OTHER RECEIVERS STEP UP
Last week, it was Devin Street and Mike Shanahan who were used to set up Jon Baldwin. Street and Shanahan kept making plays last week against Syracuse, while Baldwin did not even get his first reception until the fourth quarter, with the game out of reach.
This time, the game plan was a little different. Mike Shanahan started off as the go-to receiver. Shanahan finished with three catches for 53 yards--all coming in the first quarter. Henry Hynoski was used in short-yardage situations, and he ended up leading the team with seven receptions for 51 yards. Mike Cruz caught two touchdown passes--the first multi-touchdown game of his career.
After all that, Baldwin was able to make plays--catching five passes for 139 yards, including the 45-yard touchdown. It was his third 100-yard game of the season, and five yards shy of tying his career-high--set last year against South Florida.
"It's not any pressure, but when you have other guys stepping it up, it makes it a lot easier," Baldwin said after the game. "We got the other players to make plays. Henry, he's a downhill runner. He can catch the ball real well too. It definitely helps."
Pitt coaches and players talked all week about how effective the Wildcat was for Rutgers. Though the Scarlet Knights had some success in it, they didn't go to it as often as expected.
On top of that, Mohammed Sanu--who has been the primary ball carrier out of the formation this year--stuck to his game at receiver. He entered the game listed as questionable, because of a foot injury. In his place, it was freshman Jeremy Deering. Deering ran five times out of the Wildcat, gaining 25 yards. Sanu carried it just once--in the second half--a gain of one, where he was chased out of bounds by Tristan Roberts. Jordan Thomas carried it twice for 23 yards out of the Wildcat, while Joe Martinek carried twice for 21 yards.
The Scarlet Knights had success out of it, but the ground game as a whole produced 95 yards on 36 carries, an average of 2.5 yards per carry. It marked the fifth time in seven games that Pitt has held the opponent under 100 yards, and fourth game in a row. Utah (122) and Miami (100) are the only teams to rush for 100 yards as a team against the Panthers.
DEFENSIVE LINE DROPS THE HAMMER
Pitt's seven sacks--all from defensive linemen--led the way for the defense. Brandon Lindsey finished with a game-high three sacks, followed by senior Jabaal Sheard with two sacks. Lindsey leads the team with eight sacks this season, and has filled in admirably for the injured Greg Romeus. Sheard now has seven sacks this season, surpassing his previous career-high of 5.5 in 2008.
GRAHAM, LEWIS SPLITTING CARRIES
Here's how it looked. Graham started the game, but did not take any carries on the first drive. On Pitt's next series, the backs alternated reps, with Lewis getting one carry for one yard. Graham took all the reps on Pitt's first touchdown drive--carrying the ball four times for no yards.
After alternating reps on Pitt's second series, the backs alternated series for the rest of the game, until the drive where Lewis scored on a 22-yard touchdown run, which put Pitt up 41-14. On that drive, Pitt ran on six of the seven plays of the drive. Lewis carried the ball four times for 52 yards, including the score, while Graham rushed twice for eight yards. It was the only other drive of the game where both backs took carries on the same series.
SUNSERI NEAR PERFECT
Though Sunseri set a career-high with 307 yards--Pitt's first 300-yard passing performance in nearly four years, he went through a stretch in the first half, where he completed seven consecutive passes. In fact, his only incompletion was the interception by Charlie Noonan--which was more the fault of Ray Graham, who didn't get a good handle on the shovel pass.
Sunseri started off the game completing 9-of-11 passes for 89 yards, a touchdown and an interception. In his last three games, Sunseri has completed 71-of-100 passes (71%) for 860 yards, 8 TD and 2 INT.
On top of that, Saturday's offensive performance was the first time Pitt had a 300-yard passes, 100-yard receiver and 100-yard rusher all in the same game. Saturday, it was Sunseri with 307 yards in the air, Baldwin with 139 yards receiving and Dion Lewis with a season-high 130 yards. The last time this feat happened was October 21, 2000 in a 42-26 win over Boston College at Three Rivers Stadium. That day, it was John Turman with 332 yards in the air, Kevan Barlow with 209 yards rushing and Antonio Bryant with 222 yards receiving.
DION LEWIS BACK
After the game, Dave Wannstedt talked about how it was good to see Dion Lewis return to form.
"Dion ran hard today, he looked strong," Wannstedt said. "He ran between the tackles. He's been working so hard. It's great to see him have a great day."
Lewis finished with 130 yards on 17 carries, and returned to old form, breaking through holes and picking up big gains. In addition to his work on Pitt's final touchdown drive--where he was responsible for 65 of the 73 yards on that scoring drive, Lewis also had long runs of 23, and a pair of runs on Pitt's final series of the first half, which dug the Panthers out from being stuck at their own 9.
SPECIAL TEAMS SHAKES OFF SLUGGISH START
Special teams were plagued in the first half, as Pitt had a blocked punt recovered in the end zone for a touchdown, which tied the game at 14-14 in the first half. On top of that, Cameron Saddler a punts drop at the nine yard-line--just as he did at Notre Dame two weeks ago. Ray Graham also mishandled the ensuing kickoff, off the recovered blocked punt, also leaving Pitt to start a drive at its own 9.
"Who's ever working with the special teams should have to come in early tomorrow," Wannstedt joked, referring to himself as special teams coach. "That made me sick. They had done that. We had worked on it, and worked on it, and worked on it. We made a decision to go on a quick count. We lined up, and he shifted at the last moment, and we didn't snap the ball. We got the darn thing blocked."
The unit regrouped, and helped Pitt get ahead in the second half. Saddler returned five punts for a total of 76 yards--his best individual game from a punt-return standpoint. Dan Hutchins shook off having the punt blocked by converting two field goals in the second half.
NO FOURTH QUARTER COMEBACK
Entering the game, Rutgers had outscored opponents in the fourth quarter this season 40-3, including the last two weeks, where they had outscored opponents 24-0 in the fourth quarter, which both led to wins.
Saturday, it was Pitt outscoring Rutgers 17-7 in the final quarter. It also marked the first time Rutgers was tied this season at halftime. In its three previous wins, Rutgers led at the half. In each of its previous losses, Rutgers trailed at halftime.