Monday Notebook: Injuries Continue To Mount

In Saturday's game alone, Pitt had to shuffle its offensive line three times during the game, were without one tight end, and lost its quarterback and leading receiver for a short time. Right guard Matt Rotheram talks about the the offensive line regrouping, battling through injuries, and how the line rallies around Savage.

Back to the drawing board for Pitt, coming off Saturday's 34-27 loss to North Carolina.

One factor that affected Pitt prior to Saturday's game, during Saturday's game, and now even after Saturday's game.

Adam Bisnowaty missed his second game of the season, still bothered by a back injury. In his place, true freshman Dorian Johnson made his second career start.

Johnson is not solely to blame for Pitt's struggles on the line on Saturday, which included seven sacks allowed. Head coach Paul Chryst did make a change, putting fifth-year senior Juantez Hollins in for Johnson in the third quarter. On the first two drives that Hollins was in, no sacks were allowed, and Pitt scored two touchdowns.

"I thought at the time that Juantez would give us a little bit better chance," Chryst said. "I thought Dorian did some very good things. In many ways, he played better than the Georgia Tech game. With Juantez, you get an older guy and an experienced guy. We made the switch during the course of the game."

In addition to Bisnowaty, Cory King has had to miss the last five games due to a back injury. Luckily, Pitt has another fifth-year senior in Ryan Schlieper filling in for King--also an experienced player. Still, injuries have disrupted to cohesiveness of the line.

"You're concerned about them and you don't know what drove those (injuries)," Chryst said. "They didn't just happen. You want to know if it's something we're doing here and then evaluate it. We want everyone playing and appreciate the guys who have had opportunities and are stepping in. That is part of football. You want Cory King to be able to finish out his senior season playing. I know [Adam] Bisnowaty is fighting through it."

Pitt was also without reserve defensive backs Trenton Coles and Titus Howard. Neither are with the first-team, but both play significant roles with the special team units.

Chryst was quick to point out that it wasn't one person, or one area that led to North Carolina's Ryan Switzer returning two punts for touchdowns. He did say, without blaming Coles' injury, that he's a player who could have made a difference in not allowing a touchdown on either case.

"We don't know if Trenton on the field changes things," Chryst said. "The first kickoff, though, if Trenton is in here, I'm not so sure it's a different play. He's got the speed to make a play from behind. I don't know if Trenton would have made a difference, but I sure like our (special teams) units when he's on them."

Looking ahead, Pitt was also without Ejuan Price and Scott Orndoff. Price had been out the last three games with an undisclosed injury, while Orndoff missed his first game of the season this past week. Chryst wouldn't rule either out for the remainder of the season, but did say Orndoff is probably the furthest away from being able to come back.

Durin Saturday's game, quarterback Tom Savage and receiver Devin Street went down to different injuries. It looked like Savage, just before halftime, eithe sprained his left knee, or hyperextended it. He missed the final three plays of the first half, but came back for the second half.

That kind of toughness even inspires the offensive linemen trying to protect him.

"Tom's a tough guy," right guard Matt Rotheram said. "You'd love to play for a quarterback like Tom Savage."

Both players came back to play pivotal roles for the offense, Savage throwing for 313 yards and a pair of touchdowns, Street catching five passes for 81 yards and one of those touchdowns, a 33-yarder.

The injuries are mounting up. Chryst says it's all part of football. After the season, he says he'll evaluate all phases of his program to see where changes might be needed. From a strength and conditioning standpoint, he says if there was a change needed there--if that's where he were to pinpoint the amount of injuries linked to this team--a change would be made now.

"If we had an inkling that was causing it, we would change it right now in a heartbeat," Chryst said. "We're going through it and trying to ascertain what's driving it."

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