With one week remaining before Pitt takes the field again—this time a nationally-televised game with UConn—the one thing that has been evident in its last two games has been the lack of offense for Pitt.
In the two games since then, Pitt has scored one offensive touchdown (touchdown run by Graham against Rutgers), and allowed 13 sacks in 63 passing attempts; an astounding number of one sack for every 4.8 plays. That's almost a guaranteed sack for every set of downs. However, the blame shouldn't go squarely on the offensive line, according to quarterbacks coach Todd Dodge.
"Our offensive line might give up a sack, our quarterback can give up a sack, our receivers can give up a sack," Dodge said. "It's a responsibility of all 11 people (on offense) to protect the football. My job, in my room, is to make sure our quarterback is getting the ball out on time."
Aside from those holes in pass protection, here's what the rest of the offense has done besides Graham since that last win:
Tino Sunseri: 18-of-39 (46.2%), 165 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT
Trey Anderson: 7-of-24 (29.2%), 16 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT
Cameron Saddler: 4 receptions, 36 yards (all against Rutgers)
Devin Street: 3 receptions, 26 yards (all against Rutgers)
Hubie Graham: 3 receptions, 11 yards
Mike Shanahan: 1 reception, 4 yards (Rutgers)
Schematically, the Pitt coaches and players admit that both of the last two opponents have rolled out defensive packages that they haven't been able to pick up.
"That's all we've faced over the last two weeks; man-free," quarterbacks coach Todd Dodge said. "Rutgers brought a lot of pressure. Utah just played man, and played a six-in-the-box situation."
Out of all the inconsistencies on offense, the only position that has seen some switching has been the quarterback position. We've seen a rotation at receiver all season, but the same starters have remained intact the entire season. The quarterback position has seen the most switching in that sense, with freshman Trey Anderson and Tino Sunseri both getting snaps in the last two games.
Anderson started the second half of the Rutgers game, taking the first two series of that half before Sunseri returned. Against Utah, Anderson came in for the final two series of the second quarter, played the entire third quarter. Sunseri returned late in the third quarter, started the fourth quarter, then gave way to Anderson who played the final two series.
Sunseri said despite all the switching, he feels a sense of responsibility to the team to guide Anderson when he's in there. At the same time, he understands the coaching staff's decision, and supports it even if it means him being on the bench.
"Whenever Trey was coming in, I was trying to give as much information as I could," Sunseri said. "That's one thing that I have—the experience and the knowledge of being in a game, and understanding what a defense is trying to do. I was basically just trying to relay information from what I was seeing on the sideline.
"Whenever you're on the sideline, you might be able to catch something that you're not seeing on the field. Whenever he came over, I was just trying to relay as much information as I possibly could; trying to help him out. I was trying to put him in the best chance to be successful so we could try to put some points on the board, and try to win that game."
Despite knowing that he remains the starter heading into this next game, he feels the need to continue to prepare himself the same exact way.
"As a competitor, you always want to be in there to be that guy to lead your team to victory," Sunseri said. "The coaching staff felt that Trey was in the groove, and he could go down and help our team win. That's the ultimate goal here at the University of Pittsburgh; doing what we can to get victories. We've had total confidence in Trey and we just came up a little bit short that time. Next time, I'm sure we can get it.
"Each week, I prepare like I'm the starter. I prepare like I'm the best quarterback in the country. That's the kind of demeanor I have. I prepare like I'm going out there to execute and to lead my team to victory. I'm not worried about the decisions that coaches are going to make. Ultimately, coaches are going to make the best decisions that they feel is best for the team."
That plan of switching quarterbacks—or in this case making a switch to provide the offense with a spark—is going by the wayside. Todd Graham said after the Utah game, and already this week in practice, that they are sticking with Sunseri. He admitted as soon as the Utah game was done, and even after the Rutgers loss, that it's his fault for too much switching between the quarterbacks.
"The thing we're doing, is we're not going to do the ‘switch the quarterback' deal around," Graham said. "We're not going to do it. It's our job to get it out of him. The repetitions that TIno has had in the spring and the fall, we've got to get it out of him."
