PITTSBURGH (AP) — Never has Pitt rooted harder for an opponent.
Pitt players and staff, saddened by the news that Rutgers player Eric LeGrand has no movement below the neck, will display a large banner supporting the defensive lineman during Saturday’s game against the Scarlet Knights. The players, Pitt students and other university employees will sign the banner.
Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt also reached out to Rutgers coach Greg Schiano to tell him the Panthers are pulling for LeGrand.
“It’s a very, very unfortunate injury,” Wannstedt said. “I corresponded with Greg Schiano and let him know that from our team and our players, our thoughts and prayers are with Eric.”
LeGrand was injured while making a tackle during Rutgers’ 23-20 overtime victory over Army on Saturday.
“We are very hopeful that he makes a full recovery,” Wannstedt said. “You look at these players as your kids and you are responsible for them and you feel that responsibility on the field and off the field. I know Greg and I know he is doing everything he possibly can do to help in any way.”
As Rutgers’ players try to get their minds on playing again — Rutgers is 4-2, Pitt is 3-3 — Pitt’s players said they understand how difficult it must be to focus on football.
“We are all playing as hard as we can, and everybody wants to win,” Pitt linebacker Tristan Roberts said. “Everybody respects the other players. We’re not trying to hurt each other and, if it happens, you feel bad.”
The Rutgers-Pitt game could help shape the Big East Conference race for the rest of the season. Along with No. 20 West Virginia (5-1) and Cincinnati (3-3), Rutgers and Pitt are 1-0 in conference play.
Before the season began, Pitt was a near-unanimous choice to win the Big East in a poll of media members. The Panthers went on to lose three of their five nonconference games — to Utah, Miami and Notre Dame — but bounced back to win at Syracuse 45-14 on Saturday in their most complete game of the season.
“We’re really focused on this game because we’re only 3-3 now, and we still have a lot of improvement to make,” offensive lineman Lucas Nix said. “We need to build on our win last week at Syracuse. That win really helped our confidence.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.