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South Florida Vs. Pitt: Tino Sunseri Takes Step Forward

Thursday night, the unranked Pittsburgh Panthers walloped the No. 16-ranked South Florida Bulls, 44-17, and in so doing ended a two-game losing streak and pulled their record over .500, so there are plenty of positives to take away from the game. And apart from running back Ray Graham, who rushed for 226 yards and two scores, perhaps no player shone quite as brightly as much-maligned quarterback Tino Sunseri, writes Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Dejan Kovacevic. Prior to the victory against South Florida, Kovacevic says, Sunseri "was the weak link, the soft-armed, slow-footed quarterback who was killing the Panthers."

But Sunseri showed plenty of progress in helping the Panthers topple the Bulls. The junior threw for 216 yards and a touchdown, did not throw an interception, and tallied 35 rushing yards for another touchdown. "I thought he took charge of our team tonight," Panthers coach Todd Graham told the media. Further, Sunseri's numbers don't adequately convey how well he played. Cardiac Hill, SB Nation's Panthers blog, explains:

[T]he team dropped several passes - most notably, Mike Shanahan who somehow flubbed a sure touchdown pass that hit him in the numbers (and then, by the way, dropped another pass that should have given Pitt a first down). He did it all without making many mistakes and was a big reason Pitt won.

Better still, Sunseri's performance comes less than a week after his coach criticized him following a loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, which included a promise that backup quarterback Trey Anderson would get to play one series against South Florida. Sunseri responded by completing his first seven passes, later scoring the Panthers' first points with a 13-yard touchdown run.

If Sunseri can maintain this level of play - which is to say if he can continue to play competent-if-not-spectacular football - Pittsburgh becomes a much more credible threat in the Big East.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.