Pitt running back James Conner can't find any room against Florida State in the third quarter Labor Day at Heinz Field.
By Sam Werner Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A lot went wrong for Pitt in its 41-13 loss to Florida State in the season opener, so the Panthers -- particularly the coaching staff -- didn't mind an extra week off before their second game.
At this point, though, everyone's ready to get back on the field.
"It seems like it's been a while," coach Paul Chryst said Thursday afternoon.
Indeed, it has been 12 days since the Panthers' much-anticipated but ultimately disappointing loss to the Seminoles. Since then, the Panthers have had some time to identify, correct and try to eliminate the errors that plagued them.
"We all know the plays, now we have to get the little details down," redshirt freshman left tackle Adam Bisnowaty said. "Dot the Is and cross the Ts."
Pitt (0-1) vs. New Mexico (1-1), 12:30 p.m., Heinz Field. The Panthers are favored by 21.5.
WTAE-TV (ACC Network), KDKA-FM (93.7).
Coming off open date after a 41-13 loss to Florida State in the season opener. ... First meeting against New Mexico. ... Is 0 3 all-time against current Mountain West Conference teams with two losses to Air Force and one to Hawaii. ... Freshman receiver Tyler Boyd had a game-high 151 yards of total offense in the opener. ... Redshirt senior receiver Devin Street had a career-high 141 receiving yards. ... Quarterback Tom Savage's 201 passing yards were the most by a Pitt quarterback in his debut since John Turman threw for 316 in a loss to Penn State in 1999. ... The three returning starters in the secondary -- safety Jason Hendricks and cornerbacks Lafayette Pitts and K'Waun Williams -- combined for 11 interceptions last year but had none against the Seminoles.
Coming off 42-35 overtime victory against UTEP. ... The win ended a 15-game losing streak in the state of Texas. ... Is 1-7 all-time in the Eastern time zone. ... Running back Kasey Carrier leads Division I-A with 172.5 yards per game rushing. He ran for 291 yards last week. ... Rushed for more than 300 yards 11 times in 15 games under coach Bob Davie. ... Davie, in his second year with the Lobos, is from Sewickley and coached as an assistant at Pitt under Jackie Sherrill and Foge Fazio.
Pitt has recorded at least one sack in 38 of its past 39 games (the lone exception being the 2012 season-opening loss to Youngstown State). New Mexico has given up three sacks through two games this season.
The Panthers' next test will come at 12:30 p.m. today when they kick off against New Mexico. The Lobos (1-1) don't come in with the same résumé or aura as Florida State. They lost their opener to Texas-San Antonio, a program in its third year of existence. The Lobos bounced back with an overtime win against UTEP last week, but are still expected to finish in the lower half of the Mountain West Conference.
But Pitt can't afford to take any opponent lightly.
"It concerns me that if you don't do your job, and if you're not disciplined and focused, you can get beat," defensive ends/linebackers coach John Palermo said. "You see it every week with teams that are so-called favorites in the game getting beat because they don't do their job."
For Palermo's unit, that job involves stopping a powerful New Mexico running attack led by Kasey Carrier, the leading rusher in Division I-A. The Lobos' option-based offense can give defenses headaches if players don't know their assignments and positioning.
"He runs hard," Palermo said. "He's not a big back, but he runs hard. He really does a great job of jump-cutting in the hole. He'll start one way and then he'll jump back the other way on you. If you don't have disciplined eyes on defense, if you don't play with your shoulders squared on defense, those jump cuts can turn into big plays against your defense."
Palermo and other coaches have made numerous mentions this week of the old coaching adage that a team makes its biggest improvements from the first to the second game. That saying didn't hold true for Pitt in 2012, as the Panthers followed a loss to Division I-AA Youngstown State with a 34-10 shellacking at the hands of Cincinnati.
This year, though, the Panthers figure to make some advances in the second game, partially because of the number of players who got their first taste of live action against the Seminoles.
Eleven freshmen played against the Seminoles and seven redshirt freshmen made their debuts. On top of that, quarterback Tom Savage and tight end Manasseh Garner, both transfers, made their Pitt debuts. Savage sat out two years, Garner one.
Garner said he thinks having a game experience and film to work off could do wonders this week.
"It's good, actually, to see some of the things I can improve at," he said. "Just watching the different stuff, [I see] some of the different adjustments I could have made. It's very good for me."
Perhaps the biggest benefit of the week off is that by this point, the Florida State game is a distant memory. Offensive lineman Matt Rotheram said there will be no lingering hangover from the loss this afternoon.
"I think, number one, we don't want to let Florida State beat us twice," he said.