The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local Sports

November 11, 2013

Pitt all business after big victory

PITTSBURGH — Pitt coach Paul Chryst expected his team to feel pretty good following a

28-21 upset of Notre Dame on Saturday.

What pleased him the most, however, was what he didn’t see when he walked into the team’s practice facility on Sunday morning.

“It wasn’t like guys were all of a sudden skipping into the building and whistling Zip-a-dee-doo-dah,” Chryst said with a laugh.

Sorry, but even after the most significant win of Chryst’s short two-year tenure, the Panthers (5-4, 2-3 ACC) hardly feel as if they’ve arrived. Sure, beating the Fighting Irish on national television at home with dozens of recruits in attendance to move a game closer to bowl eligibility is nice. The season, however, is far from over.

“I know I’ve only got three more games left in my college career at this point,” senior offensive lineman Ryan Schlieper said. “I know I want that extra game. I know a lot of other guys do too.”

The Panthers need to win at least one of their final three to make it to a sixth straight bowl game. The prospects look considerably brighter after they found a way to rally by the Irish.

The ending was a marked departure for Pitt. The Panthers have made a habit in recent seasons of letting winnable, notable games slip away, including a triple-overtime loss to Notre Dame in 2012.

Pitt came in 1-4 in games decided by a touchdown or less under Chryst, yet this time there was a decidedly different vibe on the sideline following defensive back Ray Vinopal’s 40-yard interception return in the fourth quarter that gave the Panthers the ball deep in Irish territory with a chance to go in front.

“We all kind of looked at each other on the sideline and said this is the time,” quarterback Tom Savage said. “It’s time to go out there and answer because I think we were due.”

Conner, whose playing time has been limited recently due to a shoulder injury, bulled over for his second touchdown of the game a minute later and Pitt’s quickly improving defense made it stand up.

Vinopal, who deactivated his Twitter account earlier this season after a poor performance against Duke, had a hand in all three of Pitt’s takeaways. He forced TJ Jones’ fumble deep in Panther territory to end a Notre Dame scoring threat in the second quarter.

He leapt in front of a Tommy Rees pass in the end zone early in the fourth quarter to stymie another Irish drive before his second pick put the Panthers in position to win.

Chryst praised Vinopal’s mental toughness and believes Vinopal’s resilience mirrors the growth of a team that still believes it can be a factor in the ACC Coastal Division.

“I think that we all look around and see how people respond and maybe those same people will look at how he responds after having that game last week,” Chryst said. “I’m confident he’ll be the same guy he’s been every Monday this season. I think all of those things factor in and are important: How you act, how you handle adversity, how you handle success. He’s one of those guys that you want the young guys to emulate.”

Vinopal insists he’s just trying to help the Panthers improve and credited Chryst for changing the culture in a locker room that has gone through several coaching changes. He loves that Chryst is “connected” to the program and not separated by the coaching staff. He appreciates the way Chryst expects his team to win every week regardless of the opponent and doesn’t change no matter how good – or how bad – it gets.

The Panthers host surging North Carolina (4-5, 3-3) on Sunday. If they trip up, all the momentum they built against the Irish will vanish. It wouldn’t be the first time. Pitt lost its first two games under Chryst in 2012 before rocking then 13th-ranked Virginia Tech at home. The hangover lingered and the Panthers didn’t beat an FBS program for six weeks.

Those memories remain fresh. As great as Saturday night was, it was just one night.

“It feels good to win,” Chryst said. “What we choose to do with it going forward, that’s up to us.”

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local Sports
  • Pirates 0720 Pirates rally to keep sweep

    Taking the extra base was the key for the Pittsburgh Pirates in completing a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
    Andrew McCutchen hit a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning, Neil Walker followed with a home run and the Pirates overcame a three-run deficit to beat the Rockies 5-3 Sunday.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • LAG 0720 AAABA League playoffs: Laurel Auto Group moves closer to advancing

    Second-seeded Laurel Auto Group fell behind early against No. 3 Berkley Hills Renegades on Sunday afternoon at Roxbury Park. But Laurel’s players didn’t lose their composure.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Urtz, Pope lead AAABA League award votes

    Logan Urtz hadn’t fielded a ground ball as an infielder or swung a bat in a game for a couple seasons.
    But you can’t take the former infielder out of a starting pitcher.

    July 20, 2014

  • Gorden, Joe Tribune-Democrat sports staffer departs after 44 years in newsroom

    Joe Gorden’s temporary assignment to The Tribune-Democrat sports department concluded on Thursday night after more than four decades.
    Gorden retired after 44 years at the newspaper, all but three of them in the sports department.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Steelers 0731 Steelers’ Brown eyeing encore to breakout season

    Antonio Brown rolled up to the dorms at Saint Vincent College last week in a Mercedes conversion van.
    It’s fitting in a way. Five years into a blossoming career, the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver is playing the role of dad – OK, maybe slightly older brother – to a group long on talent but short on experience.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bucs stand pat at non-waiver deadline

    The Pittsburgh Pirates will receive some welcome additions to their roster in the coming days.
    The faces, however, will be familiar.

    July 31, 2014

  • Blairsville pegged as team to beat

    As Heritage Conference football coaches assembled at United High School during Wednesday’s media day event at Thomas J. Madill Field, the near-consensus opinion is that Blairsville – under second-year coach Rick Artley – is going to be the team to beat once the season begins on Aug. 29.
    After the Bobcats, the forecasted picture gets a little foggier.

    July 30, 2014

  • tim Baserunning blunder helps Giants end six-game losing streak

    Clint Hurdle says he and a pal often marvel over how there’s always something new to see at a baseball game.
    Too bad for Hurdle. What he watched Wednesday wrecked the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 7-5 loss.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • shazier Rookie linebacker making impression at Steelers camp

    Ryan Shazier grew up the football equivalent of a Rorschach test.
    Some coaches looked at Shazier’s 6-foot-1 frame with plenty of room to grow and saw a defensive end.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Greene’s No. 75 will be retired at Ravens game

    Joe Greene’s No. 75 now belongs to the ages.
    The Pittsburgh Steelers announced Wednesday the team will retire the Hall of Fame defensive end’s number during a game against the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 2.

    July 30, 2014

AP Video
Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
Poll

Do you think pet obituaries should be included with death notices?

Yes, my pet is considered a member of the family.
No, pet obituaries are inappropriate.
Pet obituaries should be placed on a different page in the newspaper.
     View Results
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide