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Pitt football notebook: Chryst tempers expectations

Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri throws against Temple in the second half Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, at Heinz Field.

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3:30 p.m. Saturday, Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.

TV/radio: WPXI/KDKA-FM (93.7)

Records: Pitt 4-4; Notre Dame 8-0

Notable: Pitt has played Notre Dame in each of the past four seasons, winning in 2008, 36-33, in four overtimes and in 2009, 27-22, before losing the past two — 23-17 and 15-12. ... Notre Dame has dominated the series that began in 1909, 46-20-1. ... The Fighting Irish, ranked third in the BCS, have allowed only seven touchdowns in eight games, one on the ground. ... Pitt will take its second two-game winning streak of the season into the game. ... It will mark the first time the Panthers have played a team ranked as high as No. 4 since they defeated No. 2 West Virginia in 2007.

Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Pitt coach Paul Chryst isn't one to joke about football. So there was a shred of truth when he said after a 47-17 victory against Temple, “I'm always surprised when we get a first down.”

Many reporters laughed, but Chryst said he wasn't trying to be “a smart aleck.”

The Panthers gave Chryst 24 reasons to be surprised in Saturday's game.

But his point was this: “You never want to take anything for granted. I've always been like that.”

Pitt's offense was clicking against the Owls, running up 528 yards and six touchdowns to mark the fourth time this season the Panthers scored at least 35 points.

Yet Chryst is never sure how a game will develop.

“You never go into a game thinking, ‘Boy, this is what we are going to do.' If you do that, you disrespect the game,” he said. “You go into every game confident of the plan, and you're always appreciative when players execute it. But it doesn't just happen. I've never been one to expect anything.”

Ground improvements

A week after labeling the running game “inconsistent,” Chryst received one of his best efforts of the season from Ray Graham and Rushel Shell, who combined for 188 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

“I thought Ray ran really well,” Chryst said. “I thought he hit some things. Rushel had some runs. That energizes your team. That doesn't happen if guys (linemen) aren't throwing it around up front.”

Despite the showing, Pitt's running game is still ranked only 77th in the nation and sixth in the Big East (150.4 yards per game).

Making it count

Graham has scored at least one touchdown in all but three games (total of seven) and Shell has four, including one in each of the past three games.

Nice job, sort of

Temple coach Steve Addazio praised Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri, but he tempered his remarks.

“We had some man coverage breakdowns,” he said. “We call it mental error, and it happened a few times. I thought going in (Sunseri) was a heck of player. He is a veteran senior guy. We had some breakdowns in there that helped him, but he was still able to make plays.”

By the numbers

Redshirt junior receiver Devin Street recorded a career-high 140 receiving yards, his third time over 100 this season and the sixth of his career. ... Senior Mike Shanahan continued to climb the all-time reception list with six against Temple to pass Derek Kinder, Gordon Jones and Dwight Collins and move into fifth place with 134. ... Defensive end Shayne Hale, who started in place of T.J. Clemmings (back spasms), had three tackles for a loss. It was his first start in five years at Pitt. ... Middle linebacker Dan Mason had a double-digit tackle total (10) for the second consecutive week. He also shared a sack with former Penn Hills teammate Aaron Donald.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7997.

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