Pitt's First Spring Scrimmage

The Pitt offense continued its ascent against the Panthers' proud defensive unit with a strong running game, precise, big-play passing attack and few mistakes during Saturday's 90-minute scrimmage at the UMPC Sports Complex.

The Pittsburgh quarterbacks led the way with 23 completions in 32 attempts for 251 yards and five touchdowns. Both Tino Sunseri and Pat Bostick led scoring drives on their opening possessions, which disappointed Panthers coach Dave Wannstedt from a defensive standpoint.

"For the first live, all-out scrimmage with the players on their own on the field, I thought we got some things done,'' Wannstedt said. "We accomplished some things, too, but the best thing we did on offense was that both the first- and second-team units played fairly clean. There were no turnovers. You didn't see the ball on the ground, and there were very few penalties.

"And when we play like that as an offense, we're pretty tough to stop because of our balance. I thought both quarterbacks played well, and they both made good decisions. I thought that Jason Douglas made some plays, and all of our receivers, as a group with Baldwin, Shanahan, Cam Saddler ... made plays today when there were opportunities.

"From a defensive standpoint, Ty Ezell, Chas Alecxih, Tristan Roberts, those guys jumped out,'' Wannstedt added. "But we didn't have the defensive dominance that is what we expect every time we go on the field. Sure, our offense is getting better, but we did not dominate or make enough plays on defense. But, hopefully, this was a wake-up call for them.''

Tino was sharp and displayed a strong arm from the outset. He drove the Panthers methodically downfield on the opening possession with tailback Dion Lewis carrying the load. Sunseri capped the drive with a touchdown toss to tight end Mike Crus from 11 yards out.

Sunseri added three more touchdown passes and was 13-for-18 overall for 129 yards with just one sack. He also ran three times, including a roll right for a touchdown from the 1. His other scoring passes were for 25 yards to Mike Shanahan, 29 yards to Jon Baldwin and a one-yard toss to Lewis.

"Being my second year in the offense, everyone knows their roles, what's expected of them,'' Sunseri said. "From the skill guys to the offensive line, we want to establish ourselves as a hard-nosed football team with down-hill running. And when we're not turning the ball over or committing penalties, that's easy to do, especially with backs like Dion Lewis and Ray Graham.

"Any time you don't turn it over or commit any penalties, it's a positive day. But the biggest thing for us is running the football, and when we do that successfully with Dion and Ray we can do a lot off of that with play-action passes and things like that. So, there were a lot of positives from today's scrimmage, but we still have a lot to work on.''

Bostick didn't waste any time getting the second unit into the end zone, as he fired downfield immediately to Greg Cross. The fifth-year senior wideout hauled in the pass and cruised into the end zone for a 65-yard score.

"I just threw it out there and was glad to see him get that big body up in the air and get it and run,'' Bostick said. "With Baldwin, Shanahan, Cross and Street and even Cam, who's not as big as the others. But he does some things you can't coach. His feet are so quick that me and Tino just have to get the ball to them, as well as our backs. If we can do that, we'll be so explosive this year.''

Bostick was 10-for-14 for 122 yards and the one touchdown to Cross. He was sacked twice. Andrew Janocko got one series with the third team and was 2-for-5 for 17 yards with one sack and a 13-yard toss to Caleb Wilson.

"When you come into a scrimmage situation ... you take the element of predictability out of it, and we were able to come out on Tino's drive and move the ball,'' Bostick said. "Then, we come out on my drive and take a shot (downfield). So, we had some success, (but) it wasn't surprising.

"Every day we come out here and are pretty evenly matched. But today, we did a good job coming out fast and strong, (and) we only had a few miscues with illegal formations. But that was a little disappointing, because we need to see that. As quarterbacks, Tino and I have to see that. It's on us.''

Lewis led Pitt's running game with 64 yards on just nine carries with a long run for 16 yards. He broke off several double-digit burst where he hit the hole and then made a quick jump-cut for additional yardage. Ray Graham was bottled up, for the most part, with 11 carries for 22 yards.

Chris Burns and Jason Douglas tallied 11 and 13 carries, respectively, for 35 and 31 yards. Fullbacks Henry Hynoski and Kevin Adams had just one carry each. Wideout Cam Saddler had two carries, but could not get outside.

"Our biggest challenge on offense is that Tony Wise has to figure out that offensive line,'' Wannstedt said. "Alex Karabin is doing a great job, but the right guard position is up in the air.

"So, we've got some things we have to work through. (And) we may (juggle the depth chart) to reward guys who deserve it, but we won't do anything crazy. We're not concerned about that right now.''

Redshirt junior Greg Gaskins opened at right guard, next to Karabin at center. The other spots on the offensive line with tackles Jason Pinkston and Lucas Nix, as well as left guard Chris Jacobson, were the same. Redshirt freshman Jack Lippert was the second-team center with redshirt sophomore Ryan Turnley at right guard. Gaskins was the third-team center, while Lippert played right guard.

Shanahan and Saddler led Pitt's wideouts with four catches each for 52 and 32 yards, respectively. Devin Street added three catches for 16 yards, while Baldwin (35 yards), Cruz (17), Hynoski (nine) and Adams (six) had two apiece. Graham (eight yards), Lewis (one for a TD), Cross (65 for a TD), Douglas (minus-1) and Brock DeCicco (15) caught one pass each.

Defensively, tackle Tyrone Ezell led the way with seven total tackles, including five solo stops, four behind the line and one sack. Greg Williams, Dan Mason, Justin Hargrove and Chas Alecxih tallied six tackles each. And walk-on Pat Costello, a former punter who was a solid special-teams performer late last season, had five tackles from his safety spot. Hargrove had two sacks.

In limited special teams work, Dan Hutchins made his only field-goal attempt from 33 yards, while Kevin Harper missed from 30 by hooking it immediately to the left. Hutchins made both extra points, while Harper was 1-for-1.

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