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© St. Petersburg Times, published September 11, 2002

Jersey mistake leaves Pitt upset

Jersey mistake leaves Pitt upset

PITTSBURGH -- A jersey number randomly assigned to a Pittsburgh walkon center might have cost the Panthers an upset victory over No. 21 Texas A&M.

After talking with Big East Conference administrators, coach Walt Harris said long snapper Jonathan Sitter's No. 91 resulted in the Panthers twice being flagged for illegal shift penalties on extra-point attempts in the 14-12 loss Saturday.

After Rod Rutherford's short touchdown run in the fourth quarter, kicker J. B. Gibboney twice converted the extra point, only to have both kicks waved off by the penalties.

On the third attempt, Sitter was late getting on the field, resulting in Gibboney pushing what by then was a 30-yard extra point wide right.

The miss proved costly because it forced Pitt to go for a two-pointer -- rather than a tying kick -- after Rutherford's touchdown pass with just more than two minutes remaining. Rutherford threw incomplete on the two-point attempt.

"As we understand the rule -- and we're not airtight on the rule -- there was a problem with Jonathan Sitter's number," Harris said. "He needed to be between No. 50 and No. 79 and he wasn't."

What has irritated some Pitt fans is the rule isn't a new one, yet the staff wasn't aware of it. Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum apparently knew of it and might have alerted the Big 12 officials to watch for Pitt's possible infraction.

GEORGIA TECH: A.J. Suggs wasn't intimidated in his first trip to a stadium called Death Valley, so he doesn't expect anything different Saturday.

In 2000, as a sophomore at Tennessee, Suggs threw for 319 yards and three touchdowns in the Volunteers' overtime loss at LSU's Tiger Stadium. Now the starter at Georgia Tech (2-0), he visits Memorial Stadium at Clemson (1-1) on Saturday, another venue known as Death Valley.

Suggs also has played at the Swamp in Florida, so he has a good idea what to expect.

"I've definitely been in some hostile environments," he said. "This is just another test, a great test for us. People are saying we're unproven. Obviously, this will be a good statement for us if we go in there and get this one."

MISSISSIPPI STATE: Quarterback Kevin Fant said he never thought that getting a friend to help him buy tires for his truck -- tires that his mother paid for -- would lead to an NCAA suspension.

Surrounded by reporters, Fant calmly recalled the April tire purchase in Pascagoula that led to his punishment. He said he was in a hurry to drive back to Starkville and needed the tires immediately.

Fant answered questions about being suspended for the Bulldogs' opening game against Oregon for the first time.

"I went down there and needed some tires and I couldn't get a hold of my family. I called a friend, who is a good friend of mine. I was just using his card to hold the tires until my Mom showed up," he said.

The friend, who Fant did not identify, was a Mississippi State booster.

"My mom showed up 30 minutes later, maybe an hour at the most. I was leaving the store, she was pulling in," he said. "She paid for the tires. She has a cash receipt for the tires."

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