TribLIVE

| Sports


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Pitt's obscure opener still matters

ACC Videos

Friday, Aug. 29, 2014, 8:51 p.m.
 

Pitt opens its 2014 season at noon Saturday when some Friday night revelers are just waking up.

If you can't get to Heinz Field in time, however, you still can watch it. Here's hoping your computer pulls in ESPN3. Yes, this is one of those rare games — it's not on traditional TV.

Compare that to last year's opener when Pitt played eventual national champion Florida State on ESPN. Heinz Field was rocking with a sellout crowd of 65,500 for the Panthers' first venture into the ACC. Pitt coach Paul Chryst said his players barely know the difference.

“If you didn't tell them, they'd think they are still in prime time,” he said.

Despite the relative obscurity of the game, there is much at stake beyond what could be perceived nationally as a meaningless game against an FCS team.

Pitt hasn't had a winning regular season since 2010 — the year Dave Wannstedt was fired — and it has been a long, hard road since that time. Losing to Delaware wouldn't immediately set back Chryst's efforts to correct that, but it would feed the belief Pitt is having a difficult time taking that next step up the college football ladder.

Some positive signs surfaced late last season when Pitt beat Notre Dame and won a bowl game. Legitimate stars Tyler Boyd and James Conner led that resurgence, and they are back for at least two more seasons.

Chryst added new faces, including freshman running back Chris James and sophomore cornerback Reggie Mitchell.

Chryst said James will share early-down carries with Conner. Mitchell, a transfer from Wisconsin, will start at cornerback.

Mitchell began the summer as a safety, but when an opening emerged at cornerback, he seized the opportunity. It was his original position upon leaving Shady Side Academy.

“We talked about that when he came out of high school,” said Chryst, who was on the Wisconsin staff that recruited Mitchell. “It wasn't a hard one to wrap your brain around.”

Mitchell has a challenging day ahead of him because of the Blue Hens' veteran passing combination of quarterback Trent Hurley, a three-year starter, and 6-foot-2, 210-pound wide receiver Michael Johnson, who has totaled 104 receptions for 1,495 yards and 13 touchdowns the past two seasons.

Of less consequence is the matter of Chryst's 0-2 record in Pitt openers.

“It's really important for the group,” he said. “It doesn't bother me any. That's not to say you are fine with losing — 1-0 is a better than 0-1, no doubt.”

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

 

 

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.
 
 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Pitt

  1. Pitt football fights to overcome steppingstone status
  2. Pitt players support Rudolph for job
  3. Assistant at Duke eyes Pitt football job
  4. Michigan State defensive coordinator a Pitt coaching candidate
  5. Time is of essence for Pitt in finding football coach, athletic director
  6. Pitt’s acting athletic director is deft facilitator
  7. Starkey: Pederson had to go at Pitt
  8. Pitt offensive coordinator Rudolph still focused on Panthers
  9. Position move fits Pitt sophomore Artis
  10. Star Hayward enjoys go-to role for St. Francis (Pa.)
  11. Pederson’s 2nd tenure as Pitt AD comes to abrupt end