The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

November 26, 2012

Panthers need to beat South Florida for bowl game

PITTSBURGH — After a huge win against previously ranked Rutgers, Pitt needs one win to become bowl-eligible.

The only thing that stands between the 5-6 Panthers and that opportunity is a game at South Florida (3-8) this week.

“Before all that bowl talk, we’ve got to lock in and go.” Pitt coach Paul Chryst said at Monday’s press conference.

Of South Florida’s three victories, only one – Connecticut - came in Big East Conference play.

But Chryst said his Panthers are not sleeping on the Bulls. There is too much at stake.

“There’s not one game that you go into and say, ‘Boy, this is going to be easy,’” Chryst said. “We’ve got to go earn it.”

Despite a coaching carousel in recent years, the Panthers have made it to a bowl game every year since 2008. Their most recent trip was to the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala. where the Panthers fell to Southern Methodist University, 28-6. It marked the second consecutive year Pitt played in Birmingham.

“I think it’s great that we’re playing for something very significant,” Chryst said.

Pitt may only have five wins, but statistically it looks more like an eight- or nine-win team.

For starters, the Panthers have only turned the ball over once in the last six games. They are tied with Ohio for fewest turnovers (eight) in the country.

Part of the credit for the efficient offense can be given to oft-maligned quarterback Tino Sunseri. His strong season continued against Rutgers and he was honored as the Big East Offensive Player of the Week on Monday.

He currently ranks second in the Big East and 20th nationally in pass efficiency with a strong 154.56 rating.

Chryst said the growth in Sunseri is the result of a culmination of things. One of these things is experience in a Chryst’s system.

“He understands the importance of taking care of the football,” Chryst said. “It comes from experience.”

Another shining star for Pitt’s offense is running back Ray Graham. He is on the cusp of a 1,000-yard season and finishing his Pitt career as one of the most productive running backs in school history.

But Chryst was quick to point out this accomplishment is not only an achievement for Graham, but also for the entire Pitt team.

“In a team sport, anything an individual does is as much acknowledgement of the team as it is the individual,” Chryst said. “No one does it on their own. But it’s still a significant milestone. He’s come along way from the guy limping in the spring.”

Heading into Saturday’s game, Graham needs only 52 yards to reach 1,000 yards on the season. He was on track to get to that last year before a right knee injury against Connecticut ended his season. Graham was the nation’s second-leading rusher through seven games, finishing 2011 with 958 yards.

He is already second in all-purpose yards at Pitt with 4,849. Tony Dorsett tops that list with 7,117 yards.

Senior offensive lineman Chris Jacobson said it feels nice to be a driving force behind that record.

“It takes all 11 (to get that record),” Jacobson said. “You can’t do it without the guys up front- the tight ends, the wide receivers – and that is something exciting to have in your back pocket.”

Pitt’s offensive line has struggled to find its identity from week to week, coming up huge against then No. 3 Notre Dame four weeks ago, but then a week later experiencing a hiccup gainst Connecticut.

Against Rutgers, the line was solid once again.

“Once we start clicking, that’s when we get our momentum and we go with it,” Jacobson said.

“I feel like one of our struggles is when we’re down we have to be able to pick each other up and handle the adversity.”

The Panthers are unsure if they will have to play this week without wide receiver Devin Street. He left last week’s game early after being the target of a big hit by Rutgers defensive back Lorenzo Waters in the second quarter.

Chryst said that Street is feeling much better and will hopefully be cleared to play this week. The Panthers should know more about his status after practice tomorrow.

Street has been a valuable asset for Pitt’s offense this season. He is one of the Big East’s best receivers, ranking second in the conference in receptions per game (5.45 average) and receiving yards per game (74.55 average).

Chryst also announced on Monday morning that redshirt freshman defensive back Steve Williams has been dismissed from the team for disciplinary reasons. Also linebacker Jason Frimpong and defensive back Roderick Ryles, both redshirt freshmen, have left the team and been given permission to transfer. All three players were part of former Pitt head coach Todd Graham’s recruiting class.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports
  • Shelley and McElligot Series serves as reunion for former Chiefs personnel

    Not so long ago, Bob McElligott, like most Western Pennsylvania hockey fans, would savor a long Pittsburgh Penguins playoff run.
    The Somerset native followed the Pens’ Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Malkin nearing return

    The Columbus Blue Jackets are the closest NHL team to the Pittsburgh Penguins, at least geographically. The two franchises are separated by 185 miles of highway.

    April 15, 2014

  • Reds swing way past Pirates

    Mike Leake doubled and hit a two-run homer Tuesday night, ending Gerrit Cole's winning streak and leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that completed two days full of homers and delays.
    First, the NL Central rivals completed a game that was suspended in the sixth inning because of rain the previous night.

    April 15, 2014

  • Pitt ends its spring practices

    No tailgating.
    No trip to a local high school.

    April 15, 2014

  • Pirates Game 1 0415 Pirates edge out Reds in suspended game

    After all those home runs and an overnight delay, it was settled by a single.
    Andrew McCutchen doubled and came around on Russell Martin’s single in the seventh inning on Tuesday, giving the Pittsburgh Pirates an 8-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in the completion of a game that spanned two days and 10 home runs.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • track_B1 WestPAC relays go to Windber boys, Berlin girls

    Rain showers and dropping temperatures put a damper on Monday’s WestPAC Relays at Berlin Brothersvalley High School.
    For the Berlin girls and the boys from Windber, however, discomfort was not much of a factor.
    The Mountaineers won their third straight relay title while the Ramblers reclaimed the title from defending champ Shade.

    April 14, 2014 2 Photos

  • Penguins 0414 Pressure on Penguins to capture Cup

    The statistics are gaudy.
    And if the Pittsburgh Penguins can’t find a way to extend their season into the final days of spring, ultimately forgettable.
    The same team that led the NHL in man games lost due to injury (more than 500) also earned 109 points, led the Metropolitan Division from mid-October on and received another peerless effort from star Sidney Crosby, who topped the league with 104 points and is a near lock for the second MVP award of his career.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local High School Baseball and Softball Briefs 4-15-14

    April 14, 2014

  • Local Sports Briefs 4-15-14

    April 14, 2014

  • mccort0413 color Bishop McCort falls to Bethel Park at PNC Park

    April 14, 2014 2 Photos