With arguably their most difficult game of the season behind them, the Pitt Panthers can forget about Florida State and concentrate on shedding their old Big East Conference image. In particular, the Panther’s bad habits. Habits like not showing up in big games and losing games they should win.
Insert the New Mexico Lobos. The Mountain West Conference team comes into Heinz Field Saturday for a first-ever meeting between the two teams with a record of 1-1. The Lobos squeaked by UTEP in overtime 42-35 last Saturday.
The Lobos are led by their senior running back Kasey Carrier. Carrier ran the ball 41 times for 291 yards and four touchdowns last week. After Carrier, the Lobos really don’t have another offensive threat at any of the other skilled positions. New Mexico has started two quarterbacks this season in junior Clayton Mitchem and sophomore Cole Gautsche. Mitchem and Gautsche both split time in a 21-13 week one loss to the University of Texas-San Antonio. However, Mitchem played the entire game in last week’s win over UTEP completing 4-of-7 passes for a modest 88 yards and no touchdowns.
While New Mexico is no Florida State, the Lobos are coming off a big road win. Regardless of a team’s record, there is no greater force in sports than momentum and New Mexico clearly has more than the Panthers do at the moment. In addition, the Lobos know how to win on the road. Pitt really hasn’t established a home field advantage since moving to Heinz Filed in 2001. Panther opponents have not only found Heinz Field non-threatening but once the Panthers begin to stumble during games, the crowd will turn against the home team and often times leaves the already half-filled stadium.
If there was to be a coming-out party to be had for head coach Paul Chryst and his 2013 Pitt Panthers versus a FBS school, this would be the game. With ACC teams like Duke, Virginia and Virginia Tech on the horizon, the Panthers really only have one game to work out their issues before they get to the meat of their schedule.
One would expect to see more of Pitt freshman, and Clairton standout, Tyler Boyd. Boyd seemed like the only person on the field that was fast enough to play with Florida State. The freshman phenom rushed three times for 54 yards while pulling in two receptions for 26 yards. While his numbers don’t look like much, watching Boyd zig-zag around Heinz Field, it became immediately clear that Chryst needed to get the ball into Boyds hands as much as possible. Couple Boyd with senior wide receiver Devin Street and the Panthers should have no problem with the Lobos. But then again, it is a home game.
New Mexico Lobos (1-1) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (0-1)
TV: ACC Network; ESPN3.com
Radio: 93.7 The Fan (local)