Pitt’s 35-20 win over UConn on Wednesday night will take a back seat to the news that Ray Graham was injured in the game. Ironically, though, Pitt’s offense had one of its best games of the year without their star player.
Tino Sunseri threw for 419 yards, good for fourth all-time at Pitt and he arguably played his most impressive game of his career. Sunseri was not only accurate in the air completing nearly 70% of his passes, but he also scrambled all over the field, breaking off several impressive runs during the game. As I wrote in the recap over at Cardiac Hill, the offense works so much better when Sunseri is a viable rushing threat. Teams can’t simply drop back into coverage and his scrambling ability forces defenders to stay at home … which, in turn, opens up passing lanes.
All fans still won’t be pleased with Sunseri, though. In taking a sack right before the half when Pitt had no timeouts left, he received a chorus of boos from the light crowd. That’s a play that he simply can’t allow and cost Pitt a chance at a field goal just before the half. While many sacks this year can be attributed to the subpar offensive line, plays like that are the reason fans called for Trey Anderson earlier this season. But all in all, Sunseri played an incredible game and proved that he’s the best quarterback to run Todd Graham’s offense this year.
The Panthers’ defense also had a good game, getting to Huskies’ QB Johnny McEntee on numerous occasions, sacking him seven times. Pitt also pressured him constantly and while he played a decent game, the defense didn’t let UConn sustain long drives. Pitt shut down the Huskies on nearly every third down, forcing them into a fourth down on 11 of 14 occasions.
Pitt wasn’t perfect, though. The team racked up a ton of penalties (eight for 70 yards) and fans saw several false starts on the offensive line. The line is inexperienced, but at some point, has to get better. False starts continually put Pitt in bad position and the coaching staff will need to find a way to get linemen to become more disciplined.
The Graham injury is obviously going to be a blow. He’s clearly the best player Pitt has and with him, the team can stay in almost every game. There’s no word yet on just how injured he may be, but the fact that he was carted off and later reappeared on crutches isn’t encouraging. He did appear upbeat on the sidelines, but that’s about as positive as it gets. Head coach Todd Graham also didn’t sound too encouraged in the halftime interview and it doesn’t look good at this point.
With Graham, Pitt can challenge for the Big East. Without him, that road gets much tougher. The Panthers take on Cincinnati next weekend in what is looking like a big-time matchup. Pitt needs to keep winning and while that game isn’t an elimination contest for the Bearcats, it could be for the Panthers, who already have a Big East loss to Rutgers.