Pitt notebook: Savage, Street gut it out despite injuries
By Jerry DiPaola
Published: Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, 8:00 p.m.
Pitt quarterback Tom Savage and receiver Devin Street kept the Heinz Field X-ray technicians busy during the 34-27 loss to North Carolina on Saturday.
Savage injured his knee while trying to avoid the pass rush in the first half and briefly was replaced by Chad Voytik. Street hurt his ankle in the second half and missed one series, but he played through most of the fourth quarter.
“I knew I couldn't let my teammates down, no matter what it was,” Street said. “I don't care if it was fractured.” Savage was slightly more effective in the second half. After completing 11 of 18 for 145 yards and no touchdowns in the first half, he was 12 of 20 for 168 yards and two scores after halftime.
Savage clearly was limping in the second half, but he played to the end.
“That's in him,” Street said. “That wasn't an act. That's who that guy is. That's what we need from our senior leadership.” Coach Paul Chryst said he appreciates Savage's competitiveness.
“Tom doesn't seem to be a different guy when things are going well or (when he is) struggling,” he said. “You need that out of your quarterback.”
Chryst benched cornerback Lafayette Pitts from the base defense in the first quarter, inserting Jahmahl Pardner in the starting lineup.
Chryst's only explanation: “Jahmahl started.”
Pitts returned the opening kickoff and played the rest of the game.
Also, freshman Dorian Johnson started for redshirt freshman Adam Bisnowaty (back) at offensive left tackle but was replaced by senior Juantez Hollins.
Chryst said he considered punting out of bounds to avoid North Carolina's Ryan Switzer, who returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown last week against Virginia and recorded two more against Pitt.
“We talked about it,” said Chryst, indicating he gave the ploy some consideration before and during the game, especially in the fourth quarter before Switzer's tiebreaking return.
“It's a double-edged sword with what we are doing,” he said. “Our gunners have been doing a pretty good job. I didn't want to mess with (senior punter Matt Yoklic) too much.”
Several Pitt defenders came close to Switzer, but he cut across the field and eluded all of them.
“We call it spreading the net,” Chryst said. “It wasn't much of a net.”
Officially, Switzer tied the school record for punt return touchdowns in a game, but the only other time it happened was in 1992 when defensive tackle Andre Purvis recovered two blocked punts in the end zone. Switzer set the record for most in a season.
Pitt freshman kicker Chris Blewitt extended his string of successful field-goal attempts to six with two against North Carolina. ... With five receptions, Street became the first Pitt player to reach 200 in a career. ... Among those in attendance was Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert.
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