Pitt is coming off a 47-17 win over Temple, completing another two-game winning streak and looking impressive as they have in earlier wins this season.
Tino Sunseri had another big game--20-28 passing for 321 yards and 3 touchdowns. Sunseri has completed at least 71 percent of his passes four times this season, and has thrown for three scores in three games. Ray Graham bounced back from a bit of a slump with 109 yards on the ground with two touchdowns, his best output in four games. Yet, for all the questions surrounding both players all season--neither was mentioned during Paul Chryst's Monday press conference.
Instead, injuries and putting names on the back of jerseys were the hot topics. The injuries, obviously being the more serious.
The big one for Pitt is linebacker Dan Mason, who returned to the starting lineup against Buffalo, and tied for the team lead with 11 stops. Mason followed that up with 10 tackles in the win on Saturday, but suffered an unfortunate injury at the end. This time, its a lacerated liver--an injury that will end Mason's season. Pitt head coach Paul Chryst spent some time with Mason and his family on Sunday. One thing he's already noticed about Mason, just two days after this latest setback, is Mason's willingness to come back again.
"He sure didn't seem like, 'oh woe is me,'" Chryst said. "You don't overcome his previous injury with that kind of attitude. He seemed all right. We're hoping that it will continue the tract that it is."
Chryst also officially ruled offensive lineman Ryan Schlieper out for the remainder of the season. Schlieper suffered a foot injury in Saturday's win. Linebacker Manny Williams has been out the last two games with a torn ACL. There was some hope that Williams might be able to put off surgery and possibly return late in the year for a bowl game. Williams, however, has opted to go the surgery route.
The offensive line had been intact the entire season, a remarkable feat for a thin group in terms of depth. Arthur Doakes came in for Schlieper, and will likely make his first career start on Saturday at Notre Dame.
"I told Arthur, 'you better not go to class this week,'" senior lineman Chris Jacobson joked. "He will be fine, though. Arthur is a big man. He did a good job last week, stepping in there."
NAME PLATES BACK
One of the most noticeable changes when Pitt kicked the season off on September 1, was the disappearance of player names on the back of their jerseys. Now, Chryst says the name plates will go back on.
Asked why the names are going back on, Chryst had a simple answer.
"Just that," Chryst said. "I knew it s important to them. I thought it was the right thing for this group at this time. We have some guys doing some real unselfish acts. It is important to a lot of guys."
One player, however, who could take it or leave it is Ryan Turnley. It's clear that he possesses the lineman's mantra, when asked about whether or not it's important to hae the name on the back of his jersey.
"Not at all," Turnley said, when asked if he was bothered at the beginning of the season not having a name on his jersey. "That's not a devastating blow for a center."
CHRYST ON NOTRE DAME'S DEFENSE
Notre Dame's defense is arguably tops in the country. The Irish has allowed just 9.9 points a game. A big part of that is linebacker Manti Te'o and defensive lineman Louis Nix. Te'o leads the team with 80 tackles, but also has five interceptions on the season--an impressive feat for a linebacker.
The defensive unit has impressed Chryst, and he feels the players around Te'o and Nix make them what the are, and vice-versa.
"I think (Te'o) is extremely talented," Chryst said. "The players around him, they do their job. He's sudden. He's powerful. You had a great player. He makes those around him better, and they make him better. There's a lot of good players on that defense."