Pittsburgh faces quick turnaround after shocking loss to Youngstown State

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on September 5, 2012 at 12:36 am Contact Kevin: [email protected] Ray Graham doesn’t want to dwell on Pittsburgh’s season-opening loss to Youngstown State. The Panthers were the heavy favorite against the Football Championship Subdivision team after they outscored YSU 79-3 in two prior matchups in 2005 and 2008.Pittsburgh’s loss was shocking and even embarrassing. But Graham knows it’s a long season and wants to ensure that things don’t spiral out of control before conference play even begins.“Give credit to Youngstown State,” said Graham said after the loss. “It shows that you can’t look past any opponent. But we’re going to watch the film, see the mistakes that we made and get better from it.”On Saturday, the Penguins marched into Heinz Field and outperformed Pittsburgh. They jumped out to a 28-10 advantage early in the fourth quarter and held on for a 31-17 victory. It was Paul Chryst’s first game as the team’s head coach, and it wasn’t the ideal start.Pittsburgh doesn’t have much time to sit around and wonder about what went wrong on Saturday. The Panthers have a short week and will open their Big East schedule at Cincinnati on Thursday night.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Panthers got beat, and they accept it.“The bottom line is, we lost,” Chryst said Monday. “You don’t have to sit there and wonder what happened; the answer’s on the tape. We can all take ownership in what happened.”Pittsburgh had a similar scare against an FCS opponent last year, narrowly escaping Maine by a 35-29 margin. From there, the Panthers continued to struggle, losing four of their next five contests.But it’s a new regime this year, with Chryst replacing Todd Graham at the helm.Key veterans such as Ray Graham and quarterback Tino Sunseri have returned, and have the opportunity to learn from last season’s pitfalls.The senior running back Graham embraces a leadership role, knowing that it’s his job to set an example for younger players to follow.“They’re going to follow after what we do,” Graham said. “From here on out, that’s what they’re going to do. This is our team.”Graham comes into this season with plenty to prove and is not ready to let one loss define his senior season, especially after what transpired last year.Through seven games in 2011, Graham ranked as the No. 2 rusher in college football, averaging more than 134 yards per game. But the dream season came to a crushing end in the team’s eighth game against Connecticut. Graham suffered a serious knee injury on his second play of the game. Just like that, he was out for the season.Graham worked hard to rehab his knee during the offseason and returned to action Saturday, when he rushed for 71 yards on 14 carries. With the example set by Graham, Pittsburgh’s younger players have the perfect example of how to respond to adversity.For Graham, the opportunity to return to the field on Saturday meant a lot.“It felt good,” Graham said. “It felt great to get back out there, running around with a different opponent, actually live.”Graham’s highlight Saturday was a 27-yard scamper from the Pittsburgh 25-yard line early in the second quarter, but he also fumbled in the Panthers red zone on the first drive of the game.Sunseri is another player who has the opportunity to make sure the team stays on the right track after Saturday’s setback. A redshirt senior, Sunseri started all 13 games for the Panthers in both 2010 and 2011, and has thrown for more than 5,000 yards in his career.Sunseri had a decent performance Saturday, going 19-for-30 for 239 yards, with a touchdown and no interceptions.“I thought Tino did some good things,” Chryst said. “I liked his demeanor throughout the game, as you would expect and hope, as this guy’s played a lot of football. I like how he handled the whole day, actually.”Besides Syracuse, Pittsburgh was the only Big East team to fall short this weekend.In the conference standings, though, Saturday’s setback is irrelevant. The Big East champion receives a Bowl Championship Series automatic berth, and non conference games have no bearing on the final conference record.Regardless of the nature of Saturday’s loss, Pittsburgh still controls its destiny in the Big East race, just like every other Big East team. That’s plenty of motivation for Panther players to keep working in the team’s final Big East season.“Everyone’s got tangible, controllable things that you can improve upon,” Chryst said. “We’ll get them back to work, and all you can ask for is that people come back to work and have the attention to get better. I’m looking forward to going back out there.” Commentslast_img

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