Nebraska feels Pitt won't be pushover
Both the Nebraska and Pitt teams are trying to recapture their glory days.
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Never mind that winless Pittsburgh is coming off a loss to an Ohio University team that is considered the dregs of Division I-A football. Nebraska coach Bill Callahan and his players say the Panthers have their full attention and respect.
"As you look at their history a year ago, being a BCS bowl team and winning the Big East championship, they are a solid football team despite some of the shortcomings they've had this year," Callahan said Tuesday.
Saturday's game matches two of the traditional programs in college football history. Nebraska and Pitt met regularly from the 1920s through '50s, then renewed their series last year, when the Huskers won 24-17 on the road.
The proud programs both are trying to recapture their glory -- Pitt with first-year coach Dave Wannstedt and Nebraska with second-year coach Callahan.
After five straight winning seasons under Walt Harris, who left for Stanford, Pitt opened the season ranked No. 23. But the Panthers lost 42-21 at home to Notre Dame and then suffered a humiliating 16-10 overtime defeat at Ohio University, which is led by former Nebraska coach Frank Solich.
The Huskers are 2-0 despite woeful offensive performances against Division I-AA Maine and Wake Forest. Nebraska's defense has accounted for four touchdowns, twice as many as the offense.
Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor said he expects Pitt to be motivated.
"They're really hungry for a win," he said. "They're going to leave it all on the field. They don't have much to lose against us right now. They know they have to get out of here with a win some way somehow. It does make them pretty dangerous."
Callahan's biggest concern is Pitt quarterback Tyler Palko, who had two interceptions returned for touchdowns by Ohio.
Callahan said he's planning to see Palko more closely resemble the quarterback who threw for five touchdowns against Notre Dame last year and was intercepted just twice in the Panthers' final six games.
Palko is leader
"You look at their quarterback and what he's accomplished and his ability to lead his team to a championship," Callahan said. "He's got that same competitive spirit about himself. He's fierce, a guy who can really hurt you because of his ability to make plays and get the ball down the field. He's capable of lighting it up at any time."
Linebacker Corey McKeon said he hears plenty about Palko from defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove, who tried to recruit Palko when he was an assistant at Wisconsin.
"I would never say I'm anxious to face Palko," McKeon said. "Coach Coz always raves about him. Great players arise against great defenses like ours. A lot of people are aching to get at the Blackshirts right now, so you can't say he's going to be throwing a lot of [interceptions] against us."
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