Growing Up - Some News and Notes From Rutgers Game

Written by Paul Zeise on .

** Don't look now but it appears as if the Panthers are starting to mature before our very eyes and develop into a pretty good football team. Again, like last week, they didn't exactly play a juggernaut in Rutgers -  which, they beat today 41-21 - but like last week they handled their business the right way - well, at least after a slow start. But just like that the Panthers are in the driver's seat in the Big East conference race and just like that they are once again the team to beat. And anybody who doesn't think they are getting better hasn't been paying attention. Yes, Rutgers isn't very good - but Pitt couldn't do what it did today to either New Hampshire or Florida International and the Scarlet Knights are better than both teams. The Panthers have a long way to go to get to where they want to be and a lot of room for improvement, but it is clear they are now on the right track and if they continue to improve like this each week, the Big East title is indeed within their reach. And oh yeah - you think that blowout win of Syracuse looks just a tiny bit more impressive today given what the Orange did at WVU?

** We could start a lot of places, but let's start here -- anyone out there still want to write in and call me an idiot for saying that Tino Sunseri will be good enough to give this team a chance to win? Anyone out there left who thinks that he wasn't the right choice as the starting quarterback of this team? I said it at the start of the season, I said it after the Miami game and I'll say it again - the kid may or may not become a great quarterback some day but he will be good enough to give the Panthers a legitimate passing attack (something they did not have in 2007 and 2008) and he clearly is. And this is the third game in a row we've said this about him - he played his best game of the season today because he did. He was 21-of-27 for 307 yards, one touchdown and one interception and that interception was on Ray Graham, not him. Again, the team is starting to play much better football than it had, but a big reason for that is Sunseri is finally starting to get really comfortable in what he is doing out there. He made a great throw to Mike Cruz on a touchdown pass, he made some big-time throws down the field to Jon Baldwin and he never really got rattled despite a lot of pressure from Rutgers.

** Here is the one element that was added today to the offense which will make it scary good in the future - the two stars finally shined. I'm talking about Dion Lewis (17 rushes, 130 yards, one touchdown) and Jon Baldwin (5 receptions, 139 yards, one touchdown, two catches of 40 or more yards). When those two play at that level - and then you add in Ray Graham, Devin Street, Mike Shanahan, Henry Hynoski and Mike Cruz -- all of the sudden it is pick your poison. Again, this team is along way from a finished product and has a long way to go, but it is continuing to take strides and that is all that really matters. And consider these numbers - Pitt's win over Boston College in 2000 was the last time that Pitt has had a 300-yard passer, 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver in the same game. And also, it is the first time ever Pitt has scored 40 or more points in back-to-back Big East games.

** The defensive line also showed up today in a big way. Brandon Lindsey had three sacks, Jabaal Sheard had two sacks and the line really dominated Rutgers offensive line - though it must be said that the Scarlet Knights offensive front is putrid. Still, it was good to see that unit get it going and really show up because as that unit gets healthier, it could become dominant. One other note about the defensive line - Bryan Murphy played about ten snaps today so his redshirt is gone and TJ Clemmings got in for about five or six snaps. Those two freshmen will be good, Aaron Donald, who played about half the snaps, already is. He was once again a disruptive force and really, this kid needs to play more than he is even now.

I'll have more a little bit later as I have to scoot out of the press box right now.



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