BY NATALIE BIGLEY
With three undefeated teams in the Big East, Pitt’s chances of winning the conference title are slim.
The Panthers are 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the Big East, and they’ve lost consecutive games to Syracuse and nationally ranked Louisville.
At this point in the season, Pitt is just trying to win a conference game. The Panthers will have to settle for trying to win at Buffalo (1-5) on Saturday in a nonconference game.
“Its not easy, but this team has been through a lot together,” Pitt senior center Ryan Turnley said. “We’re a pretty close group. We’re all going to fight for each other until the end. We’re going to go out and get better every single day of practice, and we’re going to try hard to turn this thing around.”
Pitt certainly has been through plenty together. There’s been five different head coaches since Dave Wannstedt’s era ended in 2010, including Todd Graham, who left the program following last year via a forwarded text message to the team.
As unusual as the circumstances facing the Panthers have been, players aren’t using them as an excuse. Turnley says improving their record is more important.
“There’s been some turmoil around here, everybody knows that,” Turnley said. “But at the end of the day, no one really cares about that. You’re going to be remembered for how you perform. No one is going to remember the things we went through. They’re just going to say right now you’re 2-4.”
Of course, the season if far from over and the Panthers can still earn a bowl game, but given their schedule, things won’t come easy.
The schedule includes two away games against Connecticut and South Florida. Pitt also will play new Big East member Temple, who currently holds a solid 2-0 conference record.
On the heel of that game, Pitt will play arguably their hardest game of the season. This will be against a fifth ranked Notre Dame team who will host the Panthers in South Bend.
And the second-to-last game of Pitt’s season will be against No. 15 Rutgers, one of those three undefeated teams.
“We want to win games,” Pitt head coach Paul Chryst said at Monday’s weekly press conference. “That’s the ultimate end result.”
Despite the last two losses, Chryst said the Panthers are determined to keep working and fix what can be fixed.
In Saturday’s 45-35 loss to Louisville, Chryst said he saw controllable issues that can be cleaned up. This included some costly special team mistakes.
In the third quarter, Pitt botched a punt snap that gave the Cardinals excellent field position, resulting in a Louisville touchdown and a 17-point lead.
Pitt kicker Kevin Harper also missed a 50-yard field goal in the first quarter. The distance was there, but the ball sailed right.
Chryst did not put the blame on Harper.
“There’s a time where we are going to need Kevin, and he’s going to deliver for us,” he said.
Pitt has played well in spurts, as it did during the first half against Louisville. The Panthers will look to play a complete game against a struggling Buffalo team whose lone win came against Morgan State.
“You can’t have the same storyline every time or you’re really not getting better,” Chryst said. “The time is now, we’ve got to get this thing going.”