On Monday, Pitt head coach Paul Chryst addressed the Panthers' next opponent which is Big East foe Rutgers on Saturday, the last game at of the season at Heinz Field.
“I thought we had a good bye week. We had good energy and it was fun to be around the players. We practiced [Sunday]. I thought the guys were locked in and I liked that," Chryst said. "[Monday] they have off and then we’ll go into a normal week of preparation. I’m really excited to go play again and I’m looking forward to, hopefully, our seniors playing a great game in their last home game at Heinz Field.”
According to Chryst, even though it is Thanksgiving week, the team will still need to focus on preparing for the game and take some time out to celebrate the holiday.
"We’ll still have a normal week of preparation. It’s pretty cool that we have a lot of guys from around here and, from my understanding, in the past they bring other guys (who live out of town) with them," Chryst said. "They’ll have a chance to spend some time with their families and still really not skip a beat in preparation.”
Chryst expects the Scarlet Knights, who are undefeated in the Big East this year, 9-1 overall, to be a challenge.
"Rutgers, I had a chance to watch a little bit more film than a normal game day and I’m impressed with them. Obviously their record speaks for itself. At this point, when you’re 9-1 you’ve done a lot and it’s not by accident," Chryst said. "They're good on defense and they have some weapons on offense. They’ve got good players. I think they’re well coached."
One such Rutgers player, quarterback Gary Nova, originally committed to Pitt when Dave Wannstedt was head coach. Chryst did not recruit him when at Wisconsin but was familiar with him. He credited Nova in being a challenge to defend.
“I knew of [Nova]. I think he’s got an understanding of what they want to do offensively. I think he’s got a feel for whom his playmakers are," Chryst said. "He’s been in some situations and to me it looks like he plays with some poise and toughness. Those are qualities you always appreciate in a quarterback.”
On defense, the Scarlet Knights pressure the pocket and force turnovers.
"Defensively, they’re taking the ball away. Absolutely they’ll pressure. I don’t think it is kind of an all-or-nothing deal for them. They can be aggressive and be effective without pressuring," Chryst said. "Some teams that becomes their identity, that’s who they are. I think they mix it up well, but absolutely we have to be ready to handle pressure.”
Pitt has played inconsistent this year but Chryst hopes the scale tips back toward the winning column to end the season on a high note. The Panthers need win their final two games to be bowl-eligible.
“[Performance on the field] has been consistently inconsistent. It’s been different things each game. We’ve got to learn from those lessons. To me, it hasn’t been as simple as get this one thing corrected and we’re good. That’s alright in the sense that you don’t know and you can’t script it and that’s how it goes. You’ve got to react and try to correct what’s presently in need of being corrected," Chryst said. "I thought we took advantage of last week and we’ll take advantage this week. At this point right now, I’d be all for following that 2-2-2 schedule. (Winning two and then losing two.) We’ve got to go earn that one though.”