After defeating the Buffalo Bulls last week, Pitt will look to tighten things up a bit this weekend in a contest against the Maine Black Bears.
As an FCS team playing on the road, Maine will have their work cut out for them, but that doesn't mean Pitt can afford to come out with a lackluster effort. After struggling for the first half of last week's game, the Panthers need to make some adjustments to get ready for the meat of their schedule.
Kicker Kevin Harper will simply need to get better, as he missed two field goals against Buffalo. His strong leg could be a real asset in Big East games this season, but any advantage gained by hitting a few long-range field goals will be nullified if he continues to miss shorter kicks.
Quarterback Tino Sunseri also needs to use the game to get more comfortable in Todd Graham's system. He missed wide open receivers on several occasions last Saturday - and not just on deep balls. Graham mentioned in his weekly press conference that Sunseri was just a bit excited for the opener and I think that's probably accurate. Sunseri is no rookie, though, and missing receivers on short patterns is something he won't be able to get away with after this weekend.
Also look for backup quarterback Trey Anderson to get some snaps. If Pitt is able to get comfortably ahead, this game will be a good chance to show what he can do. As much as Sunseri probably needs the work, it'd be ideal for Anderson to get a few series just in case he's forced into action this season. He's reportedly looked good in practice, but game speed is an entirely different thing.
Defensively, one thing to keep an eye on is how easily Maine is able to move the ball. After nearly pitching a shutout last week in the first half, Pitt's defense allowed Buffalo to trade scores with them twice in the second half. Bulls quarterback Chazz Anderson moved the ball down the field with short/mid-range passes and an effective running game. Pitt's linebackers seemed a bit out of sorts at times when in pass coverage, and the secondary will have to play better as well.
Pitt will need to be wary of Maine's run game. Starter Pushaun Brown tallied 146 yards and two touchdowns last week. Another area of concern is on kick coverage, where Pitt has been vulnerable in the past. Black Bears returner Trevor Coston broke a punt return for a 74-yard touchdown in that game as well.
The ideal scenario would be for Pitt to get out to an early lead and allow Trey Anderson and some of the other backups to get some playing time. Maine is a veteran team that returned many of its starters from last season, and the Black Bears have plenty of experience in recent years playing FBS schools, such as Syracuse, Iowa, and Boston College. They probably won't be too rattled stepping into Heinz Field. But the bottom line is that Pitt should have little trouble winning this game if everything goes right.
ESPN3 will again have the game at 1:00 p.m.
Click here to view the preview over at SB Nation's Pitt blog, Cardiac Hill.