Tears could flow as Pitt plays final home game

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, 9:55 p.m.

With Miami coming to Heinz Field on Friday, Pitt safety Jason Hendricks has plenty on his mind.

First, Pitt's secondary must concern itself with slowing down the Hurricanes' speedy wide receivers, including Allen Hurns, an All-ACC candidate with 965 yards and six touchdowns.

Then, there's the possibility of Pitt (6-5, 3-4) earning a richer bowl bid while trying to win a seventh game for the first time since 2010.

But Hendricks has one more worry: He might start crying.

“I get caught up in the moment,” said Hendricks, one of 18 Pitt seniors who will play their final home game. “You might see a few tears. Hopefully, I won't (cry). I don't want to look like a baby.”

Hendricks, who has had a “Pitt” tattoo on his right arm since his redshirt freshman season, has called four men head coach since arriving in 2009.

Change has been difficult, but he said, “It just made me stronger as a person.

“I learned how to deal with change. Things don't go as planned, so you just make the best of your situation.”

He said he and his teammates built a close bond during the turmoil.

“Coaches may change, but the players don't,” he said.

Miami (8-3, 4-3) also has dealt with its share of challenges, including NCAA sanctions that have hampered recruiting and its collapse from a 7-0 record and No. 7 national ranking. In the past month, Miami lost to Florida State, Virginia Tech and Duke before beating Virginia, 45-26, last week.

“Some of the things we were doing better early, taking the ball away and playing better red-zone defense, we did that better this past week,” coach Al Golden said.

Golden hopes wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, who was averaging 20.9 yards per reception before missing the past five games with a torn MCL, will return against Pitt.

“Can I say definitely? I cannot,” Golden said. “It's going to be the young man's decision because he has been cleared (by doctors).”

Meanwhile, some Miami players, many of whom grew up in Florida, raised the issue of playing in cold weather. Friday's forecast calls for temperatures in the low 30s, with no new precipitation.

Golden said cold weather “is a challenge to our mindset, mentality and commitment to each other during four hours on Friday.”

Pitt coach Paul Chryst doubts a warm-weather team has a disadvantage playing in the north. Indeed, Miami is 5-0 in Pittsburgh in November.

He added the Heinz Field turf, which was resodded this week, will be “in great shape.”

“(Snow) would be helpful,” Hendricks said, “but you still have to go play the game.”

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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