Offensive Timing A Work In Progress

In the long passing game on Saturday, Pitt was 3-of-7 on passing attempts of 20 yards or greater. Despite scoring five touchdowns in the game; with two missed field goals and a few missed opportunities on long passing plays, the offense gave us a glimpse of how they're a work in progress.

The Pitt offense produced 35 points in its high-octane debut. There were mixed reviews about the offense's debut in the new system. In the first half, the offense produced seven points in 43 plays. In the second half, the offense established more of a comfort level. Though they ran less than half the number of plays they ran in the first half—21—they scored four touchdowns out of those 21 plays.

Tino Sunseri completed 10-of-21 passes in the first half for 91 yards. On passing attempts of 20 yards or more, he was 1-of-4. That one completion was to Hubie Graham for a gain of 21 yards. The first incompletion came on the opening play—a pass intended for Mike Shanahan who was in one-on-one coverage. Shanahan had his guy beat, but the pass wasn't thrown to the right spot.

The other two were for Cameron Saddler—both cases where Saddler underran the route and wasn't where the ball was. When the offense wasn't clicking, the timing between the quarterbacks and receivers was off. When it did start to click in the second half, it was because of the timing.

"(Receivers) were doing a great job of getting off their releases and getting downfield," Sunseri said. "We just have to finish plays. That was the biggest thing that we noticed on tape; we left so many plays on the field."

One thing that's stuck with head coach Todd Graham since the game, is two missed field goals. Add those in, and you have 41 points in the first game of the Graham era.

"If we kick two field goals we score 41 points," Graham added. "We were not hitting on all cylinders, no question about that. But, we are not far off."

Since the start of that second half, which has carried over into this week of practice, the quarterbacks and receivers are in the midst of a transition. According to Tino Sunseri, with the lingering effects of some of the incomplete passes on Saturday night, it started Sunday morning.

"That's what I really concentrated on (Tuesday) and the thing I worked on Sunday; I came in here, put the nets on the field, went in and did extra work; by myself and I brought (Devin) Street and those guys out," Sunseri said. "I just threw the ball to them a couple times, just to make sure we got our timing down and everything; make sure that doesn't happen again if our guys are wide open."

To an extent, he feels it's a matter of just getting back to basics.

"I was anticipating too much on where they were going to be instead of just playing backyard football, what you've been doing since you were a little kid; just putting the ball on people," Sunseri added.

The key to the success of this offense is based on timing. That was evident on Saturday night. Sunseri came out in the second half, completing 6-of-7 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. On passing attempts of 20 yards or more in the second half, Sunseri was 2-of-3 for 43 yards—both receptions going to Shanahan. According to Shanahan, he's felt the comfort level with the offense breaking out since halftime.

"Obviously, the second half is something good to build off of," Shanahan said. "We really had some momentum today in practice. We came out working hard and focused. It's something to build off of."

Saddler described his missed opportunity on Wednesday. He cited an example of an NFL preseason game where he saw the same kind of missed opportunity between Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman and his receiver Mike Williams. He admits his own fault, but also feels there is no substitute for learning how to make big plays, than by missing out on a few in an actual game.

"In practice, it's easy," Saddler explained. "The scout team guys aren't allowed to get on us. You can just throw it, and make the catch. In a game, you have to be on point. It's a transition. The game speed, it's so much different in a game. Those guys on the other side of the ball don't like you. They're goal is to get the ball back. They'll do whatever it takes. Our defense (in practice) isn't really like that. They're our players, so they know we're all playing smart. That's the difference. The game is so much faster.

"It's football. Me and Tino are both sick. I think I am a little more sicker than he is about it. We worked on that this week, and if the chance presents itself this week, we have to make it happen."

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