Pitt football head coach Paul Chryst held his weekly press conference on Monday and here are the top ten quotes (as I see them):
10. "Today, I don't feel a lot different than I did after the game as far as the performance and looking back on it."
I can understand that. The game's over and done with and there's not anything anyone can do to turn it into a win. I'm sure it was a disappointment at the time and that's still the case, obviously. Second guessing only goes so far.
9. (On sticking to the run game even as it struggled) "You have to be smart and can't be stubborn but I thought we had some of our cleaner runs in the fourth quarter. It was still a close enough game."
I've got no beef with Pitt continuing to run the ball even while the passing game was successful. I could have stood to see a few more passes, but Chryst is exactly right in that the game was close throughout. When you've got one of the best backs in the nation when healthy, you've got to go to him. You've also got to use the run to discourage the Orange from dropping everyone into pass coverage by abandoning the run. Pitt has a decision to make in terms of splitting up the runs and passing attempts because Tino Sunseri is having a good season, but in this instance, I don't blame Chryst for sticking with the run.
8. "Certainly I didn't sense this with our group but I don't think anyone will be intimidated by the fact that a ranked team is coming in."
No way Pitt is going to be even a little intimidated by Louisville. The Cardinals are certainly having a better year than the Panthers - no one would dispute that. But they've also been wholly unimpressive at times, winning by only seven against a 1-5 Florida International team and by only four against an 0-5 Southern Miss squad. The Cardinals are 5-0, but have been far from dominant.
7. "Loved the way they (defense) played, yet I've talked to the team that no one person is responsible for a loss or no one unit is responsible for the loss. Everyone could have done something else that maybe says you know what, you win it."
I understand why coaches do this, but man does it sound silly sometimes. Could the defense have played better? Well, sure. But they gave up only one touchdown in the entire game. The offense played itself out of not one, but two potential scoring drives and also had to settle for a short-range field goal after being unable to get into the end zone. I get that Chryst has to go all PC on us, but the fans know who this loss is pinned on - the offense.
6. (On how the younger offensive linemen are progressing) "I think they're getting better. I'd like to think that. Nobody is at the point where we feel like they're ready to take over, but I think they're working -- well I know they're working -- but I think they're getting better."
5. (On if there are changes that will be coming to the offensive line) "Right now those are the five best, there's no doubt in my mind, those are the five best that we have right now."
The offensive line is a mess. And you can tell by that first quote that Chryst isn't even all that sure if they're progressing enough right now. And the fact that the best five are out there without question shows just how far the second-teamers must be. Work in progress, folks, and it ain't getting fixed this year.
4. (On how he feels about playing at 11a.m.) "You get up and go play the game."
Chryst sums this up pretty nicely. We can babble all we want about early start times, about inconveniences (and it is inconvenient, trust me), but for him and the players just another game. Truth be told, the 11:00 a.m. time is only an hour earlier and by the time kickoff rolls around, the players will be ready.
3. (On the status of running back Rushel Shell) "He was limited a little bit in practice (last week) and hopefully we get to where he's completely healthy and has a good week of practice."
Missing Shell really hurt the Panthers in my opinion. I'll hit more on this later today, but Graham has been better when he's been able to share the load this season.
2. (On how he views the play call near the end of the game where Pitt was penalized for intentional grounding. Would he change it?) "First of all, it was a run action pass. I don't feel good about it right now at all. We didn't have a complete understanding, we didn't execute ... It was just bad execution, which goes on us as coaches that they weren't able to execute versus what they did. It's on all of us."
1. (On why he didn't call for a more conservative play to settle for a field goal) "I've been in some similar situations where you're in an overtime where a field goal puts you in to another overtime and a touchdown gives you a win. There's no guarantee that if we score a touchdown, that we win that game, but it does keep a field goal from winning it for them. To me in that situation you have to be smart and still aggressive in the sense that you're still trying to win the game and yet preserve the opportunity to get the lead."
Chryst is correct in that kicking a field goal in either of those spots doesn't give Pitt a big lead, but two things here. First, if Pitt is able to kick field goals on both possessions where they were in range (yes, that's questionable with Kevin Harper's inconsistency this year, but work with me, people), Syracuse would have indeed needed to score a touchdown. Second, the key thing to remember is that you can be both aggressive and smart at the same time. Sunseri's intentional grounding play just wasn't something that Pitt could afford there and if they didn't, the coaches needed to absolutely drill it into his head that a big loss isn't something that could happen right there. Just really, really bad execution at the worst possible time.