Pittsburgh quarterback Tyler Palko has a lot of pressure to get the offensive playbook down, but he’s fully confident that he is ready for the starting role.
“I have confidence in my ability,” Palko said in the Panthers’ first weekly press conference at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex yesterday.
Head coach Walt Harris holds the same belief that Palko does.
“I’m excited about our quarterback situation,” Harris said.
Most of all, both Harris and Palko are happy to have had the quarterback decision finalized and will focus on USF.
“It’ll be a great challenge for our football team,” Harris said, reminiscing of the 2001 season where Pitt lost at home to USF 35-26.
One of the challenges Harris spoke of was the heat that they will have to play through. This is the Panthers first season opener on the road in 10 years and, before that, the Panthers had gone 9-0-1 when opening the season on the road. Pitt’s last road loss to open a season was against UCLA in 1969.
“We want to play a lot of guys in this game because of the heat,” Harris said. “And hopefully, that would help us get better practices and help us get guys back from injury faster.”
Harris plans to spend the week getting guys healthy and scheming plays, offensively and defensively, to keep the streak alive.
“They play the spread offense, no huddle,” Harris said. “They gave us problems before.”
It wasn’t just USF. Pitt’s defense has had trouble in the past with spread offenses, as seen in last year’s loss to Toledo.
Harris said he will start the game with a base defense, which will only include four defensive backs, and he will adjust as the game goes on. The no-huddle offense will make substitutions harder, so both the players and coaches will have to be ready for anything.
Defensively, Harris and his coaches have been working hard to improve from last year and show the nation that last year’s defense was a fluke.
“We have our moments, but I think we’re tackling better,” Harris said.
According to Harris, USF’s strength on defense is in their defensive line, especially in senior nose tackle Cedric Battles and defensive tackle Lee Roy Selmon Jr.
“They’re big, strong and very physical,” Harris said.
The Panthers will continue to practice all week and come to Tampa for Monday’s game.
Palko explained how his preparation for USF would be like every other game “I’m going to bust my tail to find the best way to win.”