Football: Chryst sees improvement after team’s Week 3 win


By Nate Barnes / Sports Editor

Pitt head coach Paul Chryst made his weekly media address Monday at noon as the Panthers began preparation for their second Atlantic Coast Conference game — their first road matchup of the season at Duke. 

“We’re looking forward to this week, a normal game week of preparation,” Chryst said. “We’re getting back into ACC play and going on the road for the first time.”

This week is the first during which Pitt plays games on back-to-back weekends, after the Panthers had a bye week following their Labor Day opener against Florida State. Chryst hopes this week will allow the program to get into the swing of the season.

“The way things are laid out, you embrace it. It’s the greatest thing for this team,” Chryst said. “But it is good to get into a rhythm.”

The development of rhythm should benefit the Panthers, in terms of carrying over their performance from Saturday’s 49-27 win over New Mexico to their matchup in Durham against the Blue Devils.

Primarily, the Panthers’ mastery of fundamentals appeared improved against the Lobos — something Chryst looks to carry over into this weekend. 

“I thought we did a better job of tackling,” Chryst said. “The first half in particular, we did a really good job on defense of being disciplined with our assignments. When we had opportunities to tackle, we tackled better.” 

One area in which the Panthers need to continue improving, though, is on the offensive side of the ball. Although Pitt’s numbers were substantially better in its second game than its first, there were still areas of concern — namely turnovers.

“Offensively, we were on edge early, but I thought we did a better job as the game went on,” Chryst said. 

For Chryst, the fix revolves around a focus on the fundamentals.

“That’s the message all the time: You get better by getting better at your technique and fundamentals,” Chryst said. “You never get bored coaching those, and players can’t ever get bored working on those.”

At quarterback, Chryst expressed confidence in starting quarterback Tom Savage, despite the two interceptions the redshirt senrio threw against New Mexico. 

“There’s always going to be corrections that can be made. He knew what he did wrong just as he began to chase. That’s life,” Chryst said. “We have to do a better job. We’re not protecting the football. He knows that.”

Chryst also addressed ball security in the running game. James Conner ran 12 times for 119 yards and two scores, but he fumbled a ball in the third quarter that the Lobos recovered.

“I thought both Isaac [Bennett] and James had moments where they ran extremely hard and did a good job,” Chryst said. “Both of them need to clean up some ball security — even guys that didn’t fumble, where we’re putting the ball out there a little bit.”

As Chryst continues to instill the fundamentals in his players, the Panthers prepare themselves for Duke. The Blue Devils will represent the closest team Pitt has played in terms of talent level, as the Devils were predicted in the preseason to finish sixth in the ACC Coastal Division behind Pitt in fifth.

“What they’re doing now offensively presents a lot of challenges. It’s well designed. They have the ability to be very balanced,” Chryst said. “Defensively, they truly have a base, and I think their guys know it and understand it, which allows them to play fast.”

And on an ever-positive note, Chryst claimed that the Panthers are completely healthy. 

“Right now — knock on wood — we’re pretty good. We came out of the game alright. Bam [Bradley] went through warm ups and didn’t go, but hopefully that’s better now,” Chryst said. “There is nobody right now that won’t practice, as of my understanding.”