Share This Page

Pitt football coach Chryst questions effort

| Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, 2:44 p.m.
Pitt head coach Paul Chryst on the sideline during the Louisville game at Heinz Field Oct. 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

Pitt coach Paul Chryst's patience reached a breaking point Monday, as he questioned his players' effort in their 24-17 loss to Connecticut.

“I thought we did have a couple (of moments) where it was less than the effort that you would want,” he said after Pitt dropped two in a row for the third time this season.

“You have to address that and move on, hold guys accountable and hold coaches accountable. How you address it is you have to hit it square in the face.”

Pitt (4-6, 1-4 Big East) is in jeopardy of a second consecutive losing season since Dave Wannstedt was fired at the end of the 2010 season. The Panthers play Big East leader Rutgers (8-1) on Nov. 24 at Heinz Field and close the season Dec. 1 at South Florida (3-6).

Pitt has been to a bowl game each of the past four seasons but must win both remaining games to become bowl eligible.

The loss to Connecticut (4-6, 1-4) was especially troubling because the Panthers fell behind, 24-0, in the first half only six days after nearly upsetting undefeated Notre Dame on the road. Connecticut entered the game ranked 117th in point production among 120 FBS schools, but the Huskies scored on four of their first six possessions, including a game-opening 75-yard drive and an 80-yard punt return by Nick Williams.

“I thought there was some (lack of effort), and that was disappointing,” Chryst said. “You shouldn't have to be coaching effort at any point, certainly (not) late in the year. Yet there were other guys giving tremendous effort and have all year.”

Chryst added that coaches must shoulder part of the blame, but his message to the players was clear.

“(Players) have to understand that's not how you play the game,” he said.

The loss to Connecticut was the third this season in which the Panthers lost by a margin that could have been altered by one possession (eight points or less). In the past three seasons, Pitt has lost 10 of 13 such games.

“It hurts to keep losing,” senior running back Ray Graham said.

Chryst said the team needs to learn how to win.

“A play here, a play there does make a difference,” he said, “but you have to learn to make those plays. What makes it tough is I feel like at times we are learning from those things, and sometimes we need to go through it again to learn.

“People talk about learning how to win. We haven't done that enough in close games.”

Saturday's loss was especially troubling because it was the second time in two trips to Connecticut that Pitt lost a close game. Two years ago, UConn robbed Pitt of a possible Big East title in a 30-28 outcome decided, in part, by a kickoff return for a touchdown by Williams.

Several close losses since 2010 have prevented Pitt from setting a positive tone that would have increased the program's visibililty and respect around the country — and maybe saved Wannstedt's job.

Included in that are three losses to Notre Dame and one to Utah on the road in the 2010 opener, quarterback Tino Sunseri's first of 36 consecutive starts.

In the past three seasons, Pitt never has rallied to win a close game, although the Panthers broke a 10-10 tie against South Florida in 2010 when Dion Lewis scored on a 22-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter. Sunseri helped preserve the 17-10 victory with two scrambles for 11 and 18 yards and a big third-down completion to Devin Street.

Otherwise, it's been mostly failure.

The latest in Connecticut hurt more than most after the Huskies' struggling offensive line escorted running back Lyle McCombs to 120 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Pitt's offense couldn't solve the Huskies' defense six days after Graham ran for 172 yards against Notre Dame.

“Any given Saturday, you have to come ready to play, and if you're not ready to play, you lose,” Graham said. “If you take a team light, you will be in for a rude awakening.”

Notes: Pitt's game against Rutgers will begin at noon and be televised by ESPN2 or ESPNU. ... Chryst said safety Jason Hendricks and tight end Hubie Graham, who were injured against Connecticut, will be limited in practice this week.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.