Pitt has faced many a I-AA opponent over the years. Say what you want about Pitt taking it out on an 0-4 Gardner-Webb team. Following Saturday's offensive output, the Pitt program has not seen this type of productivity in 20 years.
Even for someone such as Ray Graham, who is at the center of this productivity--362 yards on the ground in four games, three rushing scores, and average of 5.6 yards a carry.
"It felt good to go out there and put up points," Graham said. "Every time you watch ESPN you see a lot of other teams do it and now we’re a part of that. It can only get better from here and I think we’ve just got to keep improving. We’re going to go and watch the film, but we have to forget about this game and move on.”
Monday, Chryst exhibited that same sentiment. Not that he has been exhibiting a 'close to the vest' mentality throughout the first third of the season. He is, however, taking the seriousness and cautiousness up a notch. Instead of praising his team for making a 2-0 turnaround after starting out 0-2, Chryst is looking straight ahead at the next part of the schedule. That of course starts with a bye week--something that might be unwanted after a two-game roll, but something he welcomes at this point of the season.
We'll have a pretty good work week," Chryst said. "The focus will be on ourselves."
This all comes on a two-game stretch where Pitt's offense has set a new two-game total for the most total yards in back-to-back games. The previous two-game total game in 1992, when the Panthers racked up a combined 1,154 yards (558 vs. Rutgers, 596 vs. Minnesota). In wins over Virginia Tech and Gardner-Webb, Pitt eclipsed a new two-game total with 1,163 yards of total offense.
Tino Sunseri has thrown for three touchdown passes in each of the last two games, and has completed a combined 37-of-52 (71.2%) for 627 yards. The defense is averaging a plus-3 in the last two games combined. In other words, that's all fine and nice by Chryst's methods. But why stop there? Chryst would like to see continual development in these areas, but also a marked improvement in an area such as penalties--an area that has been a trouble spot all year.
Each positn group has some areas of improvement," Chryst said. "Brooks Bollinger will take a look at all of Tino's throws; where he's in a rhythm, where he's not in a rhythm. We'll take a look at the pass (coverage) drops by Eric Williams, and see where he needs to clean that up. There are a lot of areas we can all clean up. Penalties, that's an area of emphasis."
Impressively, Pitt was able to get a win despite the absence of a few key starters such as fullback Mark Giubilato, tight end Hubie Graham and defensive tackle Aaron Donald. In addition to that, Todd Thomas gets a step closer to making his return. The week off certainly can't hurt Ray Graham. On Monday, Chryst alluded to Graham still not being 100% despite his senior running back being prodcutive this year.
"I can appreciate the work and effort he's put in to coming back," Chryst said. "He's still progressing each week, he does have to clear some more hurdles. He's talented and has done some good things. We can all get better."
One other thing to keep an eye on, even looking ahead into next week's game preparations for Syracuse, will be to see if Chryst shuffles Isaac Bennett into the rotation again. Bennett saw more snaps, and rushed for two touchdowns in Saturday's win. For the season, Graham, Rushel Shell and Bennett are all averaging over five yards a carry. There's an optimism that all three can make an impact on the offense.
"I think it's the flow of the games, thats what's kind of what's happening with the backs," Chryst said. "We don't really concern ourselves with when they get it or how they get it. Every guy makes sure when we're talking to the player, they understand what the deal is. They'll all get their opportunity in games."