Pitt Football: Panthers press on

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- After Pitt's heartbreaking triple-overtime loss to Notre Dame Saturday, quarterback Tino Sunseri described the mood in the Panthers' locker room with one word: "Terrible."

It's understandable. Pitt had just blown a 14-point fourth-quarter lead to the No. 4 Irish. It had a couple of opportunities to ice the game in the fourth quarter and overtime, but let each one slip through its fingers.

As tough as it may be for the Panthers to watch the tape of Saturday's loss, there's nothing to do at this point but move forward.

"[We have to] put this game behind us," running back Ray Graham said. "Go watch film, learn from our mistakes, and what we did good, keep getting better."

While there's no changing the final score of Saturday's game, Pitt players said afterward that they could take some positives away from going toe-to-toe with one of the top five teams in the country.

Graham ran for 172 yards against a defense ranked in the top 10 nationally against the rush. The 20 points the Panthers put up were the most Notre Dame has allowed this season. On defense, Pitt limited Notre Dame's powerful rushing attack for three quarters before wearing down in the fourth quarter and overtime.

"All we've got to do is come in every week and play like this, and it'll be pretty hard to beat us," cornerback Lafayette Pitts said.

When it came down to the end, though, Pitt coach Paul Chryst said his team is still learning how to win these kind of games.

"That's what good teams do is what Notre Dame did, and that is win the close ones," Chryst said. "I don't know that we can take it away, because we didn't do it."

"We've got Connecticut [next week]," Graham said. "Good thing this wasn't a conference game, we still can win out in the conference and just keep doing a good job there."

Starting with Friday night's game against Connecticut, Pitt's final three games will be with Big East opponents. A conference title is out of reach at this point, but the Panthers still have plenty to play for, most importantly getting two more wins to become bowl eligible.

In addition to the road game against the Huskies, Pitt has a home date against Rutgers and a season-ending trip to South Florida.

Given the Panthers' performance Saturday, all three of those games would appear to be winnable. This is still the same team that lost to Division I-AA Youngstown State in its season opener, though, and the biggest goal players cited from here on out is developing a consistently high level of play.

"I think we can play with anybody, as long as we come ready to play," Graham said. "I think that's one thing that we do, is we play to our opponent's level. We've just got to play our game every time we step on the field."


Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @SWernerPG


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