After a sluggish first half, Pitt’s offense picked up steam in the second and held on for a 35-16 win.
The score was a bit deceiving as Pitt scored a late touchdown after a long 75-yard run by Ray Graham. The Panthers’ defense had trouble stopping the Bulls and Buffalo matched Pitt’s first two touchdowns with two of their own and the score was 21-16 in the fourth quarter. But Pitt added two more scores to end the game.
Ray Graham’s good night turned into a great one with that long 75-yard run and he finished with 29 carries for 201 yards and three touchdowns. Graham found several big holes throughout the night and added a couple of short receptions out of the backfield. Graham got plenty of touches, but I did expect Pitt to utilize him a bit more on screen passes.
Tino Sunseri was unable to post big numbers in the new system. He didn’t have a poor game, just not a great one. On the night he was 16-28 for 179 yards and a touchdown. Sunseri was booed at times as several of his passes missed their intended target and doesn’t appear to have fixed his issues in throwing the deep ball. Still, he kept Pitt in the game and for an opener in a new offense, did an adequate job.
Buffalo quarterback Chazz Anderson was effective completing 32 of 49 passes for 276 yards and he really helped move the team down the field with smart decisions. His one mistake, though, was a costly one. With Buffalo driving and trailing only 7-3 in the third quarter, Chas Alecxih intercepted a screen pass and returned it nearly 50 yards, helping the Panthers to take a 14-3 lead.
Pitt was also helped by Buffalo wideout Ed Young, who after beating his man, had two big drops that likely would have both gone for touchdowns.
There were bumps in the road to be sure, but Pitt came away with the win and that was the most important thing. The Panthers will now get ready to face FCS foe Maine next weekend.
Todd Graham’s first game as Pitt head coach isn’t going as he envisioned it, I’m sure.
The Panthers are at home and leading Buffalo only 7-3 at halftime. There are sure to be countless jokes this week about Pitt’s ‘high-octane’ offense if it continues sputtering. The team has been able to move the ball at times, but two missed field goal attempts by Kevin Harper killed a couple of promising drives.
Quarterback Tino Sunseri has been steady, but unspectacular, recording a few nice plays, but also missing several receivers with flat out poorly thrown balls. Running back Ray Graham has looked very good finding large holes at times running the ball and catching a couple of passes out of the backfield. And as expected, the wealth’s been spread around a little with six different receivers catching at least one pass.
This game so far has been reminiscent of Pitt’s 2008 season-opening loss to Bowling Green. High amount of anticipation, big disappointment. If Pitt wants anyone to stick around for its big celebration of lighting the river on fire (no, really) and fireworks, things had better turn around in the second half.