Pitt football notebook: Chryst provides stability for Panthers
Pitt leaves Tuesday for Birmingham, Ala., and its third consecutive appearance in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
If it sounds like the same stale story, quarterback Tino Sunseri said there is one overwhelming difference to this trip.
“We didn't have a coach last year,” he said.
For the first time since 2009 — when Pitt defeated North Carolina, 19-17, in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, N.C. — the Panthers will play a bowl game with the same coach who led them through the regular season.
“It's a really big difference,” said Sunseri, taking a break from watching video of Ole Miss, Pitt's opponent in the Compass Bowl.
“The familiarity of being with your coach and understanding what is expected out of you at all times is huge.”
Interim coaches Phil Bennett and Keith Patterson led Pitt in the Compass Bowl after the 2010 and 2011 seasons when Dave Wannstedt was fired and Todd Graham resigned to go to Arizona State.
This year, Pitt coach Paul Chryst turned his back on the opportunity to be considered for the Wisconsin job opening.
“That's his character,” Sunseri said. “He has a lot of integrity, he understands what he wants, and he understands what he is obligated to. He's a man of his word.”
Last year, Graham and his nine-man staff scattered to new jobs, leaving only Patterson and four other assistants to run the team in a 28-6 loss to SMU.
“It builds character,” Sunseri said. “We understand what it's like to be left (by a coach). We understand what it's like to have a coach and have somebody there for you who wants to see you succeed.”
Big crowd expected
Pitt resumed practice Saturday after taking a holiday break, and it used recorded noise to prepare for a hostile crowd.
Bowl officials are expecting a record crowd of more than 50,000, with most of it cheering for Ole Miss. The Compass Bowl record is 42,610, set three years ago when South Carolina played Connecticut. Pitt appeared in front of crowds of 28,726 and 41,207 the past two years.
Ole Miss sold its allotment of 23,381 tickets, bought 5,556 from Pitt and could have more than 40,000 of its fans in 71,594-seat Legion Field, according to assistant athletic director for media relations Kyle Campbell.
Pitt has sold almost 9,000 tickets for the game.
Campbell said his school sold more bowl tickets than any SEC school and is second in the nation to Stanford.
The Sunseri family's SEC ties may help Pitt against Ole Miss.
Sunseri spent the holiday talking football with his father Sal, the former defensive coordinator at Tennessee, and brother Vinnie, a safety at Alabama, which beat Ole Miss, 33-14, this season.
“My dad (now a linebackers coach at Florida State) was able to watch a little bit (of Ole Miss video) and give me his input,” Sunseri said. “They are trying to help me as much as they can, just like I try to help Vinnie with what I saw against Notre Dame.”
Sunseri will be in Miami on Jan. 7 to watch his brother's team play Notre Dame for the national championship.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7997.
Show commenting policy
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.
- Pitt notebook: No surprises as Panthers settle on starting O-line
- Pitt, Penn State face competition for ticket sales
- Pitt assistant strength coach’s battle with cancer inspires players
- Pitt has no shortage of talented running backs heading into season
- Pitt trying to keep star playmaker Boyd fresh for the season opener