Baldwin makes it look easy.
After a big performance against South Florida several weeks ago, Pitt wideout Jonathan Baldwin only earned honorable-mention honors from the Big East.
But in Pitt's 27-22 win against Notre Dame Saturday night at Heinz Field, Baldwin's performance couldn't be overlooked by anyone.
Jonathan Baldwin, a sophomore from Aliquippa, Pa. High School, thrilled a sellout crowd and national ABC television audience with spectacular circus catches and leaping grabs to lift Pittsburgh past the visiting Irish. He had five catches for 142 yards (28.4 per catch).
This performance earned Baldwin Big East Offensive Player of the Week honors. Baldwin's diving 36-yard touchdown catch gave Pitt a 10-3 halftime lead it never relinquished. He also made an acrobatic 51-yard grab during which he jumped over Irish cornerback Darren Walls to come up with the catch to set up a Panthers' field goal.
"I always try to work on a lot of different ways to catch the ball,'' Baldwin said. "Over my head, jumping, behind me, all kinds of different ways, with Coach (Bryan) Bossard and (quarterback) Pat Bostick helping me. So, that helps me out for situations like I had in the (Notre Dame) game.
"I always tell Bill Stull to put the ball up, and I'll go up to get it and protect myself. The main goal is for me to catch the ball, so if he puts it up there around me I'll be able to get it. ... (And) all these things I've worked on, making those catches in a game is like a natural instinct for me.''
On the year, Baldwin has 40 receptions for 840 yards (21-yard average) and five touchdowns. The Notre Dame contest marked his fifth 100-yard receiving game this season, and he's part of a Pitt offense that averages 33.8 points per game to rank 15th nationally and second in the Big East.
"Jonathan is becoming a more complete player,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "Whether he's getting the ball or not, or it's a run or a pass, he's doing everything so much better than he did last year.
"(Then), we basically would just throw him the ball deep last year, and there were one or two routes that he was running. But I can't wait to see him in a year or two, and he'll be even so much better than now.''
Ranked No. 8 by The Associated Press writers and No. 9 in the USA Today coaches' poll, Pitt has its highest November rankings since 1982. The Panthers moved up to ninth in this week's Bowl Championship Series ratings, which is their highest BCS listing ever.
Pitt has achieved its lofty rankings after winning six consecutive games to improve to 9-1 on the year, its best start since the 1982. Those Panthers, led by quarterback Dan Marino, also started with a 9-1 record.
Pitt has a bye this week before putting their undefeated Big East record (5-0) on the line at West Virginia (7-3, 3-2) Nov. 27. The Panthers conclude the regular-season against Cincinnati (10-0, 6-0) Dec. 5 at Heinz Field. Neither game time has been set.
The game against the Bearcats, who are rated fifth in this week's BCS standings, will decide the 2009 Big East champion the BCS Bowl berth that accompanies the title.