Pitt's 3-0 Start Is Its First in Nine Years

By Grupp, John | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 2, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Pitt's 3-0 Start Is Its First in Nine Years

Grupp, John, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Pitt defense righted itself Saturday night.

One week after hearing about missed tackles, blown assignments and 500 total yards, the Panthers stymied Navy in a 27-14 victory at Heinz Field.

The victory, in front of 55,064 fans, improved Pitt to 3-0 for the first time in nine years and distanced the defense from the multiple breakdowns in last week's win at Buffalo.

And they did it without leading tackler and starting linebacker Adam Gunn, who didn't play due to an ankle injury.

Navy's rushing attack, which has led the nation four years in a row, managed only 129 yards - 109 below its average (238) - on 46 carries. Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs completed only 6 of 21 passes for 89 yards and was sacked six times.

Freshman Dan Mason, starting for Gunn, had 11 tackles and two sacks.

Senior quarterback Bill Stull - who heard boos the last time he played at home - enjoyed one of his best days as a collegian, and Dion Lewis and Ray Graham each rushed for touchdowns.

But the story was the defense. Pitt was both aggressive and disciplined against a triple-option attack that often makes opposing defenders look silly.

Pitt led 21-7 at halftime and mustered only a pair of field goals in the second half. But the defense didn't allow Navy a first down in the third quarter. Navy's only touchdown of the second half came after a bad punt and a 36-yard drive. But there would be no repeat of the 48-45 double-overtime loss to Navy two years ago at Heinz Field, when the bewildered Panthers defense was gashed for 497 yards.

Stull completed 17 of 24 pass attempts for 245 yards and one touchdown. Lewis, ranked third in the nation at 159.5 yards per game, rushed for 79 yards on 23 carries. Jonathan Baldwin caught six passes for a career-high 111 yards.

Stull was nearly flawless. At least three of his incompletions were dropped.

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