Pitt hopes to kick losing habit against UNC
One day, Pitt coach Paul Chryst will turn to kicker Chris Blewitt and ask him to win a game with a field goal.
Perhaps that day is Saturday, when Pitt tries to boost its shrinking bowl hopes against North Carolina. A loss to the Tar Heels would mean the Panthers (4-5, 2-3) must defeat Syracuse at home and Miami on the road in the next two weeks to reach bowl eligibility.
Expect a close game. The teams will meet in Chapel Hill, N.C., and six Pitt road games under Chryst have been decided by three points or fewer.
If it comes down to a field goal, Chryst will have no trouble putting the season on Blewitt’s right foot.
Two weeks ago, Blewitt missed a 26-yarder on the final play of regulation in a 51-48 double-overtime loss to Duke.
“I thought there was no way I would miss it,” he said. “I wasn’t nervous or anything. It was probably me just being a little too excited.”
Chryst said he expects his sophomore kicker, who has missed only twice in 13 attempts, to be ready the next time.
“Nothing has changed,” Chryst said. “He missed a kick, but he hasn’t changed who he is. He’s been really good and he’s going to continue to be.
“If all of a sudden you change your whole approach, something is wrong. They can’t see you flinch.”
Blewitt recovered quickly from the miss, hitting a 43-yarder in the second overtime.
“The easiest thing you can do is mope around about it,” he said. “But my team needs me to perform.”
The struggling Panthers need more than Blewitt, however. Since starting the season 3-0, Pitt is 1-5, its worst six-game stretch since 2006.
North Carolina (4-5, 2-3) presents a unique problem, with its up-tempo offense — similar to what Todd Graham tried to implement at Pitt in 2011 — and mobile quarterback. Marquise Williams is second in the ACC in total offense (303 yards per game) to Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.
But the Tar Heels, who have allowed 43 or more points in five games, are last in the ACC in total defense (4,593 yards).
That could be good news for Pitt, with running back James Conner (1,342 yards) involved in a two-man race with Miami’s Duke Johnson (1,213) for the ACC rushing title, and quarterback Chad Voytik improving steadily. In past three games, Voytik has connected with wide receiver Tyler Boyd 22 times for 363 yards and a touchdown.
“He see things and is aware of things now that he probably wasn’t right off the bat,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said. “It helps him in his preparation and helps him to play better and to grow.
“He’s studying it, putting it on himself to be that guy.”