Paul Chryst acknowledges Pitt remains very much a work in progress.
Still, there’s at least one thing Chryst believes the Panthers should do every week, no matter the opponent, no matter the circumstances: Run the ball.
It was the backbone of the high-powered offenses Chryst put together while calling the plays at Wisconsin. It provided the thump the Panthers used to knock off Virginia Tech in September.
And yet there are long stretches where senior Ray Graham and freshman Rushel Shell have struggled to get it rolling.
“I think it’s been inconsistent,” Chryst said. “There have been times where it’s been good and times where it kind of (lulled) a bit.”
Last weekend’s 20-6 win over Buffalo was one of those times.
On a raw day that made throwing the ball hazardous, the Panthers intended to line up and just run over the struggling Bulls. It didn’t happen.
Pitt needed 42 carries to muster 126 rushing yards as neither Graham nor Shell could bust loose.
The Panthers had a number of short yardage situations with a chance to create some breathing room only to get stuffed. For Pitt (3-4, 0-3 Big East) to find its footing over the final games of the season, Chryst knows the holes need to be there.
“You all have to play together,” he said. “If 10 guys are good, but the one guy doesn’t get it done on that play it affects the whole, not just the unit, but the whole team.”
Pitt needs to catch fire down the stretch if it wants to reach a bowl game for the fifth straight season. The Panthers host Temple (3-3, 2-1) on Saturday knowing they’re running out of time.
“It’s something we’re aware of but we’re not trying to talk about it too much,” wide receiver Mike Shanahan said. “We know we pretty much have to win out to make it to a bowl game, but we can only do that if we get a win this week.”
The last time Pitt started 0-3 in the Big East came in 2001. That team rallied to win its final five games and post a win over N.C. State in the Tangerine Bowl. The road will be difficult to duplicate. In addition to Temple, the Panthers play No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 18 Rutgers.
Chryst refuses to look too far ahead. He’s emphasizing the present knowing the future will take care of itself. All he knows is the Panthers need to shore up the mistakes and get things going on the ground or there’s no use wondering who – or even if – Pitt’s season will extend beyond Dec. 1.
“I think all three phases have areas we can clean up,” he said, “and need to clean up.”