Panthers hope to keep their bowl hopes alive


Oct 20, 2012; Amherst, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Aaron Donald (97) tackles Buffalo Bulls running back Devin Campbell (21) during the second half at UB Stadium. Pittsburgh beat Buffalo 20-6. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE

0 is the magic number for this Pittsburgh Panthers team as that represents how many Big East victories they have thus far in the season.

The Panthers hope to change this when they face the Temple Owls at noon.

The Owls are led by former Florida Gators offensive coordinator Steve Addazio. Addazio is in his second season and has a record of 12-7.

In their last game, the Panthers lost 35-10 to a ranked Rutgers team at home and their road does not get any easier as they visit the Panthers today followed by a visit to ranked and battle tested Louisville which won in impressive fashion last night.

The Panthers lead this series 27-7-1 including a 27-22 victory over the Owls in 2004 at Temple.

Temple was kicked out of the Big East and almost stopped their football program, so this game brings back some memories for both sides.

A victory for Temple would be their first win at Pittsburgh since 1998.

Temple will rely on their running game which averages 167.17 yards per game. This is led by running back Montel Harris a senior tailback from Jacksonville, Florida who has 391 yards and three touchdowns.

Temple will have a special teams advantage in that their net punting is 14th best in the nation. Considering how Panthers punter Matt Yoklic has cooled off after a fast start, the difference in field position could be a big factor in the outcome of this game. Their punter and also kicker Brandon McManus is a senior and has made 48 field goals, a school record while his career punting average is 45.8.

On the defensive side, the Owls are led by redshirt freshmen Nate D. Smith who is fourth in the conference in tackles per game at eight and third in fumbles forced with half a fumble per game.

Their quarterback is Chris Coyer and he had 727 yards passing and seven touchdowns. He has averaged 121.2 yards per game. Coyer also is able to run as he has 332 yards and a couple of touchdowns.

At wide receiver, sophomore Jalen Fitzpatrick has 236 yards on the season and two touchdowns.

This game is an important victory for the Panthers, especially since a visit to currently undefeated Notre Dame and a home game against a ranked Rutgers team are still on the team’s schedule.

The Panther winning streak against the Temple Owls is six currently.

An injury concern earlier in the week was Jason Hendricks who was reportedly in a boot yet vowed to play. Hendricks leads the Panthers with four interceptions and will dress today. Not so luck are defensive players Manny Williams and Shane Gordon. With Gordon out, it appears that Dan Mason will start today. Also welcome news for the Panthers is the return of their tight end Hubie Graham.

Despite being contained the past couple or so games, wide receiver Mike Shanahan along with Devin Street are the most successful duo in the Big East. Shanahan’s 80.6 yards per game and Street’s 79.3 are first and second respectively in the conference. With Graham’s return, Shanahan likely will not have to block as much and he could see more receptions and have a bounce back game today.

A loss for the Panthers would put the Panthers to 0-4 in the Big East which has not happened since the Panthers went 2-9 in Walt Harris’s second year as head coach.

Milestone tracker:

Tino Sunseri– The Pitt quarterback needs 300 yards passing today to pass former quarterback Rod Rutherford for fourth on the Panthers list for top total offensive careers.

Mike Shanahan– Shanahan is four receptions away from passing Derek Kinder for seventh place in receptions in a career and six away in the same category from passing Dwight Collins and Gordon Jones.

Devin Street– In the same category as Shanahan, Street has 122 receptions. He needs six to pass Greg Lee for 10th place and eight to pass Jon Baldwin for 10th place. Street also has 1,627 career receiving yards. 20 yards receiving would pass Kinder for 13th place while 54 would pass Billy Davis for 12th. Just two additional yards would pass Oderick Turner for 11th place.

Ray Graham– The senior has a golden opportunity to move up in rushing yards in a career. Just seven yards would pass Elliott Walker for seventh place on that list. If Graham rushes for 62 yards he would pass Billy West for sixth place. If Graham can rush for 76 yards, then he would pass LeSean McCoy for fifth place. If Graham scores a touchdown he would pass Chris Ferencik for 15th place in career scoring and tie himself with Antonio Bryant for 14th place on the list. Since things are so log jammed in that statistic, here is a precise list containing people Graham could possibly pass:

Pitt Career scoring:

11. Dion Lewis 186 points
12. George McLaren 183 points
13. Tom Davies 181 points
14. Antonio Bryant 180 points
15. Chris Ferencik 175 points
16. RAY GRAHAM 174 points

Prediction: Both teams will have a sense of urgency in this game and rain is in the forecast. The Panthers are listed as 6.5 point favorites and I think that they will rise to the occasion in this game and take it.