Panthers Falling Into Bad Trend

Todd Graham still looking for his team to finish out games, but takes some positives--especially on defense--from this last game.

For Pittsburgh, the Notre Dame loss was another close encounter of the bad kind.

Coach Todd Graham understands the necessity to win the close games but the Panthers have lost both their decisions decided by a touchdown or less and done so in the closing minutes.

Playing before a sellout crowd of 65,050 at Heinz Field, the Panthers let a fourth-quarter lead evaporate in 15-12 defeat. That game came a week after squandering a sizeable lead at Iowa.

"We have to learn to finish, and we're going to. We're so close," said quarterback Tino Sunseri. "That's the thing that's so frustrating right now in our locker room. We feel like we are inches away from really busting this open and really being in that up-tempo offense and understanding it, and being able to put points on the board."

The Notre Dame loss wasn't as gut-wrenching as at Iowa, where they lost a 21-point lead, but being at home and against the Fighting Irish made it painful.

"I wouldn't say this fourth quarter was like Iowa, I still think we played really well. It was just one of those drives, but, if you think about the rest of the game, we contained them," safety Andrew Taglianetti told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I wouldn't say this was a fourth-quarter collapse, we just needed to execute a little better on one drive."

They also need to find a way to score more than 12 points in an offense that advertises being high scoring.

"We needed to score touchdowns instead of kicking field goals," Graham said. "We went for it on fourth down probably more than I have ever gone for it on fourth down, trying to be more aggressive."

NOTES, QUOTES
--Former Coach John Majors, who led the Panthers to the 1976 national championship, and his star running back that year, Tony Dorsett, were honorary captains. In four games against Notre Dame, Dorsett rushed for an incredible 754 yards, still an NCAA record. It includes a school record 303 yards against the Irish 36 years later.

--DB Andrew Taglianetti forced the first fumble of his career in the first quarter, while LB Greg Williams recorded the recovery for the Panthers, the third of his career.

--Pitt led 3-0 at the end of the first quarter. The Panthers have not allowed a point in the first quarter this season, outscoring their opponents 29-0 in the initial period.

--DE Brandon Lindsey's third-quarter sack gives him at least one sack in 10 of the past 16 games. Lindsey has three sacks this year to lead the team.

KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Ray Graham in the passing game. Getting the ball into his hands is crucial to Pitt's offense and throwing him the ball might just be better than handing it to him. He had eight catches against Notre Dame for 43 yards to go along with 21 rushes for 89 yards. Screens and swings will put him in open field without having to battle through the big guys up front.

LOOKING GOOD: RB Ray Graham continues to rank in the Top 10 in rushing in the nation, standing 8th while averaging 127 yards a game and 5.08 yards a carry. Graham needs some help from the passing game, however. LB Brandon Lindsey continues to give the Panthers a strong pass rush and has recorded a sack in 10 of the last 16 games.

STILL NEEDS WORK: Pitt is ranked No. 115 in the nation in pass defense and that has cost it dearly already this season. They are giving up 306 yards a game and they have yet to play the whirlwind down south them in Morgantown, W.Va., which is averaging 382 yards a game and ranked third in the nation. The "High Octane" offense that Coach Todd Graham brought in hasn't lived up to billing, ranking 82nd in total offense and 72nd in scoring at 27 points a game. One local columnist compared it to the offense of previous coach Dave Wannstedt.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've lost two close games back-to-back. I've got all the confidence in the world. Our focus is to go to work and figure out a way to beat South Florida and be 1-0 in the Big East." -- Coach Todd Graham, after losing to Iowa and Notre Dame in consecutive and now getting ready to be the villain as Big East play begins.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES:
--Senior OG Chris Jacobson missed the Notre Dame and is expected to be out for the rest of the season due to a left knee injury sustained in the Iowa game. Surgery is to be performed this week and Jacobson will seek a medical hardship waiver and a sixth-year of eligibility. He also had season-ending surgery on his right knee in 2007.

--LG Cory King started in place of the injured Chris Jacobson. "It was great to get that first play out of the way," he said. "After that, I kind of settled down. I definitely made some mistakes, but when I do make mistakes I just try to make them at 1,000 miles per hour."

--Backup QB Trey Anderson, a true freshman, played one series against Notre Dame and missed both his pass attempts. His appearance had nothing to do with the play of starting QB Tino Sunseri. "We were going to put him in the third series, no matter what," coach Todd Graham said. "I think we will continue to do that." Anderson was also tackled short of the goal line when put in on a two-point conversion attempt.

--Freshman DB Lloyd Carrington made his first appearance as did backup quarterback Mark Myers, who punted.


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