Week 3: Pitt @ Cal The Pitt Panthers rolled into week 3 looking to build on a good start to coach Ryno's 3rd year on campus. After a stellar first season that included a Sugar Bowl victory things fell apart last year early with a bad loss to Virginia Tech and then a poor showing in Big East conference play. With the program's prestige falling off in the eyes of recruits and the window closing on Dion Lewis' college career, coach Ryno has been under pressure to get things back on track. "It's real, it's palpable, these fans and this alumni base expects success... and last year cannot be looked upon as a successful season. We have to get this program back where it belongs and that's at the top of the Big East. With all due respect to the other teams in our conference, i just think we have the talent to do good things this year." said coach in pre-game interview. After rolling East Carolina in the opener, then lamabasting a declined Boise State program the Panthers travel to the birthplace of a cultural revolution to try and continue their own evolution into a legitimate contender for a Big East title. The Cal Golden Bears have had their own issues as of late. After a tough year in 2011 they have already dropped a game to Georgia this season and could certainly not afford to go to 1-2, losing to Pitt on their home field. The Pac-10 is tough enough, put yourself behind the eight ball with 2 non-conference losses and you could end up drowning yourself in a tough conference and falling back on the recruiting trail. Pitt could not concern themselves with Cal's issues though, with Dion Lewis still recovering from a week 1 injury they had their own problems to overcome. After a impressive showing coming off the bench against Boise, Sophomore Derrick Burns would get the call to start at HB in Lewis' place and the Pitt offense did not miss a beat. Built around a power running game this year, the Panthers continued to pound the rock this week behind a very young and talented offensive line. Featuring three freshman (2 true freshman) is not something Pitt is use too, but these kids have shown their ability to maul opposing DL's into submission this year regardless of who is running the football. Today would be no different as Pitt would rack up close to 175 yards on the ground. Burns was responsible for 160 yards and 2 TD's including two long runs, one a 41 yards scamper up the gut for a TD. Cal had no answer for Pitt's ball control style offense in the first qtr as the Panthers marched the opening drive down the field on a 14 play drive to take the lead 7-0. The Panthers would then look to their very young defense to step up and at least make it challenging for the California offense to move the ball down the field. But the Bears employed the spread with success, marching down the field fairly quickly into Pitt territory. The Panthers defense stiffened a bit though, and on a 3rd down Freshman DT Lucas Ferguson sacked the Cal QB and knocked the ball lose and Senior DT Ezell picked it up and rumbled the length of the field to up the anty to 14-0 Pitt. Ferguson had 2 sacks and a FF on the day and was named Big East defensive player of the week for his efforts. Could the route be on? Not hardly, Cal would fight back on the next possesion and HB Debroskie would break of a long TD run to put the Bears right back into the thick of things. Pitt would answer back again though, with some tough running and a bit of that chemistry between Senior QB Tino Sunseri and Junior TE Brock Decicco who has become the primary target this season with 15 catches already. Pitt would go up 21-7. Cal was not going to be left behind in this one though. Spreading the field, the Bears moved the ball effeciently throughout the last half of the 2nd qtr and managed to pull even with Pitt at halftime 21-21. The party would not last long though, with a dominating 3rd qtr by Pitt which featured more power running and a interception return for a TD by true freshman CB Bolen. The Panthers stretched the lead to 35-21 as the 3qtr came to a close. With possession of the football to start the 4th, as well as the wind (14mph) at their backs, the Cal offense spread the field and went to work. But the treading was not easy as the Pitt defense forced Cal to take the underneath passes and convert several third downs while eating up clock. Cal did eventually score, but took up a huge chunk of time doing it. Pitt got the ball up 35-28 with just over 3 minutes left in the game. Cal still had 2 timeouts and the wind advantage in their back pocket. Stuffing the run, they forced a 3rd and 7 in Pitt territory and Sunseri floated a swing pass to Burns in the flat and he fought his way for the sticks in what would be a questionable spot of the ball. 1st down Pitt... the clock ticks on. Cal defense steps up again on 1st and 2nd downs leaving another critical 3rd down for Pitt to convert to seal up the game. Sunseri dropped back an caught single coverage on Senior WR Saddler on a hook route and through it at the perfect time. 1st down Pitt.. and the game was over at that point. Pitt 35 Cal 28 A huge showing by the youth of Pitt... the offensive line raised some eyebrows as this young crew continues to mold together. Their future is real bright if they can all stay healthy. Also the defense, a Freshman(RS) DT comes up huge and a true FR Corner has a pick 6 to help spearhead the charge in the 3rd. Mix that in with another good performance by Sophomore HB Derrick Burns in Lewis' place and i couldn't have been happier with how the game went. No INT's and only one fumble on a kickoff return. We were able to limit our mistakes. Now home to Virginia to host Miss. St and a bunch of recruits with Rutgers on the horizon... hopefully we can get Lewis healthy for the Rutgers game, he's definitely out this week versus the Bulldogs.