There is a youth movement afoot at Pitt this season. Nineteen true freshmen and redshirt freshmen have seen game action so far this year. One true freshman, 6-2, 215 middle linebacker Matt Galambos, had been playing this season but on Saturday, he started for the first time.
"It's tough starting as a true freshman but all the older guys were helping me, especially during practice," Galambos said. "If I made a mistake, the coaches and the older guys were right there to make sure I was calm, so I had a lot of support."
When starting middle linebacker, senior Shane Gordon went down, Galambos stepped in the starting role and helped the Panthers (3-1, 2-1 ACC) in a 14-3 win against visiting ACC foe Virginia (2-1, 0-1 ACC) at Heinz Field.
"As soon as Shane [Gordon] went down, I kind of figured I was next up," Galambos said. "Coach told me it's my job until Shane comes back. We watch a lot of film in practice and that helped me too."
Galambos arrived at Pitt from the Haverford School in Collingdale, Pa. He was told he would have a chance to play early in his Pitt career either on special teams or in certain defensive packages if he worked hard enough in practice.
"The coaches didn’t guarantee anything when I was recruited here but in the first week of camp, they said I would have an opportunity to play," Galambos said. "The coaches said If you do what we ask of you and do your job, you will have the opportunity to play."
So Galambos took the coaches up on their offer and worked hard enough to crack the lineup as a freshman.
"It was my goal not to redshirt," Galambos said. "The coaches told me in the beginning I could help on special teams or any aspect on defense with different packages."
He responded with one solo tackle and three assisted tackles and helped a Pitt defensive unit overall to only 65 net rushing yards and 123 net passing yards. The Panther defense also stopped the Cavaliers three times on four fourth-down attempts.
"It was awesome being out there," Galambos said. "I thought as a defense we gang-tackled and played relentless."
Last week, Pitt won 58-55 at Duke in a track meet. The panther defense had several lapses and gave up big plays in the second half that allowed the Blue Devils to threaten late in the game. Galambos felt this week was a different story for Pitt's defensive effort.
"Last week we gave up a lot of points but a win is a win," Galambos said. "We tried to play more as a unit today, especially with the offense struggling a bit. We wanted to stop the big plays and I think we did that."
Galambos feels that the number of younger players that are gaining experience now will pay dividends in the future.
"You could see from earlier this season that there would be a lot of freshmen playing," Galambos said. "I like how a lot of young guys are playing early. That's our future and we'll have more and more experience down the road."
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