Pitt coach Chryst to address talk of complacency

Pitt coach Paul Chryst, claps as his team leads Old Dominion in the fourth quarter of a game Oct. 19, 2013, at Heinz Field.
Pitt coach Paul Chryst, claps as his team leads Old Dominion in the fourth quarter of a game Oct. 19, 2013, at Heinz Field.
Photo by AP
Jerry DiPaola
| Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, 10:09 p.m.

Almost without fail and regardless of the game's outcome, Pitt coach Paul Chryst makes a point of praising his team's effort.

He is often displeased with the execution but never the preparation that goes into it.

“Guys played hard, put it out there,” he said of Pitt's 24-21 loss to Navy last Saturday.

“I told them this after the game and felt it during the game. After watching the tape, I still believe.”

Yet, if Pitt's players end up losing focus amid the pressures of a close game, they wouldn't be the first college athletes to do so.

Shortly after the Navy game, some players attributed the loss partially to complacency and overconfidence and the need to play with more emotion.

“There has to be more heart and more fire in it by everyone,” senior wide receiver Devin Street said.

Quarterback Tom Savage said: “I think we got a little complacent. There is a lot of growing we can do from this game.”

Defensive end Bryan Murphy said he noticed “a little overconfidence at the end of the first half (when Pitt held a 13-7 lead).”

Chryst said Monday during his weekly news conference that he did not sense complacency during the Navy game, but he promised to put it on the list of items that may need fixed over the final five weeks.

“I have to do a much, much, much better job of coaching,” he said, “because (for) any team to be complacent in a game and to be overconfident in a game, that's on me.”

Chryst grew up in Madison, Wis., the son of a coach, and he played quarterback at Wisconsin. So, he knows how the improper approach might disrupt a locker room.

“(If you have) genuine confidence,” he said, “then you are never overconfident. And genuine respect for the game would never let you be complacent in a game.”

Pitt opens a tough stretch Saturday night at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets run the same triple-option offense that Navy used to defeat Pitt, but with better athletes. They defeated Syracuse, 56-0, and Virginia, 35-25, the past two weeks.

Pitt has lost two of its past three, with the only victory against Old Dominion, while the offense has slumped dramatically.

A young team — Pitt has used 17 freshmen and sophomores in important roles — could fall victim to an unfocused mindset as it tries to keep up with the rigors of a long season.

Chryst acknowledges that possibility, but he said no players have approached him about the problem.

However, he doesn't plan to ignore it. Asked how he would handle it, he said, “Just like most things in coaching: Just keep trying to hammer it, and work through the guys I know aren't that way.

“That's where I have to get better at this, reaching everyone. That's a great opportunity for leadership (from players) to step in, if there's any of that sense in it. That's an area we can get better.”

Notes: Middle linebacker Shane Gordon injured his collarbone against Navy, but Chryst said there is no structural damage. ... Guard Cory King (back), who didn't play Saturday, is feeling better, Chryst said.

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