Pitt won’t turn to any clichés like turning over a new leaf, erasing the past or starting from scratch.
Rather, the Panthers (2-3) will focus on what has gone wrong through five games this season in order to be victorious at Syracuse (4-1) Saturday — the start of Big East Conference play. To operate in any other fashion, coach Dave Wannstedt said, would be a waste.
“I’ve been in these meetings and I’ve done it before where we’ve put a drape up over half of the season,” Wannstedt said. “I’ve done all that stuff. I’m not so sure that where we’re at right now — how we’re trying to figure out who’s doing what and how we’re piecing this thing together — that we can’t forget what cost us from winning the Notre Dame game and pretend like it didn’t happen.”
He continued by saying tactics to forget the first five games might be effective with a more experienced team. A group of players that has overcome adversity in the past may have an understanding of what must be done in a situation like Pitt’s.
The Panthers — with first-year starters at quarterback, the offensive and defensive lines, linebacker and in the secondary — don’t have the luxury of an experienced lineup. Thus, learning from mistakes is the cliché Wannstedt prefers.
“We’ve got some challenges,” Wannstedt said. “Players are working hard and I think that the minute that we pretend that something was OK or that really didn’t happen it may show up again. So I think it’s more of a build-off-and-improve (situation) — this is where we were, this is what we gotta keep improving on. We are making some strides — not as fast as anybody likes.
“We are where we are right now (so) let’s go out there and find a way to get better and improve over what we did last week.”
And the main theme this week is clearly based off another cliché: practice makes perfect.
Wannstedt said repetition will be a focus from the coaching staff to ensure that every offensive play call and every defensive set will be as familiar as possible against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.
Defensive lineman Myles Caragein used the word practice eight times in Monday’s press conference and clearly wants Pitt to be better than it has been through five games.
“It’s hard to take a loss,” Caragein said. “I feel like we’re pulling together. We’re just getting ready for the Big East Conference. We’re using the last couple weeks as motivation.”
With a 2-3 record, motivation should be enough as the Panthers still have as good a shot as any at winning the Big East.
Ranked No. 25 in the country, West Virginia has become the class of the conference — a conference that has been declared by most to be the worst of the six automatic-bid BCS conferences.
It’s a wide open race to the conference title and a Pitt win at Syracuse could set a positive tone for a successful “second season.”
Even if the Panthers won’t look at it that way.
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog