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Before facing UNC, Pitt players insist goals go far beyond 1 big victory

| Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams pulls in a 29-yard pass from teammate Quinshad Davis for a touchdown in the first quarter against Virginia on Saturday Nov. 9, 2013, at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Notre Dame's Bennett Jackson defends on a second-quarter pass intended for Pitt's Devon Street on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, at Heinz Field.

Pitt coach Paul Chryst has heard his players' promises so often they might echo in his sleep or appear to be bouncing off the walls of Pitt's practice facility.

“Don't worry, coach. We won't relax just because we beat Notre Dame. We'll be just as intense Saturday against North Carolina.”

“Oh, yeah,” Chryst is thinking. “Show me.”

That's the challenge awaiting Pitt at Heinz Field where it opens a three-game stretch run that will define Chryst's second season.

Win one, and stumble into a minor bowl for a fourth consecutive season.

Win two, and earn a winning record for the first time since 2010.

Win three, and move almost to the top of the ACC Coastal Division standings while shocking — and quieting — those critics who remain unsure of the program's direction.

“You talk to them and they are talking back at you what you want to hear, but you also have to go do it,” Chryst said.

The players insist there will be no hangover after last week's 28-21 win over Notre Dame.

“We are not where we want to be, yet,” senior wide receiver Devin Street said, “but we are working toward it. We can't get too high just on one win.”

Street and the seven other starting seniors will waste a variety of opportunities if they lack proper intensity in the three games.

• Some never will play football again after their final Pitt game.

• A few have a dwindling amount of time to impress NFL scouts in game situations, which is often the most important evaluation.

• All of them are fixed on earning Pitt's six consecutive bowl bid.

“You do want them valuing every snap,” Chryst said. “If you get that from your seniors and if that can trickle down, then I think you have something going.”

Said Street: “We can't settle.”

He has plenty to gain, needing only five receptions to reach 200 in a category where he already is the school's all-time leader. If he gets 249 receiving yards, he'll be No. 1 in that category, too.

Then, there is the NFL, another hurdle for Street to clear.

Receivers coach Bobby Engram, who played 14 seasons in the NFL, thinks Street might have what it takes.

“He's tall, he can run, he's got good hands,” Engram said. “It's hard to judge how guys make that transition, but he has all the attributes.”

Street's 63-yard catch-and-run against Notre Dame was a prime example of how he is getting stronger as he gets older.

“The thing you like about Devin, he is stepping up in the moments when a senior should step up,” Engram said.

Said Chryst: “That's something you are thankful for, and you need that.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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