PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — Rebuilding a major college football program is a process, not an event. Using rhetoric that seems to contrast that of his predecessor, Pitt head coach Paul Chryst said, following a 34-10 loss at Cincinnati last Thursday, players and coaches both need to take ownership of that process.
“I think that’s one thing that’s been nice about playing on Thursday. We had Friday and we had Saturday to kind of look at it. It’s energizing because the players are doing the same thing,” he told the media during his weekly press conference on the South Side Monday. “You get a little bit of a chance to breathe and say, ‘Okay, what are we doing well that we can build on and certainly what areas can we improve?'”
One pivotal moment in particular Chryst would have handled differently was Pitt’s final first-half possession, with which the Panthers drove all the way inside Cincinnati’s five-yard line, but came up empty when Tino Sunseri floated a pass out of bounds as the last five seconds ran off the clock.
“I would have kicked it…not put us in position where we don’t get another play off. I knew that we had another timeout and wanted to make sure we had a chance for points. With the ten-second run off, should there be a penalty, you really do have it in your hip pocket,” Chryst explained. “I thought there were a couple plays that we took a little longer. Getting the play in and getting the play communicated to the players caused us to burn two timeouts early. If I had known on the last play we wouldn’t have a chance to kick the field goal, I would’ve kicked it sooner.”
Sunseri has borne the brunt of the criticism for that missed opportunity, among others, though Chryst does believe his beleaguered redshirt senior, who threw for 278 yards, one late touchdown, and one end-zone interception in defeat, does have positives to take from Thursday’s game.
“Some of his decision-making and what he saw was pretty good. He saw some different things, and I think there is continued growth in that,” Chryst said. “There are still some areas with the receivers and him that we’ve got to get better at as far as timing and anticipation of things. Every game there’s situations that come up that we have to continue to learn from as a group.”
Facing No. 13 Virginia Tech (1-0, 2-0) at Heinz Field Saturday should tell us what, if anything, Pitt has learned from two disappointing contests.
When they became Big East brethren in 1992, the Hokies owned Pitt, and still lead the all-time series, 7-4. But by 2003, when they announced their defection to the ACC, where Pitt will join them next season, the Panthers had their number.
Hopefully for Pitt, the past repeats itself. It will be a big test for the present squad, and a glimpse of what the future might hold for these soon-to-be reunited rivals.
“I was asked if it was a measuring stick for the future. It’s a measuring stick for right now. All that really matters is the now,” Chryst said.
Check out the coach’s weekly conference in its full tapestry:
Furthermore, be sure to check out SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan, your flagship home for Pitt football, Saturday morning at 9:00 for Panther Gameday, followed by kickoff between the Panthers and Virginia Tech at Heinz Field live at noon.