Panthers ramp up respect quotient for Delaware
Ray Vinopal hears things. Good leaders always do.
And when he heard talk among teammates that indicated less-than-total respect for Delaware — the FCS opponent Saturday in Pitt's opener at Heinz Field — he took care of it.
Good leaders always do.
“I've heard a few comments in the locker room here and there,” said Vinopal, a senior free safety and defensive captain. “I make sure everyone knows, ‘Squash it right now.' ”
The most dangerous elements Pitt could encounter against Delaware are the emergence of complacency and snobbery. The Panthers wouldn't be the first team from a Power 5 conference to lose to an FCS (formerly Division I-AA) team.
On opening weekend last year, seven FCS teams defeated their FBS foes, including Eastern Washington's 49-45 upset of then-No. 25 Oregon State and North Dakota State's 24-21 victory against Kansas State, which was the defending Big 12 champion. In years past, Michigan and Virginia Tech were ranked fifth and 13th in the nation when they lost to Appalachian State (2007) and James Madison (2010).
Pitt suffered a less stunning but similar fate two years ago in a 31-17 loss to Youngstown State, Paul Chryst's first game as a head coach. Before the game, Chryst suspended six players for violating team rules.
The convergence of those two events was an indicator that every Pitt player didn't have sufficient respect for the opponent. It was Pitt's only loss to an FCS team in 13 games.
Vinopal, who started against YSU, said the team has matured since then.
“Coach Chryst has done a good job of getting rid of that privileged attitude,” he said. “People are respecting opponents a lot more and taking their jobs a little bit more seriously.
“The culture of the locker room is completely different than a couple years back. There is a definite change, change in attitude, work ethic, preparation, all those things.”
Former Pitt assistant coach Greg Gattuso, now the head coach at Albany, shares conference membership with Delaware in the Colonial Athletic Association. He said Pitt should be careful.
“It's a great league,” said Gattuso, who is in his first year at Albany. “A whole lot closer to competing with MAC schools in many (more) ways than what you would traditionally consider from a I-AA conference.
“Delaware is a good program. It will be a tough opener for (Pitt), for sure.”
Delaware coach Dave Brock said his players are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to play in an NFL stadium. But he does have reservations.
He said he has 50 scholarship players (compared to Pitt's 83). “Thirty of them never played in a game,” he said.
The Big Ten has ruled its schools will stop scheduling FCS opponents beginning in 2016. Brock doesn't totally disagree with that line of thinking.
“I'm not 100 percent sure, year to year, it's great for the program from a competitive standpoint,” said Brock, who was not the coach in 2007 when Delaware and quarterback Joe Flacco defeated Navy, 59-52.
“The injuries are a real factor, and the numbers are a real factor. I think it's a positive thing, but it certainly has some problems.”
That won't prevent Chryst from treading carefully around the Blue Hens.
“We have to understand,” he said, “that every game we play this year will be a game we can win or we can lose.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Young leads Pitt’s new-look lineup past IUP in exhibition opener
- Coastal Division lead within reach for Panthers
- Former Pitt player praises latest recruit
- Pitt basketball team lands 7-foot center
- Academic scandal saddens UNC coach Williams
- Pitt, Chryst pondering next move as stellar Duke defense awaits
- Pitt notebook: RB Ibrahim makes most of opportunity
- Young Pitt secondary has no fear; will be tested against Duke
- Clairton grad Gombar recalls Duke-Pitt games from mid-70s
- Ex-Pitt coach Majors still making his rounds in college football circles
- Pitt hoops picked 6th in ACC preseason poll