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Pitt notebook: Chryst believes Panthers will regroup

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Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Duke celebrates after defeating Pitt, 51-48, in double overtime Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, at Heinz Field.

If coach Paul Chryst’s first 35 games at Pitt stand for anything, it’s this: A reluctance to make promises.

Chryst has operated by the coach’s code that says, “Do it. Don’t tell me you will do it.”

But Pitt’s first 1-5 stretch in seven years has changed the way Chryst and his players will look at the rest of this season.

It wasn’t a defiant Chryst who addressed the media after the 51-48 double-overtime loss to Duke on Saturday, but he was clear that he intends to fix what ails his troubled team.

“We’ll come back. We will regroup,” he said.

That’s as close to a promise that Chryst gets. It certainly wasn’t anywhere near what was said in 2009 by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin during a bad stretch: “We are going to unleash hell here in December.”

But for Chryst, who never likes to make promises, it was significant and an indication that Pitt is in a desperate situation in his third season.

Chryst saved his strongest support for sophomore kicker Chris Blewitt, who missed a 26-yard field-goal attempt that would have defeated Duke on Saturday.

“I have a ton of faith in him,” Chryst said. “We are going to need him again, and he is going to come up big again for us.”

Blewitt hit his other two field-goal attempts against Duke, giving him 11 of 13 for the season.

Senior strong safety Ray Vinopal talked about finishing with a better regular-season record than last year’s 6-6.

“We could very easily win three games, two games,” he said. “It’s important to keep guys on the wagon.”

No bowl?

Pitt (4-5, 2-3) won’t play until Nov. 15 at North Carolina (4-5, 2-3) before its final home game Nov. 22 against Syracuse (3-6, 1-4) and the regular-season finale at Miami (6-3, 3-2) on Nov. 29.

Pitt (17-18 after nearly three seasons under Chryst) must win at least two games to qualify for a bowl game. A 1-2 record or worse will force the Panthers to settle for their first postseason without a bowl since 2007, former coach Dave Wannstedt’s third season.

Conner No. 1

When James Conner ran for 263 yards, he seized the NCAA lead in yards rushing, jumping from No. 7 with 1,342 in nine games. Conner leads Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin (1,330), Indiana’s Tevin Coleman (1,300) and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (1,296).

Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah was the leader entering the weekend, but he injured his knee and left the game after totaling one yard to give him 1,250.

Conner is averaging 6.1 yards per carry.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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