Pitt football looking for a little bounce

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As undesirable as this situation might be for Pitt, it's not entirely unfamiliar.

The Panthers have lost two games in a row. Just like after two losses to open the season, they are in desperate need of a win to turn momentum around and save some of this season's long-term goals.

After the most recent loss, a 45-35 defeat against Louisville Saturday, Pitt coach Paul Chryst said his team was "at a crossroads." Center Ryan Turnley agreed.

"I think that we're at a crossroads. We agree with coach Chryst," Turnley said. "We talk all the time about how we just have to step up as a senior class and show guys how to do it the right way."

Pitt's biggest goal entering the season -- a Big East championship --is almost certainly out of reach with four conference games remaining.

Still winless in the conference, the Panthers (2-4, 0-3 Big East) have plenty of work to do if they want to reach the six wins they need to become bowl eligible.

Pitt has two games left that appear to be an uphill battle: at No. 5 Notre Dame and against No. 19 Rutgers. The other four, against Buffalo, Temple, Connecticut and South Florida, appear winnable.

"We still have more games to play," defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. "We can't change the four losses but we can change the two wins to three, four, five. We're just trying to build off what we've got right now. We're a good team, strong team. We've just got to fix the mistakes."

According to Chryst, the mistakes Pitt has to fix are within its locker room. Donald said the corrections are similar to the ones Pitt made after its opening two losses to Youngstown State and Cincinnati.

In its third game, Pitt beat then-No. 13 Virginia Tech, and followed it up with a pounding of Gardner-Webb.

"Truthfully, I think it's probably that we didn't do anything magical to get back," Chryst said. "I think we just played more complete, didn't shoot ourselves in the foot as much."

One positive sign both players and coaches have seen is a cohesiveness in practice despite the losing streak.

Offensive line coach Jim Hueber said he was impressed with how the players responded.

"They're young guys. It probably lingers longer with us than it does with them," Hueber said. "They have family talking to them, they have people on campus talking to them. We sit in a dark room just trying to make a decision whether we did anything right in the game when you lose. They bounce back fast, and that's the way it should be."

Pitt has a bit of history bouncing back from near-disastrous starts. The previous year Pitt started 0-3 in the Big East, it finished 4-3 in the conference (and 7-5 overall) with a win in the Tangerine Bowl.

But can these Panthers do the same?

"This team's been through a lot together," Turnley said. "We're a pretty close group and we're all going to fight for each other until the end.

"It's not just, 'We're going to fight and, hopefully, things turn out.' We're going to go out and get better every single day at practice and we're going to try our hardest to turn this thing around."

pittsports

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


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