pittsburgh. "They have three really good backs, and Graham is working his way back in there. The biggest thing is being able to control the running game and not let them play ahead of the chains."
After seeing spread offenses for most of the season, the Cardinals will face a more conventional offense in Pittsburgh, which pleases junior linebacker Preston Brown, who is fourth on the team in tackles.
"We have to play fundamental football," said Brown. "They aren't a spread you out kind of team. They are going to try and power the football all day. We have to stick to our fundamentals and play good football."
The Cardinals are one of the last teams in the country to open up conference play, so the players understand how crucial it is to get a jump on the conference race, and it begins this Saturday at Pitt.
"It's our first BIG EAST game," said Brown. "We have to show that we can handle the BIG EAST teams because all our non-conference games are done, so it's a new season."
The Cardinals are 1-6 in BIG EAST openers since joining the league, and with three undefeated teams in the league, this is not the year to get off to a slow start in the conference. The Cardinals will be facing a Pittsburgh squad that will be clawing to its first league win, while Louisville is hoping to get a jumpstart in pursuit of its second-straight league title.