Column: Pitt’s problems don’t run too deep 4

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James Conner bursts away from the Iowa defense for some of his 157 yards Saturday. — PETE MADIA / PITT ATHLETICS

DEJAN KOVACEVIC, DK ON PITTSBURGH SPORTS

Anytime a Pitt team loses, pretty much any sport — football, basketball, intramural frisbee golf on Flagstaff Hill — there’s this public rush to pull down the bright red lever and let the sirens wail.

Sorry, not feeling it.

Not on this sunny Saturday afternoon at Heinz Field, anyway.

“This hurts,” James Conner was speaking in the softest of tones shortly after the Panthers flopped in the second half, fell hard to Iowa, 24-20, and failed to open the season 4-0. “And now we know this feeling. We don’t want to feel it anymore. We want to change this program.”

I think they will. Call me crazy or burn a couch in my front lawn — oh, wait, that’s another school — but what I witnessed over the course of this game was what should have been been expected of an undefeated team that also had gone mostly unchallenged to this point: Their strengths remained strengths, right up until the opponent wised up, sharpened up and attacked the weaknesses.

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On location: Pirates-Brewers 8

The home plate entrance at PNC Park, as captured from rooftop of nearby garage Saturday morning. -- DEJAN KOVACEVIC

The home plate entrance at PNC Park, as captured from rooftop of nearby garage Saturday morning. — DEJAN KOVACEVIC

DEJAN KOVACEVIC, DK ON PITTSBURGH SPORTS

Getting ready for the first pitch …

Game: Pirates (83-70) vs. Milwaukee Brewers (79-75), 7:05 p.m., PNC Park

Pitchers: RHP Edinson Volquez (12-7, 3.27) vs. RHP Matt Garza (8-8, 3.74)

TV, radio: Root Sports93.7 The Fan

Online: Live box score / Multimedia / Official media notes

Column: Russell Martin, civic treasure 115

Russell Martin is welcomed back to the Pirates' dugout after his home run Friday night. -- GETTY IMAGES

Russell Martin is welcomed back to the Pirates’ dugout after his three-run home run Friday night. — GETTY IMAGES

DEJAN KOVACEVIC, DK ON PITTSBURGH SPORTS

Everybody knew it. And don’t lie: You did, too.

So did Justin Wilson, even though he was seated way out in the Pirates’ bullpen, more than 420 feet away from Russell Martin in the batter’s box facing the Brewers’ Jonathan Broxton.

But don’t take Wilson’s word for it, because you wouldn’t believe him.

“J-Willie nailed it, I’m telling you,” fellow reliever Tony Watson would recall later. “He said, ‘Russ is taking this one out. Next pitch. Oppo.’ He even called where.”

How about in the dugout?

“It’s what you’re thinking,” bench coach Jeff Banister said. “It’s Russ. How can it not be what you’re thinking?”

How about in the crowd of 37,974, squeezed into every standing-room inch at PNC Park and, in that moment, standing even if they had seats?

They knew.

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