Press Conference Notes

Pitt will look to get back on the winning side, when they host Akron this Saturday at Heinz Field.

Paul Chryst held his Monday press conference, his team still reeling off a 24-20 loss to Iowa on Saturday.

Pitt will try to turn its attention to Akron, but it's clear there is still some emphasis being put on the Iowa loss. There was some of that same thing a week ago, even after a win, as Chryst said he was placing an emphasis on some of the mistakes in the win. Things always seem to accentuate after a loss.

"There are certainly things that we’ve got to clean up," Chryst said. "There will be every game you play. [We’re] looking forward to this week. Seeing the guys that came in yesterday—love where they’re at. Truly looking forward to having a good week and getting to play again Saturday.”

Most painful, after a week of hype surrounding Iowa's run defense, then watching Pitt jump to a 20-7 lead over the Hawkeyes while running the ball, Iowa was able to make some adjustments at halftime that Pitt could not overcome.

“It was a couple things that we missed," Chryst said. "On a couple of those runs, we didn’t handle movement. We had a couple mental errors. If we keep it inside, it’s a little bit different. So, I think it came down to those types of things. Execution.”

* Part of Iowa's comeback centered around the second-half performance of quarterback C.J. Beathard, who came off the bench to complete 7-8 passes for 98 yards, which included a 62-yarder to Iowa receiver Damond Powell.

Though much of the focus on Iowa was on their physical style of play, Pitt was expecting Iowa to go deep--a luring in, of sorts. Pitt got beat. Today, Chryst attributed it not as much on the secondary as many would expect, but moreso on the defense as a whole, specifically on third and fourth down situations.

“A lot of it defensively could be attributed to eye control and eye discipline," Chryst said. "Just seeing who you have, what you have, and living in that moment. I thought [Iowa] did a good job. They ran the ball well, so they had some manageables. But that third-and-longer one, I thought that was a big play. There’s a lot of those things just in how we’re playing the technique and trusting the technique that are correctable and need to be corrected. The first touchdown they had was just that, eyes and holding true to your assignment, and it didn’t happen. You feel like you can correct that. You can learn from that. Now we’ve got to go do it.”

* One area Chryst may put some emphasis this week, is in the pass rushing department. While this was the first real test of the season, in terms of facing a dominant offensive line--Iowa was dominant in holding Pitt to no sacks on Saturday. Part of that, may be getting senior David Durham back to full strength.

Durham missed the Florida International game, then played limited against Iowa. True freshman Rori Blair made the start on Saturday.

"He didn’t take a step backwards," Chryst said. "Our hope was to get some out of him, hopefully, with practice. Today’s not a physical one. Tuesday and Wednesday we’ll get an idea of what he can handle. You appreciate what he is doing to get back in, and we’d like to have him."

On Blair's progress?

"I think that he’s learning," Chryst said. "He’s a guy that gives great effort. I think a lot of these guys, young and old, are still trying to learn how to develop, how to learn, how to prepare for a game, how to manage your schedule of classes and sleep. I think Rori’s going through all that, but when he’s here, he’s a guy that gives a lot of effort. Takes the coaching from J.P. [defensive ends coach John Palermo], so you like that and you appreciate that.”

* Here's an interesting number to keep an eye on, for this week. Hard to believe, coming out of training camp a month ago, that we actually believed we would see multiple backs. James Conner leads the way with 110 of Pitt's 209 rushes this season. Second on the team is quarterback Chad Voytik, with 25 carries. Chris James, Isaac Bennett and Rachid Ibrahim have combined for 53 carries.

Maybe that number shouldn't be so shocking considering the year Conner is having. When looking at the receiver numbers, Tyler Boyd leads the way with 21 receptions out of a possible 51 completions. The next guy in line, in Manasseh Garner with nine.

Basically, Conner and Boyd have touched the ball on 131 of Pitt's 254 offensive plays. If you're defending Pitt, that means there's a one in two chance that either Conner and Boyd are going to get the ball.

You certainly can't blame quarterback Chad Voytik for that, who threw for a career-high 250 yards on Saturday against Iowa. A more balanced game plan, however, may be in the works. However, Chryst says sometimes, in the case of this team after four games, you are who you are.

"I learned this a long time ago from my dad," Chryst said. "He said, ‘Tendencies aren’t all bad. You’ve got to know who you are, and then play off of them.’ You guys know this, you’ve been to a lot of football games, seen a lot. There’s going to be games where we’re going to have to win it running the football, and there’s going to be games where we’re going to have to throw to win. At the end of the year, you want to be balanced in the threat of it. I don’t care about the number, per se. It changes if you’re running the ball well, and if you’ve got more normal down-and-distance, then your numbers will spike a little bit. If you’re in a game where you’re catching up, you’re down two, three scores, the pass numbers will go up. I think it’s a byproduct of a lot of things. Not overly concerned. I’d rather be 70-30 run-pass than 30-70 right now.”

Chryst also praised Voytik for his development through four games, and throughout Saturday's game.

"I thought there were a couple where the ball could have gone to someone else, but it also gave him a chance," Chryst said. "[I’m] not going to be one of those guys to second-guess if it’s not there. Yeah, we want to get our tight ends the ball. We want to get everyone [involved]. I’m no stranger to that. He’s got to keep growing. We’ve got to keep going. But yeah, I like the progress he’s making and what he’s seeing. Each week’s a little bit different. That’s kind of fun. You’ve got a whole other preparation, and I love the way he’s working. I think that’s helping him. He’d probably be the first to admit that he’s not where he wants to be, but he is making some progress, I think.”< /p>


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