To say the 2012 season is off to a bad start for the Pittsburgh Panthers would be a bit of an understatement.
However, head coach Frank Beamer and the Hokies are in no way going to overlook this Panthers team as they face them for a final time before it becomes conference rivals next season.
“We’ve always had respect for them,” Beamer said. “We certainly have respect for them now.”
Tech is coming off a 42-7 blowout victory over Austin Peay in which, despite the score, the offense looked anything but impressive early on.
“I am pleased with our win over Austin Peay,” Beamer said. “I thought there were some good things that came out of it. I thought offensively we moved the ball well in the second half other than the two fourth down stops and defensively we had one drive there that we didn’t play very well. But other than that we were very solid and then we had some good things go in the kicking game”
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is coming off a 34-10 loss to Cincinnati after losing to FCS opponent Youngstown State in the season opener.
“The (Cincinnati) game could have been different but they missed a couple of scoring opportunities and I think that Cincinnati is a really good football team,” Beamer said.
“I think they had some guys out and really when you change staffs, you go through some growing pains. They will have some guys back and are with that staff for another week, so we are preparing for a tough, physical football game.”
One bright spot for Pittsburgh this season has been running back Ray Graham. The senior has rushed for 174 yards in the first two games and also caught four passes for 51 yards.
Besides Graham, though, the Hokies coaching staff is really unsure of what to expect when it takes the field on Saturday.
“Well it’s just a lot of unknowns going into this ball game. We don’t really have a lot of goal-line defense on them and it’s just a lot of unknowns. We just have to be ready for a lot of things,” Beamer said.
Despite the unknowns, Tech is able to use new head coach Paul Chryst’s film from his time as offensive coordinator at Wisconsin to get an idea for what to expect defensively.
“They’re doing the same stuff,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “The coordinator, they’ve got another guy calling plays, but one of his guys. They’re running the same routes, the same offense, they’re doing with Pitt that they were doing with Wisconsin.”
Foster said even though the Hokies may be heavy favorites heading into the game, they know not to expect anything easy.
“They’re playing a quality opponent in us and they’re going to play their tail off,” he said. “We expect that.”
Pittsburgh, despite its lack of success this season, has fared well against Tech the past few meetings as they’ve won three straight over the Hokies.
''We talked about it yesterday,'' Beamer said. ''The last three games up there, they beat us 38-7, 28-21, 31-28 and I think we were favored in all three of them. That's part of the history.''
The team knows the current record Pittsburgh has will not be reflected on the field this Saturday.
“We’ve got to play well. They’re 0-2, but they’re better than that; they’re a good team,” said running backs coach Shane Beamer. “They’re at home, coming back in front of their home fans, so we know we’ll get their best shot.”
“But it’s about us, we know we’ve got play well and score points and continue to make plays on special teams and defense live we’ve been doing.”
Tech is still hoping to figure out how exactly to score points effectively as they have given a significant amount of carries to four running backs this season as well as ran a number of different formations.