Notebook: Paul Chryst Press Conference

Paul Chryst looks ahead to Iowa, also looking back at the win over Florida International,

Pittsburgh and Iowa meet on Saturday, an important game for both teams when it comes to carrying the flag for their respective conference.

The Panthers are 3-0 after they had to come from behind to beat Florida International on Saturday, while Iowa is coming off a 20-17 loss to in-state rival Iowa State.

One thing we learned on Monday, as Pitt head coach Paul Chryst met with the media for his weekly press conference, is that the loss Iowa suffered doesn't change his opinion of how good this Iowa team can be.

"This is a big week for us, an exciting week for us," Chryst said. "We get to get back home and play at home. We're looking forward to playing a good, well-coached Iowa team."

* If you look at this game on paper, the best-looking matchup on paper has to be Pitt's running game against Iowa's run defense. Pitt ranks first in the ACC, fourth nationally, with 344.3 yards per game on the ground. Iowa ranks first in the Big Ten, yielding just 131 yards a game, 3.6 a carry, and has not given up a run of 20 yards or more.

Pitt's ground game, led by James Conner and his 181.3 yards a game will face its toughest test of the season, as will the Iowa run defense. Chryst says Iowa's success in stopping the run is no surprise, given by the way they've been coached over the years and the overall philosophy of the program.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach (Kirk) Ferentz. He believes in a physical offense, physical defense. It'll be a good atmosphere, a good physical game. It's a great opportunity."

* For a second game in a row, and if we're learning something about this 2014 Pitt team, it is how they've handled adversity in their last two wins. At Boston College, they had to come back from an early deficit, and they also had to deal with the loss of starting center Artie Rowell. At Florida International, they trailed 16-0 after one quarter of play, before outscoring the Golden Panthers 42-9 the rest of the way.

Within that comeback, and after scoring their first 23 points, the Panthers had to endure a lightning delay--a tough thing to overcome after establishing some momentum. After the delay, they were able to maintain that momentum.

Chryst can't place an area, or even if there's a single person responsible for leading this team through a couple bits of adversity. Only to say that the team has done it in these last two wins.

"Each piece of adversity is different, one side of the ball is different," Chryst said. "You can't compare it to last year. I appreciate the way they respond. We self inflict it too. We just have to keep getting better."

He did cite senior leadership as one of the positives he's seen so far.

"Our seniors, I've enjoyed being around them," Chryst said. "We need all of our seniors to be good. None of those seniors are playing perfect, but they're approached it the right way."

One of those seniors who's had a good three games to start the year, is linebacker Anthony Gonzalez. For his first two years in the program, Gonzalez was a quarterback, a receiver and an H-back. He was moved to defense when Chryst took over. Even at that time, he wasn't on the two-deep at safety. He's been a starter at linebacker, dating back to the end of the 2012 season, and has been an important fixture of the defense since then. Especially now, where he leads the team with 15 tackles after three games.

"I've had a chance to be with him for three years, it's nice for him to be at the same position," Chryst said. "He certainly is a talented football player. He and Ray (Vinopal) led the team with snaps. They do a ton of stuff for us. It's fun being around our seniors, I've enjoyed being around them."

* Redshirt freshman Alex Officer made his first career start at center, and is listed as the starter for this week. Chryst said he will have Officer and redshirt sophomore Gabe Roberts to continue for that starting center spot.

"Talking to (Officer) after the game, he admitted about being nervous," Chryst said. "I thought he did some good things. I thought he did some real good things. A lot of these guys, it's about doing some real simple things. There was a quarterback-center exchange with him and Trey (Anderson). Certainly a lot of things he can get better at. Great opportunities for both of them.

"We still, we want to look at them. It forces them to truly grow. If one is approaching it like 'I'm the guy,' and the other is not."

* Another redshirt freshman made his first start on Saturday, as Luke Maclean started in place of David Durham at defensive end. Durham stayed back in Pittsburgh with an undisclosed injury. Chryst said is status for Saturday will be determined as the week plays out. It was his hope that if he stayed in Pittsburgh to rest it off, it would speed up his recovery.

"Hopefully we'll get (Durham) back; hopefully it will be sooner than later," Chryst added.

In addition to Maclean, true freshman Rori Blair saw some more snaps in first- and second-down situations, aside from his pass-rushing role.

After the game Saturday, running back James Conner was quoted as saying that maybe Pitt was looking past Florida International, attributing to the slow start. Chryst said it was troubling to hear what Conner had to say, but at the same time, he might be right.

"I don't love hearing that, first and foremost," Chryst said. "It's about us as a team. Every opportunity you get to play, if he said it, I believe him. I have to do a better job of making guys see the reality of things. If he said it, I believe it."

* Chryst also said there's nothing worth reading into why he brought Anderson in for a series at quarterback, only for a chance to give starter Chad Voytik a chance to just watch on series. He says this is a teaching point for the quarterback position, but also--as he said after the Delaware game--a chance to reward Anderson with some snaps.

"He never got into a great rhythm, but I love the way he competes," Chryst said of Voytik. "That's not easy, his first pass, and he takes a shot. There's times where you have to be able to take what the defense gives you. He needed to sit back, and see. I also wanted to give Trey some snaps. I love the way (Voytik) is approaching stuff. None of us are where we want to be. We are just trying to have a good plan for him."


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