Pittsburgh looked very impressive in its season-opening victory over Youngstown State, but considering the Penguins are a Football Championship Subdivision program, the outcome didn't surprise the University at Buffalo.
"Well, something to say about that is, we're not Youngstown State," said senior co-captain and right tackle Andrew West.
Said sophomore quarterback Zach Maynard: "That's a small school and Pitt is a big-time program so usually the results are going to come out like that."
Yet if the Bulls (1-0) want to steer away from a similar fate they will have to slow down the Panthers' (1-0) front seven on defense in their home opener at noon Saturday at UB Stadium. That means the Bulls' offensive line, which has three new starters, will be challenged.
"It's going to be fun to see if these guys are up for this test," said Aaron Stamn, UB's offensive line coach.
Physical, active and disciplined, the Panthers defense held the Penguins to 159 yards of total offense. Pitt had six sacks and harassed Youngstown quarterback Brandon Summers into an 11-of-22 passing day for 113 yards in the Panthers' 38-3 win.
Like Maynard, Summers is a mobile quarterback capable of making plays running or throwing. But there was pressure from all angles, including middle linebacker Adam Gunn, who recorded two sacks.
"They have a great group of kids and they are very active," Stamn said. "Our guys have to be assignment sharp."
Everyone can put pressure on the quarterback, including senior nose tackle Gus Mustakas. Defensive ends Jabaal Sheard (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) and Greg Romeus (6-6, 270) are long and lean. Sheard had a sack and a tackle for a loss against Youngstown State, while Romeus had four tackles.
"They looked very dominant against Youngstown State so we have to step our game up a little bit more this week and match them hit for hit," said junior left guard Peter Bittner, the former Williamsville North star. "We left a lot of change on the table [versus Texas-El Paso] and we have to correct some things. Three new starters got some jitters out and once that happened we got rolling."
Stamn liked what he saw from his unit in the season-opening win at UTEP.
"They played together, which is what I wanted to see," he said. "We only had one mental error the whole game and that was a missed assignment on a run block. We gave up one sack which is correctable."
Stamn singled out the play of Bittner and senior center Matt Bacoulis, who was making his first start along with sophomore left tackle Matt Ostrowski and senior right guard Robert Colpoys (Niagara-Wheatfield). There was clearly a difference in the Bulls' running game in the second half.
UB had just 39 yards on 16 carries in the first half then rebounded for 111 yards on 26 attempts in the second half. Tailbacks Brandon Thermilus and Mario Henry credited the blocking on the offensive line after adjustments were made at halftime.
"UTEP did some things that were a little nontraditional from the year before," Stamn said. "We made some adjustments with our run blocking and it helped. It was our first game, three new starters up front and a quarterback and we feel we can get some things corrected and keep polishing up as the season goes along."