Pitt notebook: Chryst disappointed in special teams breakdowns

Jerry DiPaola
| Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 7:48 p.m.

DURHAM, N.C. — Let the record show that Pitt's defense allowed Duke to amass 532 yards of offense Saturday in a 58-55 victory at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Not included in that total, however, are Duke's 211 return yards that, combined with other special-teams mistakes, nearly cost Pitt (2-1, 1-1) its first ACC victory.

It started when freshman kicker Chris Blewitt missed an extra-point attempt — the Panthers' fourth in the past eight seasons — after the first touchdown.

Then Duke defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento blocked a 24-yard field-goal attempt that wasted a 19-yard interception return by safety Jason Hendricks to the Duke 42.

It got worse just before halftime when Duke's Jamison Crowder, who scored two other touchdowns from scrimmage on run and pass plays, returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown. That turned what had been a 27-7 Pitt advantage into a 30-28 lead.

The game appeared to be slipping away with 4:29 left when punter Matt Yoklic dropped a snap at the Pitt 30, setting up Duke's final touchdown and the second by quarterback Brandon Connette.

“Our coverage units, special teams in general, all four phases,” coach Paul Chryst said, pointing out one of the areas where Pitt needs to improve.

The good news: Special teams recovered two Duke onside kicks in the fourth quarter, and Blewitt's 24-yard field goal in the second quarter turned out to be the margin of victory.

Bad Friday night

After arriving in Durham on Friday, Tyler Boyd and Kevin Weatherspoon of Clairton said they listened to — and suffered through — the end of their school's 66-game winning streak, a 42-24 loss to Monessen.

“It hurt me,” Boyd said. “It felt like I was there. I didn't want to hear it anymore. The best I can do is go out here and represent for my city and help us win.”

Weatherspoon said he wanted to be there to talk his former teammates at halftime.

“They are real young, but by the time they are juniors and seniors they are going to come a long way,” he said.

Injury update

Boyd recorded his second consecutive 100-yard game (eight catches, 154 yards and three touchdowns), but he said he took a knee to his thigh late in the game and wasn't on the field for the final series when Pitt was clinging to a three-point lead.

Boyd said he was torn between protecting the injury and returning to the field.

“I didn't want to go out there and risk even more injury,” he said. “(But) I wanted to still be able to help my team. I didn't want to be stuck on the sideline and watch. I'm the type of player, I just want to make plays and help the team win. But I had to do the best thing that was for me.”

Chryst said Boyd was “beat up a little bit.”

“I thought we had a lot of guys who did spend themselves ... but he wasn't in on that last one,” Chryst said.

Defensive end Bryan Murphy hurt his ankle last week and didn't play.

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