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Pitt has a chance to bounce back

9/9/2013

Pitt has had more than a week to sit on a blowout loss to Florida State in the opener.

But the bye came at a good time for the Panthers. They did not have to prepare for a game on a short week, and they got extra time to begin correcting glaring mistakes made against the Seminoles.

Though the game did not go the way anybody in Pittsburgh would have wanted, there is some reason for optimism as the Panthers begin to move forward against New Mexico on Saturday.

That's right, I said optimism -- despite a 41-13 loss that made a certain freshman quarterback even more famous. Here are three reasons why:

1. Dynamic duo forming. Freshman Tyler Boyd impressed in his debut for the Panthers, leading the team in rushing while also finishing second in receiving for a game-high 151 all-purpose yards. Reliable senior Devin Street added a career-high 141 receiving yards on six catches, showing the trash-talking Florida State D he is more than just a productive receiver. The key here is that Pitt needed to develop a second reliable receiver to team with Street. Boyd drew raves in fall camp, and that earned him a spot a as a starting receiver. In fact, Boyd is the only true freshman starting receiver in the ACC. We have seen some pretty excellent true freshmen at the position over the last several years in this league. Boyd and Street could end up being one of the more productive receiver duos in the league.

2. No more Florida States. The Panthers will not face a team as deep or as talented as Florida State the remainder of the season in ACC play. The other Atlantic Division team on the schedule is Syracuse, the only league squad off to an 0-2 start. The Panthers' own division, meanwhile, is completely wide open. No. 15 Miami leads the group, but the Hurricanes have concerns to address, particularly their third-down offense. North Carolina has defensive issues; Virginia Tech and Virginia have offensive issues; Duke is down its starting quarterback; and we have only seen Georgia Tech beat up on Elon so far. It's not a stretch to believe Pitt should have a shot to win in every one of these games.

3. Upcoming schedule. The front end of the schedule is more manageable than the back end. The game against New Mexico starts a stretch of six winnable games for the Panthers (The others: at Duke, Virginia, at Virginia Tech, Old Dominion at Navy). None of these games are a gimme for the opponent. Virginia Tech appears to be the best in the group, but the Panthers have owned the series of late, winning four straight. That includes their stunning upset win a year ago. Florida State beat Pitt soundly, but the loss was a good learning tool for the Panthers. They got freshmen extensive playing time. Tom Savage took his first hits since 2010. Defensive coordinator Matt House called his first game.

These are all reasons for optimism in the short term. So is this: Chryst said after the loss "everyone, players and coaches, took ownership. Everyone owned that game. If you do that, then you have a chance to move forward and get better. We’ve got a great group of guys. They want to be coached, and we want to coach them."

We'll see how that translates on the field in the coming weeks.