Rutgers has Wannstedt's number at Pitt - it's 0-4
The Big East team Wannstedt can't seem to beat? Rutgers.
TV monitors throughout Pitt's practice center are running tapes from the four most recent matchups against Rutgers - as if the Panthers needed reminders about some of the worst games of the Wannstedt era.
Pitt won its first nine against Rutgers starting in 1981, and six in a row from 1999-2004, but the Panthers haven't beaten the Scarlet Knights since former coach Walt Harris left following the 2004 season.
The Panthers (5-1, 2-0 Big East) are going through a short week of practice before playing at Rutgers (4-1, 0-1) on Friday night. They're probably glad of it, too, considering how quickly they're growing tired of watching the nonstop tape loops.
"There's definitely motivation for us in this game," linebacker Adam Gunn said. "They came in here and really put it on us. We know we have to play a lot better than we did last year, and we have to prove it."
Rutgers' 54-34 victory at Heinz Field last season was one of the worst moments for Wannstedt at Pitt - and for quarterback Bill Stull.
Before the game, Wannstedt said he expected Rutgers to run the ball 40 times. Instead, Scarlet Knights quarterback Mike Teel threw for 361 yards and six touchdowns, including scores of 60, 79 and 36 yards. It was nearly the complete opposite of Rutgers' 20-10 win in 2006, when Ray Rice ran for 225 yards.
Pitt also lost at Rutgers 37-29 in 2005 and 20-16 in 2007.
"This will be, for sure, the most challenging and toughest game we've played this year," said Wannstedt, whose team will be playing its second Friday night road game in three weeks. The Panthers won at Louisville 35-10 on Oct. 2.
Stull tried keeping up with Teel last year, throwing for 279 yards in little more than a half, but left with a concussion after his neck struck teammate LeSean McCoy's back while he was being sacked. The injury kept Stull out for the Panthers' four-overtime win at Notre Dame the following week, and he slumped after returning.
"This one's personal," Stull said. "We can't stress watching film more or working harder, because we do that, but we have to do them better. ... I haven't been on the winning side against these guys, so I'm really taking it personally this week."
Pitt also needs a win to enhance its chances of winning the Big East, since the Panthers play No. 21 South Florida (5-0), West Virginia (4-1) and No. 8 Cincinnati (5-0) during their final five games, plus No. 25 Notre Dame (4-1).
"Four years in a row - if that's not enough motivation, the only team we haven't beaten in the Big East ..." Stull said. "I'm telling you, it's bitter. It really is, and it's definitely personal for all of us."
Pitt recruits heavily in New Jersey, another reason it wants to turn the Rutgers series around. Pitt recruited its two top running backs, Dion Lewis and Ray Graham, out of The Garden State last year.
"It's personal for Bill, because he got hurt against them last year, but I think we're all going to bring something more to the table this week since we haven't beaten them since we've all been here," tight end Dorin Dickerson said.