In fact, here is a look at how each quarterback has performed since that switching started at halftime of that Rutgers game. Sunseri started the game, completing 7 of his first 14 passes for 55 yards, and Pitt trailed just 6-3:
Anderson: Series 1 at Rutgers – 0-1, 1 rush 6 yards (Rutgers 6-3)
Anderson: Series 2 at Rutgers – 0-1; interception returned to Pitt 18 (Rutgers 6-3)
Sunseri: Series 1, at Rutgers following Anderson – 0-1 (Rutgers 13-3)
Sunseri: Series 2 at Rutgers -2-3, 14 yards, false start on the offensive line (Rutgers 13-3)
Sunseri: Series 3 at Rutgers – 1-2, 15 yards, Ray Graham scores on 64-yard TD (Rutgers 20-10)
Sunseri: Series 4 at Rutgers – 2-3, 26 yards, sack Kevin Harper missed 42-yard FG (Rutgers 27-10)
Sunseri: Series 5 at Rutgers – 2-3, 17 yards, interception returned for TD (Rutgers 34-10)
Sunseri: Series 6 at Rutgers – 0-1, sack (Rutgers 34-10)
Anderson: Series 1 at Rutgers, following Sunseri -2-3, 4 yards (Rutgers 34-10)
As you can see, each quarterback's respective numbers spiraled out of control after the switching began. Things went even worse against Utah. After Sunseri began the game completing 4-of-10 for 38 yards, Anderson came on for the final series of the second quarter. The only thing different about this initial switch was that Sunseri's numbers were worse, and that Pitt actually led 14-13 at the half. Here's how each quarterback fared after the coaches started switching the quarterbacks in that game:
Anderson: Series 1 vs. Utah – 1-4, -4 yards (Pitt 14-13)
Anderson: Series 2 vs. Utah – 1-2, 6 yards (Utah 16-14)
Anderson: Series 3 vs. Utah – 1-2, 0 yards, false start on the offensive line (Utah 16-14)
Anderson: Series 4 vs. Utah – 1-3, 3 yards, sacked once (Utah 16-14)
Sunseri: Series 1 vs. Utah, following Anderson – 0-0, sacked once (Utah 16-14)
Sunseri: Series 2 – 0-1, sacked and fumbled (Utah 19-14)
Anderson: Series 1, following Sunseri – 1-5, 7 yards; 3 rushes for 9 yards (Utah 19-14)
Anderson: Series 2, 0-3, interception returned for touchdown (Utah 26-14)
Anderson: Series 4, 0-1, interception (Utah 26-14)
Clearly, the switching—whether it be for a spark or not—did not help either quarterback.
Even though the coaching staff has said there will be no more switching or rotating the quarterbacks, that doesn't mean there isn't plans for a number-two quarterback. This week, that number-two quarterback is Mark Myers—a name that has been drawn from many fans, as to why he hasn't been given a shot. With the quarterbacks being largely ineffective on Saturday, why not give Myers a shot. Quarterbacks coach Dodge said Wednesday that it's not because they don't like Myers. Instead, it's because Anderson won the backup quarterback job in training camp.
However, with Anderson now suffering from some tendonitis in his throwing hand—not because of his performance Saturday—Myers is now working as the team's backup quarterback this week.
"He's been taking some snaps this week," Graham said. "Trey has had a little bit of tendonitis in his hand, so Myers has done a good job. Tino will be our (starting) quarterback."
Dodge is the primary evalutator of the three quarterbacks. He feels Anderson pushed his way past Myers in training camp. However, as the team crosses into the second half of the season, he feels there's plenty of time for a guy like Myers to make his mark, so to speak. It sounds after just two days of practice this week—taking the backup reps—Myers already has.
"As I told Mark in the beginning of the season, ‘yes, your reps will be diminished, but that doesn't mean you're not getting individual, you're not getting one-on-one, you're not getting one-on-two.'" Dodge explained. "He's getting reps, it's just not as many. As we we continue through the rest of our season, Mark Myers continues to be a viable option on our football team. He just, frankly, was not the best option at the time that we started our season and as we've continued through our season. As we've gone through this off-week, right now, Mark has strung two good days together.
"Mark has got all the number-two reps for the last practice and a half. There's a lot of things that Mark can bring to the table. He's just got to be consistent, day-in and day-out. That's something that my job to help him get there and his job to either make sure he is consistent on a day-to-day basis. He's still a very viable option, at our number-two guy as we go forward in the season."