Plenty on BBVA Compass Bowl agenda for Pitt
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While a third consecutive trip to the BBVA Compass Bowl might not have been Pitt players' first choice of bowl destinations, at least the Panthers know exactly what to expect when they travel to Birmingham, Ala., today.
It might not make a big difference, but every little edge matters, especially in a game between two teams as apparently evenly matched as Pitt and Mississippi.
"We understand the field, we understand the locker rooms, I don't think there's anything new to you," Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri said.
"I think the biggest thing about bowl games is you just have to make sure you get as much preparation up here as you possibly can. Because whenever you're down at the bowl site, there's so much stuff going on."
Pitt certainly will have its hands full with extracurricular bowl events once they arrive. Mornings will be spent practicing at Hoover High School - the same location the Panthers practiced last year - and afternoons and evenings will feature events like a trip to the Civil Rights Institute, visits to a children's hospital, a comedy club and a bowling night.
"To me, it looks like kind of the right balance," coach Paul Chryst said. "The evenings, they're not over-scheduled, but there's certainly enough where players will feel like they have a true bowl experience."
One area in which Pitt will not have an advantage in Birmingham is in the stands. Mississippi is reporting record ticket sales for the game, which will take place just three hours from its campus in Oxford, Miss.
The Rebels sold out their 10,000-ticket allotment and, according to a report in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, bought 4,000 of Pitt's allotment and sold that, too.
A Pitt official said the university had distributed 9,000 of it's 10,000-ticket allotment as of just before Christmas, but did not have a distribution breakdown.
For his part, Chryst is preparing for a pro-Rebels crowd. The Panthers practiced with piped-in crowd noise Saturday, usually standard procedure for them before road games this season.
"I've been a part of bowls where noise has been a factor, been a part of some where it hasn't," Chryst said. "We're going to err on the side of making sure guys can handle it."
Over the holiday break, Sunseri said he got time to visit his family in Tennessee, but that didn't stop him from getting in a little extra bowl work.
Sunseri said he spoke to his father, Sal, who was Tennessee's defensive coordinator this season, and his brother Vinnie, a safety for Alabama, about what to expect from Southeastern Conference foe Mississippi.
Tennessee did not play the Rebels this season, but Vinnie Sunseri's Crimson Tide did and beat the Rebels, 33-14, Sept. 29. Both had some film of Mississippi, though, and were happy to offer tips.
"It's always different when you're talking to defensive guys because they're always talking in defensive terminology," Tino Sunseri said.
He also said he gave Vinnie some pointers on what to expect from Notre Dame when Alabama faces the Irish in the national championship game. Tino added that his first order of business after the BBVA Compass Bowl is flying to Miami to watch his brother in the title game.
A team spokesman confirmed running back Corey Davis and tight end Brendan Carozzoni have left the team and will not travel to Birmingham.
Both played sparingly this season, with Davis appearing in five games and Carozzoni in one.
At least for Davis, playing time would appear to be a concern going forward. Rushel Shell, Isaac Bennett and Malcolm Crockett all return next season, and Pitt likely will take a running back in its upcoming recruiting class.
Sam Werner: email@example.com or on Twitter: @SWernerPG.
First Published January 1, 2013 12:00 am