After months of anticipation, Panthers to take field against FSU

After months of anticipation, Panthers to take field against FSU

By Nate Barnes / Sports Editor

The battle on the line of scrimmage is one that determines a great deal of outcomes in Division I football. But the other theater for the war beween Pitt and Florida State Monday night won’t take place on the field, but in the minds of the Panthers’ coaches and players. 

In playing its opener against Florida State, Pitt faces a Division I opponent with a talent level that far exceeds that of recent openers, such as Youngstown State, Buffalo, Eastern Michigan and Ohio. As the challenge rapidly approaches, the Panthers have kept track of its proximity with a clock in their weight room counting down the seconds until Pitt takes the field. 

“As soon as you walk in, [it’s] right above where you see where our workout is at the top of the board,” senior middle linebacker Shane Gordon said. “You notice it, it’s crazy how quick it gets up on you. I remember when it said 100 days, and now, it’s here. It’s Monday.”

Here it is. After all the fanfare, the July 1 celebration on the North Shore and Athletic Director Steve Pederson’s receipt of a contract extension before Pitt’s even played a game in its new conference, it’s here. 

And now that it’s here, the Panthers must become focused on the game, itself, during each snap. Head coach Paul Chryst seems confident in his team. 

“This isn’t the first big game that our guys have played in,” Chryst said. “Some of the younger guys have to learn it, but I think our guys will be fine.”

According to Gordon, the Panthers have learned a lot from last season. He feels that the team should be better prepared than it was at the start of its 2012 season — the opening game of which ended in incredibly disappointing fashion. 

“Last year, I feel like some guys may not have known their roles. I just feel like everybody from top to bottom is ready to go,” Gordon said. 

Pitt fans saw what happened last season as the Youngstown State Penguins rolled into Heinz Field and beat Pitt 31-17.  

If the Panthers want this season to at least begin differently, if not differ overall from their 2012 campaign record of 6-7, they will require some knowledge and readiness.

“There are so many different factors. Who are you as a team? Who is your opponent?” Chryst said. “There are some key factors that are relevant in all openers, because it is the first time you’re playing: taking care of the football, takeaways, penalties and the kicking game.”

Pitt may not be as fast as Florida State, or have the same level of highly ranked and touted recruits, but a focus tailored to football in the vein of the Pirates’ “one pitch, one at-bat, one game at a time” approach probably wouldn’t hinder Pitt’s efforts at winning. It seems like Chryst already knows that.  

“We talk about the relevant things about Florida State, and we have a tremendous amount of respect for who they are as a team, what they did last year and what they’ve got back this year,” Chryst said. “We acknowledge and talk about the things that are relevant, but good football wins games. We need to work on the things and focus on things that we can control.”