MORGANTOWN - Pass protection will be a premium Friday afternoon for West Virginia, as it faces one of the most prolific pass rushes in the nation in Pitt.
The Panthers, 6-4 overall and a league-leading 4-1 in the Big East Conference, are ranked 15th in the nation in terms of sacking the opposing quarterback. This comes despite not recording a single sack in the opening game against Utah. Since then, Pitt has taken down the quarterback 27 times.
"There's not a lot of scheme to what Pitt does," said WVU offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen. "They just strap it on and get after you."
All of the sacks have been recorded by the defensive line, which has played all but two games without the returning Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Greg Romeus. Romeus, one of Pitt's all-time best at tackling the quarterback, has been out with back and knee injuries this season.
His replacement, junior Brandon Lindsey, leads the team with 10 sacks, followed by senior Jabaal Sheard with nine.
"This is probably the best defensive front we'll see all year," said offensive lineman Don Barclay, who grew up in the shadow of the University of Pittsburgh. "They get good penetration, they come after the ball, and they have good instincts."
WVU, 7-3 overall and 3-2 in the Big East, has seen its fair share of pressure from opposing defenses since the Syracuse game in October.
"What they try to do is get you in third-and-long situations so they can pin their ears back," Barclay said. "We have to take that speed rush out of there."
Kickoff is set for noon, and the game will be televised on ABC.
The Big East Conference also announced Monday that WVU punter Greg Pugnetti was the Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance in the win over Louisville. The senior withstood a strong Cardinal rush to average 45 yards per punt, two of which landed inside the 20. Only one of his punts was able to be returned.
"He earned it because he flipped the field for us all game," WVU coach Bill Stewart said.