No Passing Fancy

To say that the Pitt quarterbacks had a rough morning during the Panthers' second intra-squad scrimmage Saturday would be an understatement.

The Pittsburgh trio of fifth-year senior Bill Stull, junior Pat Bostick and redshirt freshman Tino Sunseri completed just nine passes (42.86 percent) for 103 yards with two touchdown tosses accounting for 88 yards. The reason for this, Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said, was that the Panthers concentrated on their running game.

"The way the thing unfolded, it was not a passing emphasis,'' Wannstedt said. "We tried to make an evaluation on some of these young running backs and our offensive line, I really thought stepped up when we took the ball the length of the field basically running it the length of the field and put in in the end zone. I'm real pleased with what Ray Graham did today.

"There's nothing like live scrimmage work to make a true evaluation. He held onto the ball today, which was a concern earlier in camp, so I think we got a good look at him, Jason Douglas and Chris Burns. And we're a lot closer than we were (in finalizing) our running backs than we were yesterday.''

While that might be true, Pitt's quarterback situation wasn't close to being resolved. Actually, even though Stull was 2-for-7 for three measly yards, a long toss for four yards and one sack, he likely will be the starter when the Panthers open the season against Youngstown State Sept. 5 at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field.

"I really don't look at stats from the scrimmages or anything like that,'' Stull said. "We really got better as an offense, and ... the running game was more the focus today. And we definitely got better at that.

"The guys up front are gaining confidence, going up against one heckuva defensive line the past couple days, and our front seven is pretty darn good. So, with the way we ran the ball, that gave our O-line some confidence.''

Bostick was 3-for-4 for 64 yards with a 51-yard scoring toss to freshman Devin Street and two sacks, while Sunseri was 4-for-10 for 36 yards with the 24-yard toss in the flat that tailback Ray Graham blew open for a touchdown. Bostick described his scoring play.

"We got a great play fake, and Devin did a great job selling it,'' Bostick said. "He ran right down the hash there, and he was wide open. All I had to do was toss it out there and put it right on him. (And) I think we've been pretty successful the past couple days with our reads.

"But our defense has done a great job bringing pressure. So, sometimes it's pretty tough to evaluate it, but I think we're coming along. And we're to a point now where we've got to throw the ball to get things done. And today, we had a couple instances where that showed.''

Wannstedt believed any lack of success Saturday "partially was due to the limited number of passes (thrown).''

Even though he has struggled at times in the preseason, Stull said there isn't any additional pressure on him to perform with Sunseri right there to take over.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself to compete and do the best that I can,'' Stull said. "But added pressure, I wouldn't say so. The only pressure is what I put on myself, just trying to compete with myself and the other guys.''

And what about the passing game? How far along has it progressed so far.

"It's definitely there,'' Stull said. "I'm comfortable with it. The past couple practices, we've been throwing the ball well. All camp we've been throwing well. The passing game is awesome. I love it. I'm really loving it, and that's all I can say about that.''

Sunseri also put on a happy face.

"I felt like we executed to the point to where we got to where we needed to be,'' Sunseri said. "But our defense made some plays. You've got to expect that. As quarterbacks, we just wanted to get the ball out of our hands. We didn't want to take any sacks, and we wanted to make clear, decisive decisions.

"And I felt that we did that. We didn't turn the ball over. We didn't throw any interceptions. So, we didn't pin our offense back in certain situations. In scrimmages like this, you want to make sure we play good defense and run the ball, because those are two staples you want to have when you start the season. Play-action off of that, you can have guys running wide open.

"So, we wanted to make sure we could pound the rock today, get our running backs going and see if we could run the ball against our defense,'' Sunseri added. "(And) the offensive line played very well today. I feel that me, Pat and Bill all had equal opportunities. I really think that they've done a good job splitting up the reps, and since Day 1 it's always been a competition.

"That's the way Coach Cignetti has wanted to emphasize the most, so that every day you can go out and win or lose the job by the decisions that you make. And this last week has been no different. We had to go out and compete and move the offense. (But) we've all had reps with the ones to see who can do the most to help this team wins games.''

Actually, Stull and Sunseri had two series each before Bostick took the field, and he hasn't had a first-team rep since the first week.

But if the competitors for the starting quarterback job keep stumbling along, that could change.

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