Watching his brother Rick play baseball at Notre Dame three decades ago has dampened whatever mystique this weekend's trip could bring for first-year Pitt coach Paul Chryst. But he knows a visit to the nation's No. 3 team is a big opportunity for his players, and he is hoping the Panthers don't take it for granted.
"There’s great history there," Chryst said Monday of Notre Dame. "It's different, but it's just like we have great history. That’s one of the neat parts of college football. They have it and I give them a lot of credit for what they’re doing this year.”
Consecutive wins have Pitt back at .500 and looking more like the team that routed Virginia Tech at home in Week 3 than the one that dropped its opener by two touchdowns to an FCS team.
The biggest reason for that is the emergence of fifth-year senior Tino Sunseri, who has not tossed an interception since that win over the Hokies. He has thrown for 1,682 yards with 11 touchdowns and one pick in his last six games, and he leads the Big East in pass efficiency.
"Sunseri is playing the best football of his career at the quarterback position," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Sunday.
The chance to knock off an 8-0 team coming off its biggest win in recent memory speaks for itself, Chryst said, so Pitt is not embracing the spoiler cap that the nation has placed on it.
A 47-point outing this past Saturday has the Panthers feeling pretty confident, too, and they don't want to be overcome by the moment when they touch down in South Bend, Ind.
"You're going to play a game, emotion is a big part of it and keeping it in check is a big part of it," Chryst said. "I don’t think your approach is any different. Week to week you should be excited to play every game. Every game you need to know yourself well enough to be at that right level of excitement and control.
"I hope our guys are excited to play every week and I know you get an opportunity to play a good team like this and that’s special. You’re not going to minimize that either. That’s part of it. Guys have learned and guys need to learn how to approach it and how they individually prepare for games. That’s part of the process."