Final Thoughts On New Hampshire

Another look back at some of the highs and lows of Pitt's win over New Hampshire on Saturday.

* Tino Sunseri looked as comfortable as any veteran quarterback, in Pitt's 38-16 win over New Hampshire. Most impressively, he spread the ball around to a lot of different receivers, completing passes to seven different receivers, including running backs Dion Lewis and Ray Graham, who had a combined eight receptions for 90 yards.

In fact, Sunseri was 25 yards from a feat that Pitt's offense has not accomplished in 10 years, when Pitt had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher, and a 100-yard receiver, all in the same game. Pitt last did it against Boston College on October 21, 2000. John Turman threw for 332 yards, Kevan Barlow rushed for 209 yards and Antonio Bryant had 222 yards receiving.

As far as those adjustments at halftime, I tip my hat to the coaching staff. One, for just making that adjustment. It's interesting that two teams so far have stacked eight or nine guys in the box against Pitt, and succeeded. I tip my hat for making the adjustments, and showing faith to just let Sunseri throw the ball. Miami would have come in here with the same game plan. As a result of letting Sunseri throw the ball, to start the second half, it gives him even more confidence, it sparked the running game, and from an opponent standpoint, you really have to think about what you're going to do against Pitt now.

Clearly, New Hampshire had just one thing in mind, for their defensive game plan, and that was stopping Lewis. They didn't believe Sunseri could throw the way he did yesterday, and they clearly didn't know who Ray Graham was. Not playing in the Utah game probably helped with that.

"To tell you the truth, I hadn't seen much on Ray Graham," New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell said. "He was illusive with his schemes, and he took off. We talked more about Lewis, and on that 56-yard play, we had our guys blitz and I was baffled by it. Pitt is a football team with two or three good running backs. Our focus was to stop the run, and they threw the ball and got some big plays with their play-action."

Because of the staff's halftime adjustments, the way the offense responded, if you're Randy Shannon, how do you game plan for Pitt?

* Quarterback was the big question mark on offense, just 10 days ago as Pitt headed into its season-opener at Utah. Things have taken quite a shift since then. Sunseri has erased any doubts about the quarterback position. Ray Graham is not only healthy again, but after his performance Saturday, does Dave Wannstedt have a running back controversy on his hands?

"No, I think we can play them both," Wannstedt insisted after the game. "We're going to need them both. I've been seasons where we're down to our fourth-team running back. We played four (Saturday). We're committed to running the football."

After Lewis was held to just 23 yards on nine carries in the first half, Pitt opened up the passing game, throwing nine consecutive passes to start the second half. Graham was limited to two yards on three carries in the first half. In this case, the pass set up the run. Lewis took just one carry in the second half, for four yards, while Graham ran the ball six times in the second half, for 113 yards.

"We talk, when (Lewis) is on the field, we ask questions," Graham said. "When I'm on the field, (Lewis) asks questions. It was just one play away. (the 64-yard touchdown run) was bound to happen, me or him. It was bound to happen, one play away from just breaking the long run."

* The status of Greg Romeus remains unknown, but in his postgame press conference, Dave Wannstedt gave perhaps the most clear answer to Romeus' status, since he first got injured in training camp.

"Greg was excused to go home because of personal reasons," Wannstedt said. "He'll be back here (Sunday), and we'll move forward."

It was not made clear whether this was related to the back problems that Romeus has been suffering from, going back to training camp. Romeus had been day-to-day through training camp, only practicing briefly in that second day, then was limited through the rest of camp. He came back, was in full preparation for the Utah game, and played the entire Utah game. By playing that whole game, he may have overdone it.

Hopefully, Wannstedt will come through and just deliver an honest answer about Romeus' status. Of all the coaches in college football, he will go to bat for any of his players, and I can understand him wanting to protect his players, particularly Romeus, when it comes to his upcoming draft status. However, the more he dances around this issue, without coming through with an update, may hurt Romeus' draft status, from a credibility standpoint before too long.

