Notebook: Chryst talks Akron loss, explains Garner’s comment


After Pitt’s all-around dismal performance in a 21-10 loss to Akron Saturday, wide receiver Manasseh Garner confidently told reporters something that turned heads and enraged many members of Pitt’s fanbase.

“We don’t play for the fans,” Garner said. “We play for each other and for our families. That’s one of the big things the coaches say, and I firmly believe that. The fans are with us when we win, and sometimes they’re against us when we lose, so we’re definitely not playing for the fans.”

Head coach Paul Chryst said Monday that he was aware that Garner, one of his unanimous senior leaders, dissed the Pitt faithful.

Chryst said Garner “didn’t like coming off that way” in his comments.

Garner graduated from Brashear High School in Pittsburgh, and he played under Chryst while Chryst was offensive coordinator at Wisconsin. When Chryst left Wisconsin after the 2011 season, he brought Garner with him to Pitt.

“One of the reasons why Manasseh came back is he loves this city, and he loves being a part of this program, and the main thing we talk about all the time with our players is that family is important,” Chryst said.

Chryst said his players should represent a hierarchy of onlookers when they take the field each Saturday.

“Every guy’s got their immediate family, and that’s most important, no matter what you do,” he said. “And we’ve got the Pitt football family and the University family. Our guys, they love and appreciate the fans, and there’s no question about that.”

After each team practice at Pitt’s South Side facility, a senior leader typically huddles the majority of his 104 teammates up. The senior will tell his teammates to throw an arm up towards the middle of the ring, and he says, “Family on three! One, two, three!”

Everyone simultaneously yells, “Family!”

But, Chryst added, “these programs don’t just happen without the help of a lot of people, and they all mean a ton to us.”

Pitt to move on

Just a couple weeks ago, Pitt was 3-0 for the first time since 2009 and was eyeing its first 4-0 start since a decade prior.

Now, the Panthers are 3-2 and will travel to face a much-improved Virginia team on Saturday that boasts a Division I-leading 18 forced turnovers through five games.

After the Akron loss, a lot of Pitt players looked ahead rather than sulk in the misery of a home loss to a mid-major opponent.

Following Pitt’s first loss to Iowa, Pitt safety Ray Vinopal issued a postgame speech to players. He said the Panthers had experienced the hurting sensation that comes with a bad loss once, and that they didn’t want to feel it again during the rest of the season.

After Pitt dropped its second non-conference game to the Akron Zips, Vinopal couldn’t muster up any words of motivation.

“Afterwards, there wasn’t much to be said, and to be honest, I didn’t feel like talking much,” Vinopal said Monday.

Maddox out indefinitely

Freshman cornerback Avonte Maddox has seen the field more than Chryst anticipated coming into the season.

Maddox hasn’t just been appearing in Pitt’s secondary — he is also a gunner on special teams and was back returning kicks for the Panthers against Akron.

But Maddox sustained an unspecified shoulder injury in the first half against Akron when he was tracking down the Zips’ punt returner. On the play, Maddox collided with another Pitt player, tripped up Akron’s return man and tumbled awkwardly to the ground. He was credited for a half-tackle.

Chryst remained hush about Maddox’s status heading into Pitt’s next game Saturday at Virginia, but Chryst said that Maddox is “good, almost better than I anticipated.”

Jennings is unleashed

Pitt’s prized freshman receiver Adonis Jennings appeared in his first game for the Panthers Saturday and caught a pass for 11 yards, which means Jennings is no longer eligible to redshirt for the 2014 season.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Sicklerville, N.J., product came out of high school rated as a four-star wide receiver. Jennings committed to Rutgers last June, but he decommitted in November. He chose Pitt over Iowa and Arkansas after the new year.

On Monday, Jennings’ jersey number changed from two to seven. In addition, freshman running back Chris James, who previously wore three, will now wear five.

“There’s room for playing [time] for him,” Chryst said on Monday.