Pitt coach: 'Time is now' to show improvement
No one has been more supportive of his team this season than Pitt coach Paul Chryst.
But, like cracks in a dam, there were indications Monday that even the calm, patient Chryst has nearly reached his breaking point.
Pitt visits Buffalo (1-5) of the Mid-American Conference on Saturday, possibly a welcome respite from the Big East, where the Panthers have lost all three games. Pitt is 2-4 and hasn't been this bad halfway through the season since 2007.
Chryst mentioned after the 45-35 loss to Louisville on Saturday that the team is at a crossroads. And he wasn't just talking about having six games down and six to go.
“It is the midway point of the season,” he said, “but I also think it's a time where, you know what, they're getting tired of me standing up — the same as you (reporters are) — and saying, ‘We're doing some good things; we have to put it together.'
“You can't have the same storyline all the time. That means you are really not getting better. The time is now where we have to get things going.”
That's as close to an ultimatum that Chryst ever will present to his team, and it speaks toward his intolerance for mistakes so many weeks beyond training camp.
Quarterback Tino Sunseri has played the past three games and thrown 98 consecutive passes without an interception, but he's the exception to the rule.
During the loss to Louisville, mistakes from previous weeks — shaky defense, poor pass protection — reappeared, but the list expanded to include special teams, with a partially blocked punt and a poor snap on another try.
Also, Pitt had converted 5 of 6 attempts on fourth down but was 0 for 3 against Louisville, including the bad snap.
“There's enough there to keep us busy at work this week,” Chryst said.
Pitt hasn't shown itself to be good enough to overcome such carelessness.
“Coach Chryst always talks about just trying to play one opponent on Saturday,” center Ryan Turnley said. “I think if we can do that, it doesn't matter who we are playing, I think we'll be able to come out with a victory. If we can just execute the game plan they give us, we'll like the result.
“It's a tough process. No one said it was going to be easy.”
Turnley admitted the program has been infected by turmoil in recent seasons, but that's no excuse for losing, he said.“Everybody knows it, but at the end of the day, nobody really cares about that,” he said. “You are going to be remembered for how you perform, and no one is going to remember the things that we went through.
“They are just going to say, ‘Right now, you're 2-4.' We have to get guys to focus on that instead of maybe making excuses. I'm not saying guys are making excuses, but we just have to go out and work hard every week and keep getting better.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7997.