Pitt homecoming game set for unusual 11 a.m. start

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Pitt fans wanting to catch the opening kickoff of the homecoming game against Louisville in two weeks might have to cut their brunch plans short.

ESPN announced Monday that the Oct. 13 game between the Panthers and Cardinals will kick off at 11 a.m. at Heinz Field.

The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU. Pitt and Louisville had no control over the kickoff time, as they are required to adhere to the Big East's television contract with ESPN.

ESPN has scheduled Big East teams for 11 a.m. kickoffs before, but those usually occurred the day after Thanksgiving. The early kickoff Oct. 13 will allow ESPNU to broadcast games at 2:30, 6 and 9:15 p.m. after the conclusion of Pitt's game.

The kickoff time might seem unusual, but it isn't totally unprecedented. In 1979, Pitt's Oct. 13 contest against Cincinnati, also a homecoming game, started at 10 a.m. to avoid conflict with the Pirates' home World Series game. On Thanksgiving in '91, Pitt and Penn State kicked off at 11 a.m. at Pitt Stadium.

Last year, the Panthers' game at Iowa started at 11 a.m. local time, but in the Central time zone.

Pitt coach Paul Chryst seemed unaffected by the scheduling. In just the past two years as offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, Chryst had six home games start at 11 a.m. local time.

With the game nearly two weeks away, he said he was focused entirely on a game Friday game against Syracuse.

"A coach's world can be beautiful because it's so simple," he said.

Louisville coach Charlie Strong echoed Chryst's sentiments on the early start.

"Whatever time slot they have for us is the one we have to take," Strong said.

Break has benefits

Chryst said that he was pleased with the way his team used its off week. The Panthers practiced on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday last week, did some weightlifting Friday and took the weekend off.

Chryst said he was hopeful that defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who missed Pitt's win against Gardner-Webb resting his knee, would return against Syracuse.

For Donald, getting healthy was the primary goal for the off week. Chryst said that each player had specific goals to work toward last week, as well as some team-oriented areas for improvement.

"How can we get better as a team? That's the goal," Chryst said. "For some guys, we can get better by making sure they're more healthy. Some guys can get better by needing a dozen more reps pulling, or we need to tackle better."

No mo' worries

While the off week gave Pitt a chance to rest and focus on improvement, there might have been some concern it may have slowed down momentum that the Panthers had built up in their two-game winning streak.

Chryst, though, said it didn't matter to him.

"It wasn't all perfect the last two games," he said. "I hope we're getting better and not just trying to ride that wave. I think each week, each game, is its own opportunity. You have to rise up for that. [We're] not trying to hold on to something, but we certainly need to come out and play better than we have previously."


Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG. First Published October 2, 2012 4:00 AM


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