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Pitt notebook: Panthers' special teams not so special

| Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, 8:51 p.m.

Pitt coach Paul Chryst uses a committee of coaches to handle special teams, but he has taken responsibility for the results. So, Chryst had plenty of blame on his shoulders Saturday at Heinz Field after Pitt's 41-31 loss to Miami.

The misery started on the opening kickoff when Pitt returner Lafayette Pitts lost a fumble that was recovered by Miami's Garrett Kidd on the Pitt 35-yard line.

Then, on Pitt's first possession, Tyriq McCord blocked Matt Yoklic's punt that traveled only 9 yards.

Both mistakes led to quick touchdown passes from Stephen Morris to freshman Stacy Coley, and Pitt fell behind 14-0 only 4:30 into the game.

But that wasn't all. Before the end of the first quarter, Pitt forced a Miami punt on fourth-and-4. But the Panthers' punt-return team was called for an illegal substitution, leading to a 29-yard field goal by Matt Goudis.

“I thought we didn't play smart,” Chryst said.

To top it off, Chris Blewitt missed a 43-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter, his first after a streak of seven successful kicks stretching back to the Virginia game Sept. 28. Blewitt recovered by hitting a 36-yarder before the end of the first half.

Boyd passes Fitzgerald

Wide receiver Tyler Boyd had a productive game with nine receptions for 98 yards. But breaking Larry Fitzgerald's 11-year-old freshman record for receptions in a season (77) offered him little solace.

“That means a lot to me,” he said of the record. “As a freshman I really didn't expect that.

“Besides that, I'm a team player. All I want to do is win. Where I come from (Clairton), all we do is win.

“I think about wins first. I never ask the coach, ‘Where am I at? How many yards do I need?' I really don't care about that.”

Chryst said Boyd still has a lot of growth ahead of him.

“I truly am excited because I know he can be a lot better,” the coach said. “We thought a lot of him (when he was recruited), but I don't think you ever quite know how good someone is until you are with them.

“I appreciate the way he approaches it.”

Boyd also reached the 1,000-yard milestone (1,001) when he caught his seventh touchdown pass of the season with 14 seconds left in the game. He finished the regular season as Pitt's leader in receptions and yardage.

Injury update

Pitt played the game without two key seniors: wide receiver Devin Street (elbow, ankle) and left guard Cory King (back, hamstring). Lost during the game were senior wide receiver Kevin Weatherspoon, who hurt his ankle after converting a third down with a 13-yard reception in the second quarter, and defensive end Bryan Murphy (head injury).

Notable

Pitt honored 18 seniors in the last game this season at Heinz Field. ... Senior defensive end Jack Lippert, who has been a backup all season, started the first series. ... Senior Drake Greer, who hadn't been used all season, was allowed to try an onside kick near the end of the game. It was unsuccessful. ... Redshirt freshman Chris Wuestner made the first start of his career at wide receiver. ... Allen Hurns, who had nine catches for 173 yards, became only the fourth receiver in Miami history to surpass 1,000 yards (1,138). ... Surprising statistic: Pitt led Miami in time of possession, 33:55-26:05. But Miami had big plays of 73, 66, 34 and 32 yards. ... Pitt scored on drives that lasted 10 and 13 plays for 92 and 95 yards — the second- and third-longest possessions of the season. ... Freshman running back Rachid Ibrahim recorded career highs of 51 rushing yards and 37 receiving yards and scored his first collegiate touchdown. ... Seven Pitt players made catches. ... Linebacker Shane Gordon recorded a career-high two tackles for a loss. ... Pitt topped 500 yards of total offense (501) for the third time this season.

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

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