Pitt turns its attention to possible bowl |

Pitt turns its attention to possible bowl

Coach Paul Chryst has figured out what it takes for Pitt to gain yards and score touchdowns.

The team has totaled 1,643 yards and 111 points in the past three games, all losses.

The trickier task is keeping his players from imploding mentally after losing three games in frustrating fashion: with fumbles, a missed field goal and a series of defensive breakdowns.

Beginning Saturday at Heinz Field against Syracuse, Pitt (4-6, 2-4) needs to win its final two regular-season games to qualify for a lower-level bowl berth. Like in other recent seasons, that’s the only prize.

Chryst repeatedly has praised his players’ efforts, but hard work — coupled with defeat — may serve merely to increase their pain.

“I get it,” he said. “That’s what I love about players. When they put themselves out there, that hurts. You have to come back, and you have to have some resolve about you.

“In the end, everybody has an individual choice. We (coaches) have to help them go through it.”

Syracuse is the last home game for a group of 11 seniors, some of whom have called six men coach.

Right guard Matt Rotheram committed to Pitt from North Olmstead (Ohio) High and redshirted under Dave Wannstedt. He became a regular under Todd Graham and has started all but one game in Chryst’s nearly three years in charge.

“We’ve been through tough times before,” he said. “Last year, we were pretty inconsistent, winning two games, losing two games, but we’ve been fighting through it, trying to earn ourselves a chance to play one more (bowl) game. Coach Chryst has brought a lot of stability to the program since I’ve been here.

“We’ve developed some maturity, resiliency.”

Even if it’s been a painful journey.

Notes: The ACC will wait until after Saturday’s games to announce start times and networks for six games on the final weekend of the regular season, including Pitt at Miami (Fla.) on Nov. 29. … Chryst said he isn’t sure if offensive lineman Adam Bisnowaty (ankle) and wide receiver Manasseh Garner (foot) will play against Syracuse. … Offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings has accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl.

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

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