Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pitt Football: Armed Forces Bowl Will to Win from Freshmen to Seniors

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pitt Football: Armed Forces Bowl Will to Win from Freshmen to Seniors

Article excerpt

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Unfortunately for older members of the Pitt football program, they're veterans of coaching changes.

The fifth-year seniors have been coached by Dave Wannstedt, Mike Haywood, Todd Graham and Paul Chryst, and they've gone through the uncertainty that comes after a coach leaves more times than they would like to remember.

As Pitt prepares to take on Houston today in the Armed Forces Bowl, those players agree that the latest transition has gone about as well as possible.

"From what I've seen, it's going really smooth at this point," fifth-year offensive lineman T.J. Clemmings said. "Things were a little different a couple of years ago when I went through my first coaching change. The freshmen and sophomores, they're handling this really well. So I have to give that to them."

Joe Rudolph will serve as the interim coach today, even though he and the rest of the staff will coach with their futures in doubt. Rudolph said this week that the main goal has been keeping the players' focus on the field, and he said he believes they have done that.

"There's no question [there are] distractions," Rudolph said. "It's always how you deal with distractions, and I think this group will deal with them great."

The players also have spoken this week about how, despite the coaching change, it's not as if they're lacking in motivation to try to win this game. For seniors like Clemmings and safety Ray Vinopal, this is a chance to end their college careers on top.

Vinopal said he thinks back to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl last year, which Pitt won on a last-second field goal against Bowling Green. It was a minor bowl game against a mid-major team, but allowed the seniors to end their careers on a high note and send Pitt into the offseason with some momentum.

"To me, I put it all aside because the game comes first," freshman cornerback Avonte Maddox said. …

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