Pitt notebook: Thomas returns to starting lineup
Outside linebacker Todd Thomas returned to the Pitt starting lineup Saturday in a 49-27 victory over New Mexico at Heinz Field, five weeks after he said he wanted to leave the team.
He said he has changed for the better.
“Lesson learned,” the Beaver Falls grad said. “I'm just thankful coach (Paul Chryst) let me back.”
Thomas shared the Pitt lead in tackles (10) with Jason Hendricks, but that was the least of his accomplishments since leaving the team on the second day of camp after he had been dropped to the second unit.
The next day, Thomas said he wanted to return, but Chryst didn't make it easy for him.
“He said it's up to the team,” said Thomas, who was allowed back a week later. “I talked to the seniors, and they said, ‘Yeah, we want you back. You just have to change,' and I did.
“The way I carried myself wasn't really appropriate. I showed them I can change. I'm calm, just relaxed. I'm not hyper anymore. (Leaving) the team was a bad decision. It's over now.”
Thomas said he was told Thursday he was starting after redshirt freshman Bam Bradley injured his shoulder in practice.
Chryst said there were several reasons for promoting Thomas to the first team.
“The way we wanted to defend this team suited him,” Chryst said. “He had been doing some good things in practice. It was good to be able to get him a significant number of snaps.”
Thomas' best play occurred in the fourth quarter when he blew up a New Mexico pass for a loss of 7 yards on a fake punt. Chryst said the team had prepared for it.
“That was my key, my read,” Thomas said.
Learning from mistakes
Only two of senior quarterback Tom Savage's 17 passes hit the ground, but two others were intercepted, giving him four this season.
The first came on the game's initial play when Savage threw directly to New Mexico free safety Dante Caro.
“I saw the guy there,” Savage said. “I thought his shoulders were turned the other way, and he flipped on the last second.”
But Savage said his mistakes in the first two games won't stop him from taking chances with his strong arm.
“I need to understand the game, but I'm not going to be afraid to take shots downfield. I have the receivers to do it.”
Savage averaged 17.4 yards per completion while throwing for 236 yards. Redshirt freshman Chad Voytik played the final two Pitt offensive series, completing his only pass for 8 yards.
Double the fun
Running backs James Conner and Isaac Bennett ran for 119 and 101 yards, respectively, the first time in six years that two Pitt backs had 100 in the same game. LeSean McCoy and LaRod Stephens-Howling did it Oct. 20, 2007, in a 24-17 victory against Cincinnati.
Bennett's total was a career high.
Pitt has used 12 first-year freshmen in the first two games, including offensive lineman Dorian Johnson, who played in short-yardage situations Saturday.
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, Penn State face competition for ticket sales
- Pitt notebook: No surprises as Panthers settle on starting O-line
- Pitt notebook: Chryst ready to ‘tighten things down’ for season
- Pitt trying to keep star playmaker Boyd fresh for the season opener
- Pitt notebook: Render proving to be Donald-esque on defense
- Pitt has no shortage of talented running backs heading into season
- Pitt assistant strength coach’s battle with cancer inspires players
- Pitt football coach Chryst shaking up his team’s depth chart
- Waiting to be named starter, Pitt QB Voytik keeps working hard
- Pitt linebacker Thomas matures into team leader