The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


September 17, 2012

Pitt outlook improves after dominating win

PITTSBURGH — Pitt didn’t need to say anything after its Saturday night game against Virginia Tech.

It let its performance speak for itself by dominating a 13th- ranked Hokie team (2-1) at Heinz Field, winning 35-17.

The game pulled the Panthers out of their dismal 0-2 start and showed the NCAA that their recent move to the Atlantic Coast Conference was not a mistake.

In Monday’s press conference, Pitt coach Paul Chryst continued to praise his players and their efforts against Virginia Tech.

But he also acknowledged that there was no magic formula responsible for Saturday’s win.

He said the players did what they do every week – prepared for their opponent and practiced hard.

“Things worked out, and as a team we did enough things,” Chryst said. “But it really is never as good as it seems, and it’s really never as bad as it seems.”

As bad as the first two games might have looked for the Panthers, this Virginia Tech win might be enough to show their critics that they are a hungry team.

It helps that quarterback Tino Sunseri was named Big East player of the week.

He can tip his hat in the direction of his much-improved offensive line.

Previously one of the Panther’s weak spots, the O-line looked confident and strong against a good Hokie defense. It did a great job protecting Sunseri, allowing him to make big plays in the pocket that resulted in big yardage.

Sixth-year senior center Chris Jacobson said the offensive line’s performance had a lot to do with guys getting their groove back.

“There was a better vibe in the building, and guys were watching extra tape,” he said.

“We just came out there and competed well. I think we knew we had to get this one to get everything started.”

The offense also took advantage of Virginia Tech’s mistakes.

Chryst thought the Panthers did a better job capitalizing on turnovers than they have during any other week.

“If something comes your way and you capitalize, that’s how you keep momentum on your side,” Chryst said. “If you get a turnover and you don’t capitalize it … now the pendulum swings the other way.

“All the corny coaching sayings apply. They still are real. You’ve just got to keep grinding, and if you keep working at it, things will come your way.”

Chryst also said a number of guys got banged up in the Virginia Tech game but continued to play through their injuries.

This included Sunseri, defensive end Bryan Murphy, defensive lineman Aaron Donald and wide receiver Mike Shanahan.

“We only get 12 opportunities to play a game, hopefully 13 with a bowl game, but we work too hard to sit out for little bruises and stuff like that,” Shanahan said.

“It’s going to take a lot more than that for me or anybody else on the team to stop playing.”

Despite the bangs and scrapes, Chryst said the mentioned players will be ready to compete on Saturday against Gardner-Webb.

This will be the first time Pitt plays Gardner-Webb, a Division I Big South Conference team.

Although the Runnin’ Bulldogs were a last-minute schedule filler, Pitt knows better than to overlook the little guy.

In the Panthers’ season opener, FCS opponent Youngstown State upset Pitt 31-17.

“We are going to approach them just like we would any other game,” Shanahan said “In college football anyone can beat anyone on any given day … You’ve just got to play your best for four quarters and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Still, the odds look highly in Pitt’s favor.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs are 0-3 this season. That fact, combined with Pitt’s epic performance against Virginia Tech, should almost guarantee a Panther win.

Pitt will play Gardner-Webb on Saturday at 3:30 PM. The game will be on ESPN3.

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