Despite the loss to Iowa, Todd Graham was generally pleased with the way the offense came out on Saturday against Iowa. When you think of high-octane, or explosive, certainly the 66-yard touchdown reception by Devin Street and 30-yard touchdown pass from Ronald Jones to Cameron Saddler fit that bill.
“We went up 24-3,” Graham said. “We made tremendous progress. For the first time it resembled what we’re trying to make it look like and what we’re trying to do.”
Part of that included 255 yards in the air from Tino Sunseri—most of which came in the first three quarters, as Pitt built a 24-3 lead. Sunseri also threw two picks, but he did complete 23-of-33 passes. Despite the turnovers, Sunseri came away feeling that it was his best outing of the season.
“I would say it’s my best game that I played yet,” Sunseri commented. “I was very pleased with all my reads. Even the interceptions were the right reads—I just have to put more air on the ball. That was really happy for me because the first two games, I was a little bit cloudy on some of the reads and some of the looks and stuff. That’s going to happen when you’re into a game situation because you’re not into getting exactly the same look that you’re getting at practice.”
One play that has come under question was a 4th-and-3 at the Iowa 36. Pitt went for it—as Sunseri looked for big Mike Shanahan. The two couldn’t connect. Iowa responded with a quick second touchdown of the fourth quarter. That play has drawn criticism on two levels—one, why wasn’t it completed, but why not give the ball to running back Ray Graham? Despite falling just short of 100 yards, and getting a few less carries than he got in the first two games, Graham is not the type of player to demand more carries. Instead, he supports Todd Graham’s decision to pass it in that 4th-and-3 situation.
“You just have to take what they give you,” Ray Graham said. “I like to fight for the extra yards. It was tough. They were keying in on me. We made a lot of things happen on the passing game. We always can get better doing what we’re doing; what we do is to make the best with what we’re doing.”
Sunseri talked a little further in detail about what happened on the play, and how it affected the game’s outcome.
“Last week, and the weeks prior, we weren’t able to get Mike Shanahan and those guys down the seam,” Sunseri said. “Iowa took a big hit on Mike, so we weren’t able to get down the seam. We made those adjustments to get the ball to Devin Street and those guys, and let them make plays. That’s how this offense works. If they try to take something away, you have to be able to answer with something else. Last week, we were able to answer with a lot of different areas of the game. We were able to put points on the board, but obviously you have to finish.”
That miss on 4th-and-3 is symbolic of the offense’s progress. Ray Graham put forth another strong effort in the running game, and after three games, has been Pitt’s most valuable player on offense. The passing game, under Sunseri’s direction, showed it’s taking steps—but is still a work in progress. Like Todd Graham said, though, this is the closest the offense has come to what he has envisioned for it.
“You have to make those adjustments,” Sunseri added. “When you’re able to make those adjustments in the game, you’re able to go down the field. You could really see the tempo of the offense really working. That’s putting points on the board, but obviously you’re disappointed because in the end, you didn’t do enough to finish.”