Pitt Football: Monday Notebook

Pitt players, coaches reflect on Friday's missed opportunities. There were some good things to come out of Friday's game; the return of Todd Thomas and the progression being displayed by Pitt's receivers.

Not an easy Monday Press conference to come into, but Paul Chryst didn't shy away from it. Friday's 14-13 loss was one that Pitt let get away. In the few days since then, he's been pleased with the team's mentality to move on.

"We just have to eliminate some of the things which is the matter between winning and losing," Chryst said. "I like this group. I like the way they accept responsibility. Give Syracuse credit, and give a lot of our guys credit. We have to find a way to get over the hump."

One of the most glaring numbers from Friday's game was the five sacks allowed by the Pitt offensive line. One play that helped decide the game was a sack off a corner blitz. Quarterback Tino Sunseri was sacked. Receiver Mike Shanahan said he was wide-open in the end zone as a result of that corner blitz.

"We had a good call, but just a little mishap on the protection," Shanahan said. "It happens. There's some times when there's the running backs and the offensive linemen did a good job, but (receivers) didn't get open. It just happened. There's not much else to say."

Chryst did admit some concerns about the offensive line, even sounding less than optimistic about the line's depth.

"I think they're getting better, no (backup) is at the point where they're ready to take over," Chryst said. "I think they're working, I think they're getting better. I think right now, those are the five best."

Chris Jacobson--when asked if he would be able to move to tackle--quickly declined, saying that everyone is behind Cory King.

"Left tackle, that's hard," Jacobson said. "You have to have long arms. I don't have the longest arms. It is hard, especially a guy who has been there just one year. That's a tough position, but Cory is a hard worker. Coach (Jim) Hueber gets on him a lot."

Both Chryst and some of the players said Monday that freshman running back Rushel Shell has been bothered by a nagging back injury. Shell played sparingly on Friday, but nowhere near the capability he had two weeks ago in a win over Virginia Tech. Chryst said he expects Shell to be able to go this week, but admits they keeping a close eye on his back.

"He was limited a bit in practice, when he's been healthy, he's a player who is capable of making a pretty big impact," Chryst said. "I think he got better by the end of the week. Hopefully hell have a better week of practice."

Through five games, Mike Shanahan and Devin Street are having career years. Shanahan already has two 100-yard games, and is second on the team with 25 catches for 451 yards with 3 touchdowns. Street leads the team with 28 catches for 403 yards and 2 touchdowns, largely in part to a career game on Friday. Street finished with 10 catches for 130 yards, including 8 catches for 107 yards in the first half alone.

Despite those big numbers in the first half, Street said he was feeling the double-team early and often. He felt as others--Shanahan and Cameron Saddler--got involved, he became more open.

"It was in the first quarters, but after that they started laying off a little bit," Street said. "I felt that, but other guys have to step up and make plays. I felt we did do that."

One other bright spot was the return of linebacker Todd Thomas. Thomas had an offseason knee surgery to repair a partial tear in his left knee. He sat out the spring, recovering. He played linebacker at times on Friday, and also on special teams.

A few days removed from his first game of the season, Thomas is ready for more. He racked up a tackle on his first series of the game.

"It felt real good after being out for so long," Thomas said. "I was almost in tears, it had been so long. I wanted to kill him (on the tackle). That was the first time for me hitting like that. It felt good."

Thomas also said he is more than happy to play special teams, in addition to pushing for time at linebacker. Currently, he is not listed on the two-deep at linebacker, but it seems the Pitt coaches are not hesitant about using him.

"I love special teams, that's what I do," Thomas said.

Thomas said that teammate Dan Mason--who returned to the field for the first time in two years--was motivating to him during his rehab.

"Dan inspired me a lot," Thomas said. "When I was going through my second (knee injury), Dan said, 'Just stop. I broke my whole leg, and I was out for two years, so stop crying.' He inspired me a lot."

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