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Pitt

Pitt puts focus to test in jumbled ACC Coastal race

Jerry DiPaola
| Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, 10:42 p.m.
Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas rolls out as Zach Laskey (37) blocks during the first half Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014, in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas rolls out as Zach Laskey (37) blocks during the first half Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014, in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Pitt quarterback Chad Voytik looks to throw against Va. Tech Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt quarterback Chad Voytik looks to throw against Va. Tech Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014 at Heinz Field.

Pitt may play more important games than its encounter Saturday with Georgia Tech at Heinz Field.

But the best way for the rest of the season to truly matter is for Pitt to win this one.

More than halfway through its schedule, Pitt (4-3, 2-1) looks up to find itself in a three-way tie for first place in the ACC Coastal with Duke (6-1, 2-1) and Virginia (4-3, 2-1). Meanwhile, Georgia Tech (5-2, 2-2) hopes to break its two-game losing streak, and Miami (5-3, 2-2), with its vast collection of playmakers, won't go away after routing Virginia Tech, 30-6, on Thursday.

That look at the Coastal standings is presented in the event Pitt quarterback Chad Voytik might be reading this. Voytik said earlier this week he had no idea he was the starting quarterback for a first-place team.

“That's good news,” he said. “We really don't know what is going on, to be honest with you, outside of our team. We are just focusing on us.”

That's the kind of news coach Paul Chryst likes to hear.

“That's not to say we don't have goals or a big-picture focus,” Chryst said. “But you have to rein them in.

“At the end of the year, if you win enough games, that's where you end up. It's not that complicated.”

If that is truly the mindset in the locker room, Pitt might have turned a corner. The Panthers were caught patting themselves on the back after starting the season 3-0, and then lost the next three.

“(The losing streak) could be the best thing that ever happened to us,” Voytik said.

Every game will be critical because they all count in the ACC standings — three at home (Georgia Tech, Duke and Syracuse) and two on the road (North Carolina and Miami). The winner of the Coastal gets a ticket to the ACC Championship game Dec. 6 in Charlotte, N.C., against the Atlantic champion. Right now, that's No. 2 Florida State.

Pitt remains relatively healthy in the second half of the season, other than backup defensive linemen Luke Maclean and Tyrique Jarrett (foot injuries).

Voytik has an injured tendon in his left (non-throwing) hand, but he has been dealing with that since the Florida International game Sept. 13.

“Each game it's found a way to get hit,” said Voytik, who was caught last week by ESPN cameras icing the hand. “It keeps swelling up. Last game, it took a really nice hit on the touchdown pass.”

With Voytik's focus, pain and midseason conference standings are of little consequence.

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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