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November 20, 2013

Paul Chryst

COACH CHRYST:  Certainly disappointed in the outcome of last week's game.  But got to take the positives that came from it, build on them.  Certainly there's enough things that we've got to continue to try to correct.
Looking forward to going up and playing a good Syracuse team.  Had a good couple days of practice so far and need to finish out the week.

Q.  Paul, defensively anything in particular you were not too thrilled with last week that's a point of emphasis this week?
COACH CHRYST:  I think there were times where we didn't do a great job, had some opportunities to tackle and missed some tackles.  I thought we had a couple opportunities for some interceptions, take‑aways.  And I thought there was some really good play.
You probably get that in a lot of games.  But there's areas where we got some good pressure at times, but we got to get it from more than just Aaron.  There's enough things that we certainly can work on.
We gave up a couple big plays where we didn't have our eyes right, guys out of position.  Like anything, when you look at your defensive corrections, you look at what gave up the big plays and is there anything we can do or try to help correct, help our players with.  Then when you have opportunities for take‑aways, we all know the value of those.  Missed tackles or anything where you're out of position.

Q.  What do you need to do offensively to score more than you did at Syracuse last year?
COACH CHRYST:  Well, there's a ton of things we got to do to score more.  Last year, different team.  But I think when we've been able to be fairly efficient on offense, we've been able to run the ball, being able to pass.  Big thing is being able to convert on third downs.  We have to protect the quarterback.  Didn't do a good job of that last year at all.
Certainly there's a different group of guys going up there.  But we can't have the performance we had last year certainly.

Q.  When you saw it live, then again on tape, were there common mistakes made in the two punt returns that went for touchdowns?
COACH CHRYST:  Yes, I think there were.  We've got to look at the things that we can control.  Certainly saw a number of things.  I also don't want to minimize the effort that their return unit made.  Did a heck of a job.  Anytime you do it, I want to give him credit for making that play.
It started from our kicks where we really want them to go.  We missed tackles on it.  We had some guys not get off a block at all.  Those were specifically on both.
There are certainly things we have to take responsibility for and areas where we can get better.  Like I said, I don't want it to come off like you don't appreciate and give credit to not just the returner, but the unit.  They also made a play.
There's certainly things we've got to clean up.

Q.  Does the fact that the winner of this game becomes bowl‑eligible, does that put an added element, an extra edge to it in that you could go ahead, get that out of the way, not have that come down to your last game of the season?
COACH CHRYST:  Yes.  I mean, certainly I've been in that position a number of times where you're playing your last game for the bowl.  It's always better if you can be bowl‑eligible before the end of your last game.
In many ways you'd like to say it shouldn't change the approach, shouldn't change the way your guys feel about this.  Our players were able to play Syracuse last year.  Before I got here, they played them.  They certainly respect the players and probably have the most familiarity with this team as anyone, for some of our older players.
Like I said, you'd like to be bowl‑eligible after week six, then it's week seven, week eight, on and on.  But I don't think it changes, Boy, it's that much more important, or our guys are more excited.  Playing Syracuse stands on its own merit and that has our kids' attention.

Q.  In your interactions with the guys, especially the seniors this week, do you see a rising sense of desperation?  Maybe that's not the right word.  With only two games left in the regular season, five wins, do you see guys that need to take charge of things this weekend?
COACH CHRYST:  You're right, I don't think 'desperation' is the right word by any means.  Like you said, I feel good about the sense of urgency certainly.

Q.  Talk about this rivalry between Pitt and Syracuse.  Goes back to the Big East days.  What is your take on this game against Syracuse?
COACH CHRYST:  Well, certainly I have a lot of respect for Syracuse.  One game I was a part of, we got beat.  But I think, like Pitt, Syracuse has had a lot of really good players, good teams.  There's a tradition there.
Our older players have familiarity with their older players.  I think there certainly is a lot of respect for Syracuse.  I think every time we play, it's a big game.

Q.  What are you going to do this weekend when you're playing in the Dome?  You haven't played in the Dome at all this year.
COACH CHRYST:  We played up there last year.  It's a factor you have to account for.  We're not going to change anything.  It's like anytime you go on the road, you got to be able to adjust the best you can on game day.  There's no way you can quite simulate it.  The big thing is focusing on what we can control.
We have plans that we do when we play on the road.  Certainly for the Dome, we've got a plan.  We'll use that and hopefully that will help our kids feel comfortable when we get there.

Q.  I wanted to ask you about Syracuse runningback Jerome Smith, what kind of problems he presents.  What kind of runner do you see him as?
COACH CHRYST:  A good runner, physical.  I remember watching just some games last year of him.  Just hard.  Got a lot of respect for him and appreciate that kind of back.  I think they've got a good combination in their backs.  It's a pretty nice way to be able to go about it.
They've got two different guys, a little bit of a change‑up to it.  Certainly that's going to be a big part of the game, is if we can tackle them and do a good job versus the run.

Q.  You've had several games where you were very good against the run, a couple that you weren't.  Is there a difference other than the quality of the opposition?
COACH CHRYST:  Each week it's different, like you said, with the quality of who you're playing, and how they're playing even on that day.
There's things, when you look at those games where we've done well, there's kind of reasons why.  We're getting a lot of hats to the ball.  When we haven't done as good, you see some of the things, be it a missed tackle, not getting as many hats to the ball carrier.  There are some common themes.
When you take a look at the end of every season, you look at the big runs, there's some common themes that apply always.  You could probably say the same when you take a look at your lost yardage, tackles for losses, or one‑ and two‑yard gains.
I think that part of football stays fairly consistent.

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