Pitt Better Prepared This Time

Pitt Better Prepared This Time

Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt believed that despite losing their quarterback and top run-stopping defensive lineman in the past week, the Panthers were better prepared to stop Michigan State this week than they were during a 38-23 loss last year at Heinz Field.

Pittsburgh (2-0) faces the Spartans (2-0) Saturday at noon in East Lansing, Mich.

"I thought last year we got worn down as the game wore on, and it was a combination of three things,'' Wannstedt said. "One, just our size and strength. No. 2, our conditioning. And No. 3, our experience.

"I think this year we'll be better in all three of those phases. We're in great shape. Our players believe that, and I'd like to think that we're a little stronger. And because of all those guys are coming back and having some game experience over the past year, we should be a little smarter.''

Pitt jumped out to a 10-0 lead on Michigan State last season, but the Spartans came back to tie it at halftime 10-10. MSU broke the game open in the second half with four straight touchdowns. The Panthers made the score close with two late scores, but the game was already over.

"That game, it was up and down,'' redshirt junior safety Eric Thatcher said. "We started off hot, but we didn't get any points off that onside kick. People's minds kind of changed, but Buddy Morris has taught us to be a lot more mentally tough. So, hopefully, we can fight through situations like that and come out on top this year.

"Buddy's done wonders around here. I can tell just with the linemen, just running onto the field, it doesn't even look like they're tired. So, just the offseason program with Buddy, that has helped us to get ready for big games like this, to be mentally tough and not to wear down at the end. That should make a big difference for us.''

Fifth-year senior right guard Mike McGlynn has played in various road venues during his career and would tell Pitt's young players not to get overly excited about playing in front of a large crowd and to try to keep an even keel.

"We remember what they did to us last year, so we're excited to up to East Lansing and play in front of 70,000 people wearing white shirts,'' McGlynn said. "And we're excited to go play in a hostile environment, because that just throws wood on the fire for us. So, it's going to be great for us.

"(But) we don't want to psych ourselves up too much, that's what I would tell a freshman. ... Enthusiasm, Buddy says, only gets you through the first 30 seconds. The rest is on your ability and talent. So, I just can say to be calm and put our game plan in your head, but it'll definitely be exciting.''

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