April 14, 2012
PITTSBURGH--The Pitt football team concluded spring drills today with the Blue-Gold Game, held this year at North Hills' Martorelli Stadium.
The Panthers scrimmaged for nearly two hours and did not utilize a scoring format, instead focusing on scripted situations.
"I saw some good things," first-year head coach Paul Chryst said. "We also had some things we'll need to clean up and some mistakes we'll need to eliminate. I think we're working hard. There are some areas where we are getting better. We just have to keep working hard and then have a great summer and an important fall camp.
"We're not where we want to be by any means but I think it was a productive spring."
Sophomore Isaac Bennett (Tulsa, Okla./Booker T. Washington) capped his impressive spring by rushing for 121 yards on 23 carries (5.3 avg.). Bennett ripped off a 51-yard run early in the scrimmage, his fourth run of more than 50 yards this spring.
"Isaac worked this spring," Chryst said. "He is young and I think he had a chance to learn and to grow. The last scrimmages we've had, he's gone pretty hard. He's had some mistakes in pass blocking that he needs to clean up, but that is not atypical of a running back. I thought he did some good things."
Senior quarterback Tino Sunseri (Pittsburgh, Pa./Pittsburgh Central Catholic), who has started 26 consecutive games under center at Pitt, threw for 147 yards on 13-of-27 passing. He threw one touchdown and one interception.
Senior Cameron Saddler (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) had a scrimmage-high 69 receiving yards on four catches (17.3 avg.). Junior Ed Tinker (Pittsburgh, Pa./Brashear/North Carolina Tech) had four receptions for 64 yards (16.0 avg.).
"I have trust in the passing game," Chryst said. "I think it's just getting the players to understand where they fit in the passing game and also being able to play to our guys' strengths. It takes a lot of reps. We've got some work to do on it. We're not where we want to be, but there's progress."
The only live special teams work today was in the kicking game. Senior placekicker Kevin Harper (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor) was 4 of 5 on field goals, converting twice from 47 yards.
Defensive standouts included junior safety Jason Hendricks (Brooklyn, N.Y./Hudson Catholic [N.J.]), who had a scrimmage-high 10 tackles, including two TFLs; sophomore linebacker Eric Williams (Yardley, Pa./Pennsbury), who had nine tackles; junior defensive tackle Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh, Pa./Penn Hills), who had five tackles and two sacks; and senior safety Andrew Taglianetti (Pittsburgh, Pa./Pittsburgh Central Catholic), who had four stops and a 30-yard interception return for a TD.
Prior to the scrimmage, Chryst announced that senior center Ryan Turnley (Hopewell, Pa./Hopewell) and senior defensive end Shayne Hale (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) were the winners of the Ed Conway Award, annually presented to the most improved players of spring drills.
"Ryan Turnley and Shayne Hale did a really good job this spring," Chryst said. "If we are going to be the best team we want to be this year, we are going to need senior leadership. Certainly every time we give an award like that, there are a lot of guys that deserve it, but no one was more worthy than they were. I think it also puts a little bit of pressure on them. The bar is set high for them, but they are two deserving winners and I'm very proud of them."
Pitt opens the 2012 season on Sept. 1 against Youngstown State. Season-ticket packages are currently on sale for as low as $99 and can be purchased online (PittsburghPanthers.com), by phone (800/643-PITT) or in person at the Petersen Events Center ticket office. All Pitt and UPMC employees are eligible for a 20% discount.
Chryst joined Pitt this past December following an exceptional eight-year tenure at the University of Wisconsin, where he gained acclaim as one of the country's finest offensive teachers and strategists. His offenses produced nine first-team All-Americans and five Big Ten Player of the Year awards at Wisconsin. Chryst was a finalist for the prestigious Broyles Award, annually presented to college football's top assistant, each of the past two seasons.
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