Things are not necessarily going the way Dave Wannstedt envisioned on Dec. 23, 2004.
After a disastrous year with the Miami Dolphins, in which running back Ricky Williams deserted him and critics declared the 53-year-old coach to be all washed up, Pittsburgh’s hopes for another shot at a national championship brought back his familiar face – not to mention his mustache.
Wannstedt replaced the vacating Walt Harris, who left in late 2004 to coach Stanford’s football team.
This coming off an 8-4 year that ended with a 35-7 debacle against Urban Meyer and his Utah Utes in the Tostitios Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1.
Now, heading into week seven of the 2005 season with his team having only two measly wins (a 41-0 domination of Youngstown State on Sept. 24 and a 38-20 win over Cincinnati on Saturday) his 2-4 Panthers – the team that was supposed to challenge No. 19 Louisville for the Big East
Championship – faces a rested and hungry-for-more-conference-wins USF team.
And believe it when he says it: Wannstedt knows exactly what the Bulls are capable of.
“South Florida is a very dangerous team,” the former head coach of the Chicago Bears said. “We have about 17 guys from the South Florida area, and coaching at the University of Miami and with the Dolphins, I know the type of athletes they have down there.”
Wannstedt has seen a lot of coaching over the course of his young but extremely long resume, which includes defensive coaching jobs for Oklahoma State, the University of Southern California, the University of Miami and the Dallas Cowboys, and head coaching jobs at Miami and Chicago.
The Baldwin, Penn., native boasts the accolade of being a part of 10 bowl teams, six NFL playoff teams, two college national championships and one Super Bowl championship.
Still, the transition hasn’t been easy for Wannstedt.
The season started 0-3 – a first for Pittsburgh since 1984 – with losses to Notre Dame, Ohio and Nebraska that saw the team outscored 65-37 and falling mercilessly from the rankings.
That is why this year has been so different not only for Wannstedt, but for the Big East teams as well.
Just ask Louisville. Wannstedt knows, more than anyone who has uttered the term, that the 45-14 upset on Sept. 24 was no fluke.
“You don’t line up and score 45 points on a team like Louisville by accident,” Wannstedt said. “We’ve got our hands full this week. We’ve got a challenge. And we’ve tried to make sure we’ll have a week of preparation.”
More than anything else this week, through all the preparation and practicing he can do, Wannstedt said he will not be one to overlook USF.
“I’m very concerned about (the Bulls’) speed,” Wannstedt said. “They are going to run a different offense than what you’re going to see week-in and week-out. They have a lot of speed on their football team, at every position.
“I mean they’ve won more games than we have. I mean they beat Louisville. We’re not going to have a problem overlooking them one bit. And I never thought we overlooked anyone else; I thought we read too many of the preseason clippings.
“We’ve been watching plenty of tape on them. They are well coached, and they can fly around on their plays.”
Despite Wannstedt’s impressive career as a coach, there are still some things he’s not accustomed to.
“They’ve also had a week off,” he said. “This is the second week in a row where we face a team that’s coming off a bye week. That’s a new one for me.”