Quarterly Report : Offense

Almost every skill position player has increased their output in the second quarter of the season. No group has improved more than the offensive line, when taking into account the first three games versus the last five games.

Tino Sunseri
First Four Games: 63-100 (63%), 689 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT
Last Four Games: 78-114 (68.4%), 983 yards, 8 TD, 2 INT

Remarkable turnoaround in the second quarter of the season for the first-year starter. From the first drive of the Notre Dame game, Sunseri has looked like a more seasoned quarterback. That's to be expected from a quarterback with a few starts under his belt.

Here's the real interesting part. If he puts up numbers similar or better over the final four games, Sunseri could be on target for all-conference honors at quarterback. The only two passers ahead of him--statistically--have stumbled in recent weeks. Zach Collaros of Cincinnati didn't play last week due to a bruised knee against South Florida the week before. Geno Smith is quarterbacking an inept offense at West Virginia right now. As we've seen from Pitt, though, things can change and anyone can win in this year's Big East.

Dion Lewis
First Four Games: 47 carries, 143 yards ( 3.0 avg.), 2 TD; 8 catches, 68 yards
Last Four Games: 62 carries, 336 yards ( 5.4 avg.), 3 TD; 7 catches, 54 yards

Lewis has doubled his numbers in this second quarter of the season. The biggest difference on paper is his yards per carry. He was banged up, and sat for the Florida International game. Since sitting that game, and resting up for the Notre Dame game, Lewis has gotten back to his 2009 form. He's hitting the hole, grinding it out, and by the law of large numbers, breaking off the big run after the defense is worn down from tackling him after several plays.

Ray Graham
First Four Games: 52 carries, 492 yards (9.5 avg.), 5 TD; 9 catches, 92 yards
Last Four Games: 42 carries, 193 (4.6), 2 TD; 7 catches, 58 yards, 1 TD

While Lewis has had the better numbers over the second quarter, Graham's production has dropped. His value to the offense has not. He just hasn't gotten the number of touches that he did in the first quarter of the season. Interesting how when Lewis was in his slump, he wasn't as productive as Graham is--now that Graham is the one taking lesser carries.

One thing that doesn't add up is that the passing game has been more efficient, throwing to the running backs less over the last four games.

Henry Hynoski
First Four Games: 9 carries, 28 yards; 4 catches, 35 yards, TD
Last Four Games: 3 carries, 5 yards; 14 catches, 94 yards

Outside of Mike Shanahan and Jon Baldwin, no one else has topped Hynoski's 14 catches during the second quarter of the season. His absence as a run-blocker in the Louisville game was noticeable. He was the game-changer of the Rutgers game--catching the ball out of the backfield to help set up Jon Baldwin for his big plays, and Mike Cruz. Hopefully, Hynoski will be good to go for the UConn game next Thursday. Outside of his 14 receptions, his numbers don't appear game-breaking, but he is valuable to the Pitt offense.

Jon Baldwin
First Four Games: 15 catches, 211 yards (14.1 avg.), 2 TD
Last Four Games: 18 catches, 335 yards (18.6), 2 TD

It doesn't seem much different from the first four games--especially when you stretch an additional 100 yards over the course of four games--but Jon Baldwin has shown more of that All-America poise we've come to expect. He had a big game at Notre Dame, and arguably his best game of the year against Rutgers. With Dion Lewis running the ball, and other players like Hynoski, Cruz, Mike Shanahan and Devin Street making plays in the passing game--Baldwin was the closer in that game. He only had one catch, but he showcased his speed on a 61-yard catch at Syracuse. He didn't get in a rhythm against Louisville, but he wasn't really needed.

Though he progressed in the second quarter of the season, Baldwin will need to be clutch over these final four games.

Mike Shanahan
First Four Games: 14 catches, 190 yards (13.6 avg.)
Last Four Games: 15 catches, 201 yards (13.4 avg.), TD

The thing most shocking about Shanahan's performance over the second quarter, was that it was his first career touchdown catch came at Syracuse--18 games into his career. Shocking in the sense that he's been pretty valuable to the passing game already, and it seemed like he had made a touchdown grab--or at least a play of similar impact--before that.

Shanahan is no longer a second option to Baldwin. The receiving numbers alone prove he can be just as productive. Instead of being the second option, in a lot of cases he is the first option to help set up Baldwin with the big play. Against Syracuse, Sunseri kept going to him--which resulted in the 30-yard touchdown pass to Shanahan. He also led the team in receiving yards against Louisville.

Devin Street
First Four Games: 6 catches, 71 yards (11.8 avg.)
Last Four Games: 8 catches, 144 yards (18.0 avg.)

Street showed by his play last week in the red zone--where he bumped into Dion Lewis on a screen play, which deflected the pass incomplete like a defensive back--that he is still a work in progress. Street is promising though. Aside from doubling his output over the last few games, he has responded in games like Notre Dame and Syracuse--where his number was called, and his team needed him to make a play. He is now the team's third receiver.

Cameron Saddler
First Four Games: 7 kick returns, 161 yards (23.0 avg.); 9 punt returns, 87 yards (9.7 avg.)
Last Four Games: , 7 kick returns, 131 yards (18.7 avg.); 10 punt returns, 118 yards (11.8 avg.)

The biggest thing with Saddler is just progress. Though he struggled at times this season--Notre Dame mainly, he responded to that with a big game at Syracuse, which included a season-long 31 yards. His fumble against Miami was a turning point. From a progress standpoint, he hasn't fumbled any of those away in the second quarter of the season. As long as he fields them the right way, he'll be fine. His best game was against Rutgers, where he averaged 15.2 yards a punt return.

Wannstedt said one of the things he wanted to address this bye week was the kickoff return game--mostly from a blocking standpoint. If Saddler continues to grow and improve from the Notre Dame game, and the special teams units get their blocking in order, he should be guaranteed 15.2 yards a return almost every time. The kickoff coverage teams are in order. Dan Hutchins has a net punting average that is as good as anyone in the country. That's also in part to excellent coverage. If Pitt can get that in order, blocking on a kickoff return--where it's more exciting to make plays--should be easier.

Mike Cruz
First Four Games: 4 catches, 31 yards (4.4 avg.)
Last Four Games: 6 catches, 74 yards (12.3 avg.) 2 TD

Jon Baldwin is the only other player with two touchdown catches in this second quarter of the season. Cruz has proven to be more reliable as the season has gone on. Though no one expected him to step in and be the next Dorin Dickerson or Nate Byham right away, he's becoming a target in the passing game more every week. Look no further than his two red zone touchdown catches against Rutgers, and his two third down conversions against Louisville. His blocking is still a work in progress, but the sophomore is improving.

Offensive line
First Four Games: 137 rushes, 679 yards (4.95), 8 TD; sack allowed every 12.5 passing attempts
Last Four Games: 141 rushes, 571 yards (4.0), 6 TD; sack allowed every 23 passing attempts

Keep in mind, the 300-yard output was against Florida International, where Ray Graham took off for 277 yards. The sack ratio has been twice as better since--mostly in part to the offensive line switch made after the third game. Lucas Nix is becoming more accustomed to the guard position each week, and Jordan Gibbs has provided the physical play that was needed from a starting offensive lineman.

Though we had to keep it consistent, by looking at four-game totals, here's a look at the averages from the first three games of offensive production, followed by the five games since when the changes were made on the offensive line.

First Three Games: 101 carries, 379 yards (3.8 yards per carry/126.3 yards a game); sack allowed every 9.8 passing attempts
Last Five Games: 177 carries, 871 yards (4.9 yards per carry/174.2 yards a game); sack allowed every 30 passing attempts

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