After a blowout win against Temple, head coach Paul Chryst addressed the media for his regular press conference. And unlike last week, he actually looked ahead to this week's opponent. Below are the top ten quotes from Chryst as I see them (thanks to Pitt's athletics department for the quotes).
10. (On if the team is in its best shape to be entering this game): "...Guys are making progress, maturing and playing better (but) then you have guys that are dinged up or out."
9. "Still waiting to see and so he’ll be out for the season. Ryan Schlieper hurt himself in the game and wasn’t able to play second half and he’ll actually have to get his foot operated on, so he’ll be out. Manny (Williams) hurt his knee (earlier this season). He’s elected to do surgery. There was chance that he might be able to rehab it to see if he could play at the end of the year, but he’s gone ahead and elected for the surgery. So Manny, Schlieper and Dan will be out for the year."
Obviously, the big news out of this week is all of the injuries announced. Pitt clearly is limping into this game. Badly. Chryst announced the loss of three starters ... for the season. Combine that with the other injuries they've sustained and Pitt is anything but healthy. The game would have been difficult to win as it was, but losing so many key players makes it that much harder.
8. (On if the jerseys will have the players names on them again this week): "Yeah, we’re going to have them on."
7. (On why the names were being put back on the jersey): "I knew it was important to them. I thought it was the right thing for this group at this time. The initial reasoning was we wanted to make sure they understood the most important thing is the team…and truly, we’ve got some guys doing some real unselfish acts for this team."
I can appreciate why Chryst did that but all I can say is thank God. Constantly referring to my numerical roster to figure out who screwed up or made a big play was getting tiresome. Guys, seriously, just respect the game so we don't have to live through this again.
6. (On playing a team still in the national championship race): "You’re going to play a game, emotion is a big part of it and keeping it in check is a big part of it. I don’t think your approach is any different."
Not sure I'm buying this. Okay, definitely not buying it. Coaches may not make much of a big deal out of it, but I've got to imagine the players take that into consideration. Maybe not as much as they did back in 2007 against West Virginia, but to beat Notre Dame when they could be headed to a national championship game would be special. I think that's especially true since Pitt has had such a down season.
5. "Dan (Mason) on that play — I thought it was a heck of a play, two weeks in a row Dan (made a tackle) on a fourth-down play in the red zone — he got hurt on that."
The play was a fourth-quarter stop on 4th and goal from the two-yard line. If you missed it, it was as Chryst says, a heck of a play. It was a glimpse of the old Mason and just a great stop. If you haven't seen the video, seriously, find it. Then show it to your kid. That's how the game's meant to be played.
4. "What it takes to beat Notre Dame is the same thing that it takes to beat other teams on your schedule. That’s playing good football, being the best you can be, taking advantage of opportunities and not shooting yourself in the foot. All those things apply."
Chryst is absolutely correct about this. Beating top teams can really be boiled down to one thing - did you play well? Usually, that's harder to do against the best teams, but if Pitt can play as well as they're capable of, I have no doubt they can hang with Notre Dame. Unfortunately, the other team's trying, too, and it's unlikely that Pitt can play their best game of the year against a top five team. To win, they'll also need some breaks.
3. (On if it’s still considered a rivalry game): "I understand and appreciate the history of it, but you’re talking to a guy that hasn’t been a part of one yet. I remember watching games on TV. I think our guys are really excited to play Notre Dame, I really do believe that. Whether that means it’s a rivalry or not, I don’t know that answer, you have to ask them that..."
Pitt and Notre Dame definitely have a history, but I don't think the rivalry is all that strong. It's a bit of a rivalry when you consider they've been playing each other many years in recent memory, but Pitt's also played several games in recent memory, too. Is that a rivalry? I get that there's far more history when we're talking Pitt-Notre Dame, but I don't consider the Irish a real rival of Pitt ... and I doubt the feeling is mutual.
2. On if he ever got caught up in the mystique of Notre Dame growing up:
"No, my brother (Rick Chryst) went there. Maybe that’s why I didn’t get caught up in it. (Laughs) I do get caught up in traditions of football and that’s one of those places. I had an opportunity to see Texas and OU (Oklahoma) play, and that’s a unique experience. There’s great history there. It’s different, but its just like we have great history.
1. On getting his players to focus with the distractions of playing at Notre Dame:
"I think that’s one of the great things about the opportunity that these guys have playing college football. Every place we go, there’s something unique about each place. We’re not going to take a bus tour around and all that stuff.
I like Chryst's approach here. Sure, he could come out and state the obvious - that playing against Notre Dame is a big deal. But if the coach acts big-eyed, it won't take long for the players to notice that. The fact is that Chryst needs to keep the team as grounded as possible and they, in turn, need to realize the magnitude of the opportunity. Both of those things can happen and I think Chryst is doing the right thing here downplaying it a bit.