UNM travels to Pittsburgh as a 21½-point underdog
PITTSBURGH – Bob Davie, a native of Sewickley, Pa., knows all about the rich football history of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers: Ditka. Dorsett. Doleman. Marino. Fitzgerald. And many more.
“It’s a special feeling,” Davie, the New Mexico Lobos’ second-year football coach, said this week at the prospect of coaching against the program he once served as an assistant.
SaQwan Edwards, a native of Houston, knows nothing about all that.
“I never really knew about anything but Texas,” Edwards, the Lobos’ starting right cornerback, said. “Growing up, that’s all I knew.”
Still, from their separate viewpoints, Davie and Edwards have drawn the same conclusion about today’s game against the Panthers at Heinz Field.
The Lobos’ primary focus must be on themselves more than their opponent, the opponent’s tradition or the opponent’s stadium.
“It really doesn’t matter who you’re playing or where you’re playing,” Davie said. “This whole process is about your team and your own guys.
“Back in the summer, I kind of thought about this game and (told himself), ‘Man, that’s pretty neat, taking a team back to Pittsburgh, where you’re from, where you grew up. But when you get to the game, these are your guys here. This is where I am now.”
That doesn’t mean Davie doesn’t want his players to savor the experience of traveling some 1,500 miles and playing at the home of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers.
Edwards acknowledges he’s looking forward to it.
“It’s something new,” he said. “… This is my first time ever taking a trip (back East) and playing in a pro stadium, so it’ll be fun.”
Mostly, though, Edwards says he looks forward to building on last week’s 42-35 overtime victory over UTEP in El Paso.
“Even though we won, there’s still stuff we can fix,” he said. “There were a lot of missed tackles. … We’re not there yet.
“(But) now, all we’ve got to do is get better from here. The only way we can go is up.”
For the Lobos (1-1), getting better against Pittsburgh and beating Pittsburgh could be two different things.
These aren’t the Pittsburgh Panthers of Tony Dorsett or Dan Marino. Pitt went 6-7 last year, losing its opener to Youngstown State – Davie’s alma mater – and its finale to Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl. The Panthers opened the 2013 season with a 41-13 loss to 10th-ranked Florida State.
Still, these Panthers are considered good enough to rate as 21½-point favorites against a New Mexico program that has lost 47 of its last 55 games.
However impressed Edwards might be with the Panthers, he’s totally unimpressed with the oddsmakers.
Don’t tell him the odds, and don’t tell him New Mexico can’t win.
“I don’t even look at that stuff,” he said. “That’s just people who talk who don’t play football.
“(The oddsmakers) aren’t suiting up against us (today), so I don’t even worry about them. I’ll just let them watch.”
Davie, meanwhile, will be watching Edwards and his teammates in the young UNM secondary – believing strong-armed Pitt quarterback Tom Savage will test them repeatedly.
Edwards, who came to UNM as a wide receiver and has played all of two games as a cornerback, welcomes the scrutiny.
“I’m always looking for a challenge to get better and show the coaches and my teammates that they can depend on me,” he said.
The Lobos’ principal challenge, Davie said, is to embrace the challenge.
“This obviously will be the most talented team we’ve played on both sides of the football,” he said. “… It’s exciting to go play in a pro stadium, get a chance to play back in a different part of the country.
“But it’s even more exciting just because it’s the next game, and we have a chance to continue to grow.”