Paul Chryst said after Saturday's win over Gardner-Webb, Monday in his Big East teleconference, and Tuesday after his team's practice that penalties are an area of emphasis.
Chryst has very good reason to focus on this area during the bye week. For one, too many penalties is a bad omen on many levels--loss of downs, end of drives, points off the scoreboard, keeping other teams' drives alive, allowing points--and ultimately, losses.
Pitt, despite 9 penalties for 77 yards in the win over Gardner-Webb on Saturday and 11 penalties for 110 yards against Virignia Tech, has come out with two impressive wins. Still, according to Chryst, the penalty area is a key concern.
"Taking a look at the penalties and what's causing them; some are just bringing your feet with you," Chryst said. "As a whole, it's concentration or jumping off, you try to address it."
Defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable shared the same sentiment--three penalties on his defensive unit by his count. How do you correct it, though?"
"I think you just keep making them aware of it," Huxtable said. "Jumping offsides? That's a pre-snap penalty that you should never have."
Are the penalties, specifically in part due to a change in system? Chryst doesn't think so, but Huxtable does from an instinctual point on on the defensive side.
"Those other things come with the aggressiveness of the game," Huxtable said. "We want them to be aggressive, but those pre-snap penalties you cannot have."
While it sounds like the emphasis is more on the offensive side, it affects a player like Ray Graham, but not too much. He also chimed in on what the team needs to do to fix this area.
"I don't have to move until the ball is moved, but sometimes the offensive line, they don't get to see the ball," Graham said. "You just have to be disciplined; know your assignment and you have to know what you're doing. You have to be smart out there."
How does it get corrected in the eyes of a player?
"Drills, just going over it and working the snap counts," Graham said. "During certain plays on the field, just going over certain things like that; different scenarios."
One of the biggest stories to come out of Saturday's game was the return of Dan Mason. It was Mason's first action since suffering a severe knee injury almost two years to the date against Miami in a Thursday night game at Heinz Field.
Mason said it never hit him until after the first play he was back, that he was actually in a game.
"When they called my name, there was no hesitation; I got ready to get back in there," Mason said. "Then it hit me, 'wow, I just played again for the first time in two years.' It hit me. I'm happy, and I'm trying to play more."
Mason added that the ultimate goal is to get back into the starting lineup. He says his entire coaching staff and teammates have been the biggest support of all.
"My family, my friends and all my teammates," Mason said, describing his support system. "The coaches too. They keep telling me the same thing, 'keep working.'"
If you want further proof of the support of Mason, ask fellow linebacker Shane Gordon--someone who would be in position to hold Mason off for a starting position. Gordon was one of the happiest people, besides Mason of course, to see him back on the field Saturday.
"I might have been more excited than he was," Gordon said. "We came in together as freshmen. That's my brother. Seeing him go down, not everyone would have come back; what happened to him. He's ''Monster Mase.' That's how he came back from that injury like that.
"He's a natural born leader. He's always saying something to the team, keeping the team up like that. You never know when your last play is going to be, but he came back from it."