Even with Romeus not out there, Jabaal Sheard had a better game, and Brandon Lindsey did very well, coming up with two sacks. Including last week's game against Utah, Lindsey has been Pitt's most consistent defensive lineman, and that is very promising.

* If I had to give a defensive game ball, Chas Alecxih is my defensive player of the game. The three sacks were obviously big, but all three came on third downs. The biggest one, was at the end of the first half. The score was 10-3 at the time, and New Hampshire had already put up a nine-play drive that resulted in a punt, but was still a nine-play drive. That takes a toll on a defense (2006 at Connecticut). Then, the Wildcats put together a 10-play, 75-yard field goal drive. The way the game was going to that point, New Hampshire could have kept the ball rolling, and either drove further down the field and taken a 10-3 deficit into the locker room, scored to tie it, or kick a field goal to make it 10-6. Alecxih would have none of that, as he came up with that first sack--in my opinion, the biggest momentum shift of the game. Pitt answered with a quick touchdown drive, making it 17-3. Pitt made the halftime adjustments, which as we can see worked pretty well.

* The offensive line. Here's the really interesting thing with Dion Lewis and Ray Graham. We've always thought of Dion Lewis as an improviser out there. When he's given a hole, he's gone. He has always done a great job of finding the hole and hitting it right away. The offensive line play has been shaky this year, and while that may be a factor in Lewis' slow start. However, Graham ran the ball well in the second half behind that same offensive line. He made more yards in the second half alone, than Lewis has had in two games.

The thing we'll have to wait for the Miami game to see, is if by Pitt going to the pass in the second half, to get those eight or nine guys out of the box--has the offense transitioned opposing defenses away from that? And if so, is Lewis going to get back in his groove? Time will tell, and more importantly, the opponent‘s defensive game plan will tell. The interesting thing is, Dion Lewis got just one carry in the second half. Like Graham said--it was bound to happen, ‘me or him.' If Lewis had gotten those second-half carries, would he have rushed for over 100 yards? He's done it before, but based on the way the two share carries, that's just how it went. Again, we'll have to wait until the Miami game to see.

It looks, and sounds, like Chris Jacobson will be back for the Miami game--thanks to Wannstedt's injury update after the game. X-rays negative, perfect. That's all we need to hear. Ryan Turnley didn't do too bad of a job while he was in there, and the coaching staff has seemed to like Turnley for a couple years now. I thought maybe Jack Lippert had worked his way ahead of Turnley, as that sixth offensive lineman, but it seems Turnley is the guy. Lippert may still be the team's seventh offensive lineman, but he took a big hit yesterday committing that false start penalty, which took three points off the board. Older players seem to get the benefit of a doubt when they commit mistakes like that, but when a freshman does it, he either buries himself further down the depth chart, or has to wait even longer for his chance to move up the totem pole.

* One thing you didn't hear much of was about the safeties, and that was good. If you don't hear their names, that's a good thing. You can say the same for the corners. For entering a game without both Dom DeCicco and Andrew Taglianetti, the position had taken quite a hit. The three guys playing yesterday responded pretty well. You had Jared Holley, a sophomore, and Jason Hendricks, a freshman, starting. Hendricks got caught out of position, resulting in that big 61-yard touchdown to Utah last week, but from game one to game two--even though there's a big difference from Utah's offense to New Hampshire, he already looks more comfortable, and more sure of where he needs to be.

Holley came up with a big play on the first play of the game, with that interception. Holley has both of Pitt's interceptions so far this year, and is off to a great start. Hendricks had a nice game. I can't recall him coming up with any game breaking plays, but again--the best thing for a safety, is when you don't hear about them or see them, that's a good thing. Kolby Gray got in there a little bit. I haven't really talked about him, but because of the injuries to Dom DeCicco and Andrew Taglianetti, even going back to camp, Gray has gotten a lot of time. He seems like he's eager to learn and get better. Him and Hendricks make a nice tandem for the future.


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