Pitt Football: Tuesday Notebook

It may not be the regular season finale as it was in 2009, but for a third time in four seasons, the Pitt Cincinnati game has first-place implications in the Big East

Pitt finally found the "high impact" offense coach Todd Graham had promised as it defeated Connecticut, 35-20, on Oct. 26, but it was an injury that will have the greatest impact on the Panthers' season.

While quarterback Tino Sunseri came to life and passed for 419 yards, running back Ray Graham left the game after his second carry with a season-ending right knee injury that will require surgery.

He was second in the nation in rushing, averaging almost 140 yards a game and looked to be on the verge of a big game, having gained 19 yards in two carries.

It was difficult to watch the scene, as the nation did on television. Ron Cook, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist, described it this way: "The camera showed Graham sobbing as he was helped off the field. His lips quivered. The pain had to be brutal, the concern for his football future something much worse."

Sunseri, who led Pitt in rushing with 73 yards, capped that drive with a touchdown run. After scoring, Sunseri didn't celebrate. Instead, he went right to Graham on the bench to console him.

Running back Zach Brown replaced Graham in the game. He rushed for only 33 yards, but he caught nine passes for 84 yards, and was Pitt's leading receiver.

It was Sunseri, however, who took over the game. He completed 29 of 42 passes for a career-high 419 yards, 112 more than his previous best and the most by a Pitt quarterback since Rod Rutherford threw for the same number of yards against West Virginia in 2003.

It was also the most yards ever thrown for by a collegiate quarterback in Heinz Field.

But more important, Sunseri protected the football.

"I was really pleased with Tino and how he managed the game," coach Todd Graham said. "It's the second time this year that we reached our goal of 100 percent ball security. We took care of the ball and didn't turn the ball over tonight."

--Midweek football games at Pitt have been a disaster as 65,050-seat Heinz Field was barely half full for the Connecticut game. It was the second midweek game of the year in which this happened to Pitt. Tickets were available for 99 cents on StubHub. Scalpers outside the stadium were asking $2 per ticket. Attendance was announced at 40,219.

--With six sacks, Pitt has now been credited with a sack in 20 consecutive games.

--Pitt set season-highs for total offense (529), passing yardage (433), pass completions (30) and pass attempts (43). Its previous season-high for total offense was 523 yards vs. USF.

KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Zach Brown -- With RB Ray Graham out for the year with a knee injury, Brown has to fill in. The loss of the nation's No. 2 running back after gaining 19 yards on two carries is a blow. He will undergo surgery and is out of the year. That will throw a load upon Brown. "Zach Brown came in and did a tremendous job in all three phases of playing running back -- picking up the pass protection, making sure he's getting out on his routes and running the football," QB Tino Sunseri said.

LOOKING GOOD: Pitt used its fifth differentoffensive line this season as injuries have hit that group hard. Pitt's line looked the best it has looked all year. Center Ryan Turnley had to play through serious pain. "We had a lot of guys go down. But, I was very proud of our offensive line play today," Coach Todd Graham said. "I challenged them to attack and walk onto the field with great confidence and be physical up front. I thought those guys played well. Ryan Turnley was unbelievable while playing through what he was playing through. The courage he showed tonight was phenomenal. I can't say enough about him. He's a tremendous warrior. I am really proud of him."

STILL NEEDS WORK: It is difficult in a game like this to find things that need work. While Connecticut's running total was not large, in part due to six sacks being subtracted from it, the Huskies inside running game did open many huge holes in Pitt's attacking defense. That is something that needs to be addressed as Huskies RB Lyle McCombs did rush for 124 yards on 25 carries, most of it up the gut.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Whenever you lose a player like Ray Graham, it hurts a lot. He's a vocal leader and he's also one of the best backs in America. But the way Ray is he wanted to make sure we kept moving forward and that we won this game." -- QB Tino Sunseri on losing RB Ray Graham to a knee injury in the first quarter of a 35-20 victory over Connecticut.


--QB Tino Sunseri shattered his previous career high in passing by completing 29 of 42 for 419 yards. His previous high was 207 against Rutgers on Oct. 23, 2010.

--QB Tino Sunseri's 419 yards passing were the most ever by a collegiate quarterback in Heinz Field and the most by a Pitt QB since Rod Rutherford threw for 419 yards against West Virginia in 2003.

--WR Mike Shanahan had his first two-TD game in his career. Shanahan finished with four catches for 79 yards.

--Junior RB Ray Graham, second in the nation in rushing, is out for the season with a right knee injury that will require surgery. He was injured on his second carry of the game and finishes the season with 958 rushing yards on 164 carries with nine touchdowns. He averaged 5.8 per carry.

--Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Matt Rotheram sustained a fractured left ankle against UConn and will undergo surgery. One of Pitt's most versatile linemen, Rotheram played in all eight games this season and started the last two contests at tackle and guard, respectively.

--Junior WR Cameron Saddler will be out for the rest of the season with a fractured sternum. Saddler played in all eight games, starting seven, and had 19 catches for 207 yards (10.9 avg.) and a TD. He was injured following a 40-yard catch-and-run that set up Pitt's third touchdown for a 21-3 lead over UConn late in the first half.

--Pitt used its fifth different combination of offensive linemen against UC in LT Greg Gaskins, LG Ryan Schlieper, C Ryan Turnley, RG Matt Rotheram and RT Jordan Gibbs.

--Redshirt freshman TE Brendan Carozzoni made his first career start.

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