Pitt Football: Thursday Notebook

No worry of Pitt looking past Maine, as the Panthers have plenty to get ready for in second game.

Todd Graham expects to see a lot of improvement in his Pitt Panthers against Maine this week now that they have a game under their belt and their feet on the ground.

While they beat Buffalo, 35-16, in the opener, it wasn't really an impressive victory and Graham thinks that was because they were too geared up early, especially quarterback Tino Sunseri.

"There was a tremendous atmosphere and the guys were geared up," Graham said.

They were so geared up that offensive lineman Jordan Gibbs had to be scratched from the starting lineup because he hyperventilated.

The adrenalin, Graham believes, affected Sunseri's performance early.

"We had a lot of opportunities to score big touchdowns but had overthrows," he said. "A lot of it was being pretty keyed up. He made a lot of misreads and mental mistakes. The big thing was he can't put the ball in jeopardy. He put it jeopardy three times and we can't have that."

Now, familiar with working in Graham's "high octane" offense, less worried about center Ryan Turnley snaps out of the shotgun, Sunseri should be able to negotiate a game better.

Certainly Coach Graham was worried about those snaps.

"If anything worried me going to bed the first night was that we would have a bad snap but Turnley was great," he said.

The security blanket is running back Ray Graham, who opened his season with 201 rushing yards and a couple of touchdowns and who looks like he will thrive in this offense.

--Pitt is 9-0 against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, most recently defeating New Hampshire, 38-16 at Heinz Field last year. Maine is 1-0 against BCS foes, winning at Mississippi State, 9-7, in 2004.

--Only Oregon State's Malcolm Agnew, with 223 yards against Sacramento State, had more rushing yards on the opening weekend of college football than Pitt's Ray Graham.

--The Pitt offense has been described under Coach Todd Graham as "high octane" and showed why against Buffalo. Each of its five TD drives were completed in less than two minutes, 30 seconds. The longest drive took 2:29, covering 74 yards in eight plays.

SERIES HISTORY: Maine at Pittsburgh, first meeting.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Panthers are getting used to a different kind of offense, one that runs at top speed all the time and mixes pass and run effectively. RB Ray Graham carries on the running tradition of Tony Dorsett, Dion Lewis and LeSean McCoy, carrying in the area of 30 times a game and capable of a 200-yard game, as he had in the opener, at any time. The passing is going to be a step up, even with a holdover quarterback in Tino Sunseri. Sunseri got off to a slow start against Buffalo but found his accuracy and finished with a strong showing. WR Mike Shanahan emerged as the go-to receiver and set a career high with 85 yards and a 17-yard touchdown. Graham's offenses have turned out five 1,000-yard receivers in four years while Pitt has produced only seven in the school history. However, the school does churn out 1,000-yard rushers like McDonald's churns out Big Macs, having had four in a row heading into this year with Graham likely to extend that streak. It doesn't hurt to have an offensive line that is experienced and has 58 starts among the top six players.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: There was a lot of work to do after the Buffalo game, considering Pitt allowed Buffalo to run 93 plays, but it wound up in only 16 points and, in fact, turned in the game's big play when DT Chas Alecxih's ran an interception back 47 yards to set up the key score in the game. The last defensive lineman to return an interception for a TD was Gus Mustakas, who had a 9-yard return in 2006. Pressure on the passer has become a Pitt staple, led by OLB Brandon Lindsey. He had one of Pitt's two sacks in the opener and Pitt now has at least one sack in 13 consecutive games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Every week is a challenge. I coached at every level. A FBS team has a chance to make a name for itself by beating you. At Tulsa we were that way every time we went against a BCS program." -- Pitt Coach Todd Graham on the challenge of getting his team up for a game against FBS foe Maine.


THIS WEEK'S GAME: Maine at Pittsburgh, Saturday, Sept. 10
-- This is a game that figures to be dominated by the Pitt defense. While Maine came out and won its opener, 28-13, it was against Bryant, hardly the kind of team it will face this week. Maine did build a 28-0 lead and showed a potential star running back in Pushaun Brown, who rushed for 146 yards and two TD. However, the Black Bears were outgained in the game and gave up 196 passing yards. Pitt's high octane approach figures to wear them down, then wear them out.


RB Ray Graham -- Graham had one of the top offensive performances of college football's opening weekend when he rushed for 201 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries against Buffalo. It was his second 200-yard rushing performance in his career, having gone for 277 yards on 29 carries against Florida International in 210. Graham will be the workhorse of this Pitt offense.

QB Tino Sunseri -- For the offense to work, Sunseri has to operate efficiently. A high completion percentage and lack of turnovers is what Coach Todd Graham is seeking to keep teams from ganging up on RB Ray Graham. Sunseri was right on in the opener against Buffalo, completing 16 of 28 for 179 yards and no interceptions. He also threw for a score.

LB Brandon Lindsey -- Lindsey is one of eight NCAA players who had 10 more sacks returning from last year and got off to a good start with a sack against Buffalo, his 15th in his career. He has recorded at least one sack in eight of the last 13 games and figures to harass Maine should the Black Bears try to go to the air. His last game against a FBS opponent (New Hampshire) produced one of his three multiple sack games.

--QB Anthony Gonzalez will serve the second game of his two game suspension this week after a marijuana violation. While Graham maintains he remains a quarterback, Gonzalez has been working as at H-back because the coach believes he's too good an athlete not to get on the field in some way when he returns.

--RB Ray Graham was named the Big East's Offensive Player of the Week for his 201-yard rushing performance against Buffalo in the opener.

--Pitt's projected starting lineup on offense this week features only three seniors -- all on the offensive line. They are guards Chris Jacobson and Lucas Nix and RT Jordan Gibbs. There are only two other seniors on the offensive two-deep in LT Greg Gaskins and tailback Zach Brown.

--OT Jordan Gibbs had to be scratched from the starting lineup for Buffalo after he hyperventilated before the game. Coach Todd Graham said it had to do with his excitement before the game compounded by an asthma problem he has.

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