Pitt football-press conference

The University of Pittsburgh football team (6-3 overall) has lost their last two games and they hope to place themselves back into the win column. A great deal of the Panthers on field woes have occurred due to uncharacteristic mistakes. How will these issues be addressed? PantherDigest.com Senior Writer Dale Grdnic reports on Head Coach Dave Wannstedt's press conference.

PITTSBURGH -- Despite being roughed up in three losses, University of Pittsburgh football coach Dave Wannstedt has maintained a positive attitude about the program's direction and chances for future success.

However, after consecutive Big East losses to Rutgers and South Florida when the Panthers made numerous uncharacteristic mistakes -- at least as far as the first half of the season was concerned -- veterans H.B. Blades and Darrelle Revis basically called out some teammates for a recent lack of focus and effort.

Wannstedt admitted Monday that he would rather have had the critique occur on the field or in the locker room, as opposed to being done through the media, but he believed that Blades and Revis -- as much as any Pitt player -- had a right to voice that opinion.

"Obviously, when you're dropping balls and jumping offsides, you're not concentrating enough,'' Wannstedt said. "So, I like the attitude of what they're saying, but let's keep it with us (the team) and make sure that we're all together on it. That's all part of a team maturing through a season.

"(I like to hear), Let's go. Pick it up. All that stuff is good if, No. 1, you really believe it and No. 2, if you go out and do it yourself. That all sounds good, but now you have to be the guy in front. So, that's a little bit of frustration for that reaction by those guys.''

Wannstedt expected to discuss the situation with the team at practice Monday afternoon and then close the matter after that as Pitt (6-3 overall, 2-2 in the Big East) gets ready to face Connecticut (3-5, 0-3) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn.

Quarterback Tyler Palko said he was unaware about what Blades and Revis said, but he believed that a player should be able to handle any comments by a teammate and should not take them personally.

"If you can't handle a teammate saying something like that and you take it personal, don't handle it like a man, you need to look at yourself in the mirror,'' Palko said. "Those guys know if they didn't give the right amount of effort, and they got called out for it. It's part of being a man, to accept those things, but I don't know if that's happening.

"When you have a young team, maybe they don't know how to win. But we're learning how to do that, how to be a football team, but we started from ground zero when Coach Wannstedt came here. You're going to have bumps in the road. I would hope that didn't happen (guys dogging it), but if it did then we'll get it corrected. And we'll get it going in the right direction.''

While Blades didn't single out any player, he and Palko, as well as Wannstedt, talked about the slow development by younger players in the program -- the freshmen, in particular -- who have had to play considerably this season due to several key injuries.

"Freshmen have had to step in and play key roles for us ... and it's a transition for them,'' Blades said. "So, we have to get everyone together and get going in the right direction. Expectations are what they are, but they can look at the veterans and perform to the best of their abilities and step up to make some plays, the way other guys are doing it.''

John Malecki was cited for his strong game against South Florida. The freshman defensive tackle has not had to start this season like classmate Joe Thomas at right guard after fifth-year senior John Simonitis was injured, but he has been a major contributor up front. And had a season-high three tackles, including one for a loss, at USF.

The only other frosh in a starting role on offense is redshirt freshman Oderick Turner at flanker. However, first- or second-year freshmen are backups at wideout, two offensive line spots and at tailback. On defense, frosh play critical roles on the defensive line and three of four backup spots in the secondary.

"Everything's heading in the right direction, but everybody wants things to happen right now,'' Palko said. "Heck, I do, too. I'd love to be 7-0, 8-0 and going to a BCS game. But it takes time. "We have some guys that are going to be good football players for us and for this program, but it's going to take some time.''

And with leaders like Palko, Blades and Revis showing the way, Pitt's young players should be ready for whatever the future brings.

Notes: Wannstedt said that TE Darrell Strong was suspended for at least this week for making an obscene gesture to the USF fans after he scored a touchdown. Strong will not be part of the team at all this week and will only concentrate on academics. His status will be evaluated again Sunday. ... DE Chris McKillop (left knee) was injured by a leg whip after the whistle during the USF game and will get an MRI this week to determine his status for the rest of the season. He does not need surgery and is doubtful for UConn. ... After playing the Huskies, the Panthers play host to WVU Nov. 16, the Thursday before Thanksgiving, and Louisville Nov. 25, the Saturday after it.

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