Friday night's performance at UConn, in a season full of ups and downs, was arguably the most flat performance of the season by Pitt. The Panthers fell behind 24-0 at UConn in the first half, and despite a late rally, were not able to overcome it.
"That's on me, for not having them ready," head coach Paul Chryst said. "We're disappointed in the outcome and how we started."
One of the many goals this week a to evaluate everyone--himself, players and assistant coaches. Even in talking about that, its clear where Chryst's concerns are; certainly things that were visible Friday night.
"You can take a look at each area, particularly when you have the bye week," Chryst said. "Coaches are taking a look--what are three things my group can get better at. Offensive line, or combinations--linebackers with tackling, cornerbacks with press coverage."
Aside from those aspects of the game that didn't show up Friday, it followed a current theme we've seen in other Pitt losses this season. In losses at Syracuse, to Louisville and at Notre Dame, the Panthers lost those three games by a combined total of 14 points. Throw in the UConn loss by seven points, and that's four losses by a combined total of 21 points. Three more touchdowns, and Pitt can be looking at an 8-2 records at this point, as opposed to being 4-6, fighting for its postseason life.
In those four losses, Pitt has been unable to make one more play--one common theme in a season that has provided an inexplicable variety of highs and lows.
"A play here or there does make a difference," Chryst said. "You have to learn to make those plays. What makes it tough, is we're learning so many things. Some times you need to go through it to win. We haven't done that enough in close games."
That possible bowl game--which chances get thinner each week--is still in sight, something that Chryst addressed for the first time. While there's still no explanation for how Pitt can look so well in its wins, then turn around the next week and look so flat, Chryst took full accountability. Still, its surprising to come out flat 10 games into the season.
"That was disappointing, that's on me," Chryst said "You shouldn't have to be coaching that at any point of the year. We have other guys giving tremendous effort all year. We have to do a better job of coaching."
On the injury front, Chryst hopes the bye week can help players like Hubie Graham and Jason Hendricks, who both left Friday's game injured. He's hopeful the bye week comes at a good time for both to be able to simply rest and recover. Pitt's next game against Big East leader Rutgers has been announced as a noon kickoff, and will be televised by either ESPN or ESPN2.
"I sure hope so, we'll find out," Chryst said, whether or not the two will be back. "We will not do a lot with them practice wise. It depends on how their bodies respond to it. Hubie has been batlling all year. Hooefully he'll be able to finish. Jason was hoping to get back in, but wasn't able to do so. Hopefully, the next week and a half will help them.
"I'm disappointed in the outcome and how we started. UConn made plays and we didn't. We dug ourselves too deep a hole. We have to get better this bye week. We've got some guys this point of the year little bit banged up. We have to be smart in how much we practice them. I'm looking forward to this week and getting some guys back, playing a good Rutgers team and a good South Florida team."