Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pitt looks impressive in its high octane coming out party with win over South Florida

I'd say 523 total yards and 44 points is a pretty good demonstration of the high octane approach new Pitt head coach Todd Graham has been preaching since the day he was hired back in January.

The Pitt Panthers, coming off of frustrating and heartbreaking losses to Iowa and Notre Dame in back-to-back weeks, opened their Big East schedule Thursday evening with a very impressive 44-17 victory over 16th ranked South Florida at Heinz Field.

The game was back and forth in the first half, with Pitt leading, 20-17, at halftime, but then the Panthers scored 24 unanswered points in the second-half and won going away.

Running back Ray Graham was the star of the evening, rushing for 226 yards and two touchdowns. With 734 yards through five games, Graham is off to the best start by a running back in school history.

As for quarterback Tino Sunseri, he wasn't spectacular, but he was pretty efficient, going 22/33 for 216 yards and a touchdown pass to go along with a rushing touchdown of his own.

On defense, the Panthers did give-up 425 yards, but they held South Florida scoreless in the second half, and after giving away fourth quarter leads in the last two games, that was certainly a welcome sight.

With the victory over the 16th ranked Bulls, the Panthers defeated their first ranked opponent since knocking off South Florida in 2008.

So, just like last season, the Panthers stumble through a frustrating non-conference debut but look extremely dominant in their first Big East game. If you remember last season, Pitt, ranked 15th in the preseason poll, lost in overtime at Utah, were crushed by Miami at Heinz Field, and lost a close game to the Irish in South Bend. The Panthers were 2-3 heading into the Big East portion of their schedule but throttled their first three conference opponents by a combined score of 106-38.

I don't know if the Panthers dominant performance is an indication that they're a serious threat in the Big East, and I certainly won't be getting my hopes up for a BCS bid (we Panthers fans know how that can go), but it was an awesome way to open-up conference play. Maybe there's something to this high octane philosophy, after all.

Hail to Pitt!

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