Pitt QB Savage cleared to play
The good news surrounding Pitt is not its record (3-1 and halfway to bowl eligibility) or its three-game winning streak or its standing in ESPN's latest ACC power rankings (No. 5).
All of that means nothing with two-thirds of the season to play.
The truly good news — what gives Pitt its best chance to upset No. 24 Virginia Tech on Saturday and start a run toward ACC respectability — is quarterback Tom Savage's recovery from a head injury.
Coach Paul Chryst said Monday that Pitt medical personnel have cleared Savage to practice this week after he took off most of the previous nine days since the injury Sept. 28 against Virginia.
Not only is Savage's head clear of concussion symptoms he suffered during and after the Cavaliers game, but Chryst also said his players aren't getting big heads after their modest run of success. They appear to be following the lead of their head coach, who understates almost everything about his team.
Asked how he keeps his team simultaneously grounded and confident, Chryst said, “We just throw the (game) tape on again.”
Doing so will show a defense that has not identified its strengths after allowing 55 points one week and just a field goal the next.
It will show an offense that is one of three in the nation with two receivers averaging more than 100 yards per game (Devin Street and Tyler Boyd). Yet Pitt couldn't score more than 14 points against a Virginia team that allowed Ball State 48 a week later.
Chryst said confidence — like success — is an earned trait.
“What's written in the papers or rankings doesn't matter,” he said. “We've got guys working and gaining confidence, but I don't think anybody feels like they've arrived yet. I would be really disappointed if that was the case.
“The game makes all of us honest.”
A good example is senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the NCAA active leader in career sacks (24 1⁄2) after getting six in the first four games this season.
“Really?” Donald said of his lofty national standing, unaware he ranked so high. “I just go out there and play.”
Pitt (3-1, 2-1) finds itself among the top teams in the ACC Coastal Division, but Chryst is unimpressed.
“We talk about being the best you can be,” he said. “We talk about playing good football. Winning is a byproduct of doing all of the little things right. It's important to focus on things you can control. You can control your approach. You can control what you can improve on.
“It's OK to see the big picture, but that's the beautiful thing about sports: You focus on the now.”
Notes: Chryst said linebacker Shane Gordon (ribs) and defensive end Bryan Murphy (ankle) will try to practice this week, but he made no promises about their availability Saturday. Neither Gordon, Murphy nor Savage participated in contact drills last week. ... Pitt's game Oct. 19 against Old Dominion will start at 7 p.m. at Heinz Field and will be televised by Root Sports.