BY NATALIE BIGLEY
After a big win against Gardner-Webb and a bye week, Pitt head coach Paul Chryst should be feeling pretty good heading into the Panthers’ next game.
But, in his usual modest fashion, Chryst said Monday that the team did not spend the bye week celebrating their recent wins. He said his players were working hard and continuing to progress.
“The bye came at a time where it’s an opportunity for us to get better,” Chryst said. “It wasn’t all perfect the last two games.
“I hope we’re getting better and not just trying to ride that wave. Each week, each game is its own opportunity, and you have to rise up for that, not trying to hold on to something.”
The Panthers (2-2) will get that opportunity on Friday when they play at Syracuse (1-3). Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised by ESPN.
The winner will have its first Big East Conference win of the season under its belt.
Chryst talked about how his team is working toward this goal by discussing a consistent theme that he has instilled all season long – winning games by individually improving. Chryst spoke in detail about this, emphasizing the importance of players doing their part.
“Some guys can get better by doing a dozen more reps on pulling, or needing to tackle better,” Chryst said. “For some guys, the best way that they can get better and help us get better as a team is making sure that they are completely healthy or as healthy as they can be in the season.
“That’s what your job description is. To work with players and help them grow. I really believe that. I think its important for them to know who you are and for us to be able to learn who they are, it’s a relationship business.”
Pitt and Syracuse have had their own longstanding football relationship – one going on 96 years and one that will continue when both move to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.
The rivalry dates back to 1916. Pitt currently owns the series advantage, 34-30-3. In last year’s game at Heinz Field, Pitt defeated Syracuse 33-20.
This year, the Panthers will play the Orange in Syracuse’s Carrier Dome.
Dubbed, “The Loud House,” the Carrier Dome is what its nickname describes – a loud place to play a football game. The dome’s acoustics cause loud echoes throughout the stadium.
Chryst addressed this concern. But he also said it was not something the team would dwell on for too long.
“There’s a fine line,” he said. “You want to make guys aware of their surroundings or anticipate their surroundings, but you also need to make sure that you don’t spend so much time focusing on something that is kind of a peripheral deal.
“Other than that, you’ve got to go play, and you have to adjust to whatever comes your way.”