Ever since the game on Saturday, I’ve been tossing this over in my head. Coming up blank at this point, because what Aaron Donald has been doing for Pitt has been beyond anything you expect or is within the norm for a defensive tackle.
Outside of the quarterback position, football is a game where you really, truly cannot declare one player is capable of taking over a game. There are special teams, offense, defense. Calls by the coaches. Too many facets. Too many players. Beyond the hyperbole and tremendous gaffes at some point, it is simplistic to declare one player that much of a difference maker. Especially when it comes to the defense.
Yet, what Aaron Donald has done all season. What he did against Syracuse. It has been nothing short of amazing.
Donald, who is a strong candidate for five national awards, recorded nine tackles — 3 1/2 for a loss to give him a nation-leading 26 — and blocked an extra-point try that was the difference in the game.
Chryst, who rarely praises his players, stepped outside himself briefly to talk about the effect Donald had on Pitt’s second victory in the past three weeks.
“Your eyes go to him, and he sees it and he gives you the nod,” Chryst said. “And more often than not, he comes through. That’s the mark of a great one.
“I think right now he is playing at that level. He impacts the game in such a big way. It’s pretty special to be around.”