BY NATALIE BIGLEY
Pitt running back Ray Graham said, “A win is a win” after the Panthers beat Buffalo 20-6 on Saturday.
And Graham was right. It may have been just an average game played in rainy and windy weather, but the Panthers (3-4) battled against the Bulls and Mother Nature to secure their third win of the season.
“By no means was it a perfect game,” Pitt head coach Paul Chryst said. “But maybe we can go back and say that we had to go win, and every group had to be a part of it. And hopefully we can grow from that.”
Pitt desperately needed the win, if not for its record, for overall confidence.
“When things aren’t going 100 percent your way, you’ve just got to work through it,” Chryst said during Monday’s news conference. “No one plays perfect. You’ve just got to keep working and keep trying to improve.”
Despite the inclement conditions at Buffalo, kicker Kevin Harper successfully battled the winds and showed improvement. He was 2 of 2 on field goals, including one from 45 yards.
“I’m certainly happy for him,” Chryst said. “At that point (in the game), we needed something positive. Hopefully, it carries over and it can kick start him to a good, strong finish in his senior year.”
Chryst also acknowledged the weather as a major factor in last week’s game, most notably with the special teams unit on kickoffs and punts.
Harper had one kickoff sail out of bounds and punter Matt Yoklic also had a punt shift out of bounds due to the wind, ruled out at the Buffalo 42.
The weather also affected Pitt’s offense.
It could not get anything going. Even Graham and fellow running back Rushel Shell were unable to move the ball down the field as usual.
“The run game has been inconsistent,” Chryst said. “There have been times where it’s been good and other times where it’s kind of rolled a bit. I thought that we had some decent runs on Saturday. We had some in crucial situations, a couple third and shorts we didn’t convert.
Chryst said the run game is something the Panthers work on every practice, but it will be a point of emphasis this week.
“Absolutely, we’ll work on that,” Chryst said. “You just try to address the things you know and look at it and make sure you’re helping players with technique and on individual things. You make sure your schemes give the players a chance to have success and then ultimately the players have to go out and execute it on Saturday.”
The only unit who seemed unaffected by the inclement weather was the defense, who kept the Bulls to a pair of field goals.
The Panthers made some huge stops when it counted. They shut down three of Buffalo’s fourth-down attempts. Linebacker Dan Mason, who had 11 tackles in the game and recently came back from a knee injury, thwarted the last of these attempts.
Defensive back Jason Hendricks again found himself in the right place at the right time. He intercepted Buffalo quarterback Alex Zordich at the
50-yard line, with the turnover eventually resulting in a Pitt touchdown.
“Turnovers are such a big change in momentum, so when you can get them (it is a positive),” Chryst said. “And Jason is getting his hands on them, and has also been doing a good job tackling. Certainly he has been opportunistic and I think we need to get that way – this team needs that. We’ve got to create momentum swings and prevent them (turnovers) offensively and take them away defensively because they’re a big deal.”
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