Pittsburgh (3-1) at Louisville (1-2) 10-02-09

October 2, 2009

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Pittsburgh (3-1) at Louisville (1-2)DATE & TIME: Friday, October 2nd, 8:00 p.m. (et)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium (42,000) — Louisville, Kentucky. Television:ESPN2. Home Record: Pittsburgh 2-0, Louisville 1-0. Away Record: Pittsburgh 1-1, Louisville 0-2. Neutral Record: Pittsburgh 0-0, Louisville 0-0. Conference Record: Pittsburgh 0-0, Louisville 0-0. Series Record: Louisville leads, 7-5.

GAME NOTES: The Pittsburgh Panthers and Louisville Cardinals jump into Big East play this Friday, as they clash at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

The Panthers have won three of their initial four outings and are in search of their fifth 4-1 start this decade. The team however, is coming off its first setback of the campaign, a 38-31 loss at NC State this past weekend. The result was certainly disappointing and Pitt now must regroup quickly in order to avoid a slow start to conference play. Last season, the Panthers finished second in the Big East with a 5-2 mark and should play a factor in this year’s race as well.

As for Louisville, it has dropped its last two outings after opening the season with a 30-10 win over Indiana State. Most recently, the squad was defeated, 30-14, at Utah to cap a short two-game road trip. The Cardinals now turn their attention to Big East play, as they are out to rebound from last season’s poor 1-6 showing.

Louisville leads the head-to-head series with Pitt by a 7-5 count and its hasn’t lost a home game to the Panthers since 1983. The Panthers however, defeated the Cardinals, 41-7, last season to snap a seven-game losing streak in the series.

The Panthers took advantage of their opportunities last weekend and scored 31 points despite gaining just 300 total yards of offense. The unit though, went just 2-of-10 on third downs and was held scoreless over the final 25 minutes, resulting in a loss at NC State. Dion Lewis carried the ball 19 times and had 95 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the setback. It was a solid performance by Lewis, who is off to a terrific start with 493 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Quarterback Bill Stull has also enjoyed success early on and he has thrown for eight touchdowns against just one pick. Last weekend, Stull hit on 12-of-23 tosses for 206 yards and a pair of scores. Tight end Dorin Dickerson led the team with four receptions, while wideout Jonathan Baldwin hauled in a 79-yard touchdown pass from Stull. On the season, Dickerson tops the roster with 17 catches and four scores, but Baldwin is the deep threat with a team-best 323 receiving yards to his credit.

Pitt’s defense was exploited to the tune of 530 total yards by NC State, which possessed the ball for over 37 minutes. The Panthers, who are now giving up 351.8 total ypg on the year, surrendered 208 rushing yards and 28-second half points in last weekend’s loss. The defense managed only one sack and that was a big surprise considering the unit had recorded 16 through the first three games. Mick Williams did a nice job getting into the backfield last weekend and he finished with 4.5 TFLs and a forced fumble. He now has 10 TFLs and three sacks, to go with three forced fumbles on the season. Williams helped the defense compensate for the loss of Adam Gunn, who was once again sidelined with an ankle injury. Gunn, who is listed as questionable, has played in just two games this season, but he still tops the club with five sacks.

The Cardinals struggled to move the ball last weekend against Utah, as they managed just 261 total yards in a 30-14 loss. To make matters worse, Louisville also turned the ball over three times, while converting just 4- of-14 third-down chances. Quarterback Justin Burke threw a touchdown and ran for another, finishing the game with 181 yards and pick on 15-of-33 tosses. The former NC State transfer has had his up and downs this season, completing only 51.1 percent of his throws with three touchdowns and four interceptions. Scott Long and Doug Beaumont have been his main targets and they have combined for 27 catches thus far. Long had six receptions for 61 yards against Utah, while Beaumont posted four receptions for 87 yards. In the backfield, Victor Anderson was limited to just 22 yards rushing last weekend, but he still leads the team with 225 yards and three scores on the season.

Louisville’s defense did some positive things against Utah, but overall, the unit wasn’t all that successful. The Cardinals gave up 214 rushing yards to the Utes, who also completed an efficient 17-of-22 pass attempts for 202 more yards. The defense did record its eighth takeaway of the season and also came up with three sacks, so those were some positive to take from the defeat. The team’s ability to get to the quarterback was certainly a big positive after notching just two sacks through the first two games. Jon Dempsey had one of the sacks against Utah and he finished the game with a team-best 14 tackles. He now has 34 tackles through the first three games to lead the roster in that department.

Pitt appears to be more effective on offense and its ability to protect the ball should help it get past Louisville in a close one this Friday.

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