Pitt head coach Paul Chryst addressed the media on Monday and spoke about the win on Saturday over Rutgers.
“I’m very proud of the way the guys played Saturday. I thought it was a good finish for the seniors and their last game at Heinz Field," Chryst said. "The thing that I enjoyed the most is I thought it was a good team game. Guys fed off of each other and their energy. For those guys to be able to finish their career with a good win like that, a team win, I thought it was pretty neat."
He stated that Pitt played a solid game on Saturday and he was not sure why some games turn out better than others and if there's a fine line between winning and losing a game.
“I don’t know. The trouble I have answering that is every game I’ve ever been in or gone in to, you feel like there’s a fine line. Maybe when you look back on it, every game I go in to it, you’re hoping you get a first down, you’re hoping you can tackle a guy. You look back on games where you won by large margins, not one game I went in to saying this is going to be a good one, this will be easy," Chryst said. "I guess my point is that every game there’s a fine line and you have to play good football and do the things that lead to winning games. I think it is a fine line and I’ve always believed that. I don’t know if it’s more now, than before.”
Chryst feels it is the job of himself and his assistant coaches to spend as much time as it takes on and off the field to prepare the Panthers to get over the hump of that fine line.
“We’re not real smart to begin with, so you’ve got to watch it a little longer. It’s a neat world to be in, but you have one week and you better maximize that because you have one opportunity. I know as a coach, the players put themselves out on the field and they’re between the lines," Chryst said. "Your job is to give them everything possible to help them play the best they can play. Whether that’s added information, if it’s a different type of play or making sure whatever you’re doing, this is the coverage we want to be in. You just want to make sure you’re right because that’s your job. That’s why we spend the time we spend.”
Chryst also commented on some of the players including quarterback Tino Sunseri, running back Ray Graham, and wide receiver Devin Street, and Ed Tinker. During the game, Street was injured and was taken off the field for observations in his ribs area.
“[Street] is feeling much better. During the game he went and had some precautionary things. We wanted to make sure of some things and you appreciate that," Chryst said. "He did a little bit yesterday, but tomorrow we’ll know more. We’ll go out and practice and ‘how does it feel?’ Hopefully he’ll be ready to go. He seemed like he’s feeling alright.”
After Street was knocked out of the game, redshirt junior wide receiver Ed Tinker took over. Chryst felt Tinker did a good job filling in.
“[Tinker] had his moment and now can he add on to it, absolutely. You can’t take that away from him and yet he should do that. You go here and you practice and if you’re out there, they’re all good enough to make plays. You’re glad that he did, but I also like the fact that Tino didn’t hesitate to go to him. I thought it was good and we need depth and we need him to grow. You’re certainly happy when guys have a chance to do something significant.”
Sunseri currently has a streak of 245 passes without an interception, which leads the country. He is ranked fourth on Pitt's all-time list for career passing yards and total offensive yards.
“I[Sunseri's improvement] s a culmination of a lot of things. I felt all along when we talked about what does experience give you. It’s a new system, but he understands the importance of taking care of the football. That comes with experience. It comes from being burned on it and he’s grown up with it," Chryst said. "I think we are growing and still growing in all our areas with what we’re doing and certainly the passing game. The more that you have an understanding that you can trust things and cut it loose a little sooner. We’ve got to prove it.”
After returning from season-ending surgery, Graham has responded this year. He has four 100-yard rushing games this season and is 16 yards away from moving into second place on Pitt's all-time rushing list (3,192 yards).
“Each guy has a story and Ray’s story this year is not just what he’s done, but where he’s come from with a significant injury last year. In a team sport, anything individual is as much an acknowledgement of the team as the individual. Granted, guys do it and he’s run for so many yards and you appreciate that, but no one does it on their own and that’s the neat thing. The teams I’ve been around and groups I’ve been around, they’ve got that. I think Ray would also admit that," Chryst said. "I’ve seen a lineman be more proud of a 1,000 yard rusher than the back. That’s the great thing when you have a good team, the feeling is that this is our reward. All the good teams and all the good players I’ve been around there’s been that sense."
Graham will enter the game asainst South Florida only 52 yards away from his first 1000-yard season in his four-year career at Pitt.
"Certainly [running for 1,000 yards] is still a significant milestone. He hasn’t done it yet and we’ve got a lot certainly as a team to play for and some of these individual things that come are by-products," Chryst said. "The thing I love about it is you’ve got to go do it.”
Graham started the season tentatively but has excelled as the year has progressed.
“You guys all saw it. Really it wasn’t until the last three, four games where it felt like he (was confident). Him taking the brace off was significant in a lot of ways. For the first time, he felt confidence," Chryst said. "We’re going to need him to be good. He has to be good for us if we want to win.”
The next chance the Panthers have to get a win is this Saturday in their last regular season game. If they win, they become bowl-eligible. Stay tuned to Panther247 tomorrow as Chryst gives his thoughts on Pitt's next opponent, the University of South Florida.