Gardner-Webb Vs. Pitt: Panthers Exceed Expectations With Win

Be honest, you thought about Youngstown State at least once today, right?

I expected Pitt to come out and not overlook Gardner-Webb after that disappointing opening-season loss to the Penguins. But what I didn't expect is that the Panthers would be so dominant on offense, as the team won, 55-10.

Before you get too excited, just know this - Gardner-Webb is a bad team. A very bad team, actually. They're 0-4 on the season and have lost all of their games by at least 20 points. Even when you account for that, though, it was still hard to imagine Pitt putting together this type of effort.

The Panthers scored more points than they have in a decade. Even in the Todd Graham 'high octane' era, they couldn't figure out a way to find the end zone so often.

Quarterback Tino Sunseri not only had his best game of the season statistically, but one of the best of his career - and he didn't even need a full game to do that. Pulled early in the fourth quarter with a large lead, the oft-maligned Sunseri racked up 344 yards passing and three touchdowns. He completed 75% of his passes and added three touchdowns against no interceptions. He has his detractors for sure, but when you add it up, Sunseri has played fairly well in three of Pitt's four games this year.

The game plan changed a bit after Gardner-Webb was able to keep Pitt's successful running game largely in check. Ray Graham broke off a 78-yard touchdown run, but ended up with only 16 more yards after that. Isaac Bennett added some yards late in garbage time, but all in all, the Runnin' Bulldogs did a good job against Pitt's stable of impressive backs. Pitt took to the air, perhaps a bit unexpectedly, and things worked out just fine. The Runnin' Bulldogs clearly were concerned about the Panthers' running attack and wide receivers were not only open, but wide open in many instances.

And as good as the offense looked, the defense was just as impressive keeping Gardner-Webb's offense to only three points. They also forced three turnovers and the lone touchdown scored by the Runnin' Bulldogs came from a Ray Graham fumble return for a score. Gardner-Webb had a paltry 127 total yards on offense and had trouble doing much of anything against Pitt.

The big win hardly means that Pitt is 'back' per se. But having seen the offense score points in bunches in the last two contests, fans should feel a whole lot better about Paul Chryst's system.

For more on Pitt football, check out SB Nation blog, Cardiac Hill.

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