Some quick notes before we get into the Good, Bad and Ugly from the Buffalo game...
** The weekly schedule for Pitt coverage is pretty standard --
2) Our weekly live Pitt FB chat will be Thursday's at noon.
3) This week begins the weekly Thursday night "Pitt Edition of the Nightly Sports Call" for hard core Pitt fans. It is on CW-15 and I will host alongside Bob Pompeani or Jory Rand. You can call in with all of your Pitt questions and we will talk Pitt football from 10:35 to 11. It was very successful last year thanks to all of you.
4.) You can follow me on Twitter @PaulZeise -- (Yes, I tweet now)
5.) Todd Graham has his weekly teleconference Monday and his formal news conference Tuesday (usually both are on Monday) but again, Monday this week is a holiday.
** The newcomers/freshmen who played Saturday, at least according to my notes and the participation chart are as follows TE Hubie Graham, RB Zach Brown, WR Josh Brinson, LB Todd Thomas, LB EJuan Price, RB Corey Davis, WR Ronald Jones and DT Khaynin Mosley-Smith.
Of that group, I thought Hubie Graham and Zach Brown had the best overall games and Ronald Jones was very good as a returner as well. Both played well - Davis obviously has ability but he didn't show enough yet to declare him a future star. Thomas did a few good things but needs some work and Price was the one who left me the most underwhelmed. None of that means a thing because it was the first game for all of these guys.
But two things about it are evident - the youth movement we heard about for two weeks did not materialize and there will likely be a lot more guys taking a redshirt than perhaps we first thought.
Brown and Graham, though, are very nice additions and both seem to fit into this scheme well.
** Although we talked about this offense having a bunch of formations, the personnel groupings on offense were fairly standard - the group we seemed to see the most was three wides, an H-back/threeback and a tailback. We also saw a lot of three wide receivers and two tailbacks. We saw at least one Wildcat formation and very little four-wide receiver sets. And as far as time - one reporter had a stopwatch in the press box and said that the team averaged about 21 seconds between plays. I didn't time them but that sounds about right.
OK, without further delay, here is the first Good, Bad and Ugly of the 2011 season....
** Ray Graham - To quote Dennis Green (sort of) "this guy is who we thought he was" and we knew Graham was good. We also knew he was capable of carrying this offense until the passing game comes around. Graham rushed for 201 yards and three touchdowns - a great start.
*** Ryan Turnley - The guy snapped the ball almost 70 times and didn't miss one. Not one over the quarterbacks head, not one under his legs, not one bad one. That is pretty impressive for a guy making his first career start, especially since they were all (from what I can tell) shotgun snaps. This was a major area of concern but there is no concern. Really, the interior of the offensive line was fairly solid all night, which isn't a surprise given that's where the two best linemen are.
*** Sunseri - The quarterback was extremely good..........in the second half, leading four consecutive scoring drives and completing 6 of his 7 passes. He looked much calmer in the second half and didn't try to do too much - he just relied on and trusted in the system. Let's not forget - for all the whining about this offense not being "high octane enough" or whatever, the Panthers did score every time they touched the ball in the second half with the exception of the one drive where Sunseri fumbled the ball.
*** K'Waun Williams - The secondary didn't have a wonderful night, but K'Waun can cover and he is the best corner on this team. He did a lot of good things out there and clearly will be a bright spot on this defense. He actually led the team in tackles (9) and tackles for loss (2)
**** Chas Alecxih - Forget about the huge interception he made, Alecxih was extremely active all night and was the most active of the defensive linemen from what I could see. He really made good plays and I think that one of the most impressive things is he did was learn from an earlier mistake to get into position to make that interception.
** Ronald Jones - I've seen my inbox so I know - cynical Pitt fans (is there any other kind?) would tell you that just having a punt returner actually catch the ball is a big upgrade, but Jones did a really good job of catching the ball AND making some yards after he caught it. I think this kid has a bright future and will really be a weapon in the return game. Really, like I wrote before most of the newcomers -Hubie Graham and Zach Brown in particular - had a nice night.
*** Mike Shanahan - He is steady and catches the ball and always seems to be in the right place. This is the kind of game we've come to expect from Shanahan -five catches for 85 yards and a touchdown and not surprisingly he already has become Tino Sunseri's go-to guy.
** Todd Graham - Hey, he's 1-0 which is all that really matters. But that isn't why he is in this section, nor is it anything he did strategically. He's here because you have to love a guy who, after winning the game and saying the right things about his team winning admitted "We should have dominated this game more than we did." That tells me that the guy actually believes what he is selling and will not settle for anything less than being the best.
** The linebackers have to get better. Period. And that includes the spur position, not just the middle linebackers. This unit has been a trouble spot for a couple of years but it is time, there is just too much experience here for the unit to play as inconsistently as it did. I get it - it is a new system but some of the plays that this group missed, well, they were just football plays.
** Tino . The quarterback's first half was terrible. Period. No other way to say it and what I like about him is he is the first to admit it. He missed at least two, probably three, relatively easy touchdowns and looked like he was a little too excited to play. The second half was great, the first half, well, left a lot to be desired, which is not a surprise given that it was the first game of the season.
** The secondary did some good things, but even Todd Graham was puzzled by what he called the "soft" coverage he saw a lot of in the second half. He wanted to see a more aggressive approach and more pressing but didn't and as a result, Chazz Anderson all of the sudden became Tom Brady and dinked and dunked them to death.
** The offensive tackles did not have a great night - part of it was likely due to Jordan Gibbs having to leave the game due to breathing issues - and part of it was relative inexperience. Whatever the reason, Pitt has to get better here and a few more games like this might force the coaching staff to consider moving Lucas Nix back out to the perimeter and giving one of the reserve guards a shot.
** It was a beautiful Saturday night, this was the first game of a new coach who has been selling excitement for six months, it was the first night of college football in the region, the city's professional baseball team was in Chicago and and the professional football team does not start until next week -- and the announced attendance was 48,359 (which means there was probably only about 40,000 there)?
Really? That's a bad, bad job by Pitt fans in supporting their favorite team. This team had plenty of preseason hype, a new system, a new coach - should have been a big crowd.
Sorry, I know some get upset when I call out Pitt fans for their lack of support but there is no reason in the world this crowd shouldn't have been close to 60,000. And even worse than the number, the atmosphere wasn't very good, either. And I don't buy the "it is a Pro Stadium" stuff when it comes to the atmosphere because I've been in that stadium for Pitt games when it was rocking. You gotta do better than this if you want to see the Panthers shed its reputation for not being able to sell tickets and get better bowl bids some day. I will say this - as always -- the student section was rocking and rolling and sold out so they did their job.
*** Kevin Harper is a good kicker and an even better person. But you can't miss two field goals in the first half of a game, not when it is still hanging in the balance. Hopefully that was nerves and jitters because the Panthers will need him to score some points, especially if they are going to play some close games.
*** Tino "I'm not a Ray Guy Award Candidate" Sunseri - I'm really never a big fan of trying to get cute and trick people and feel like, punters should punt, quarterbacks should throw. But Sunseri did make a nice pooch kick on his first attempt so there was no reason to think he wouldn't be able to do it again, except, well, for the fact that he is a quarterback, not a punter. That second one was quite a wounded duck and nearly brought down the rain it sailed so high. Sunseri has done this well in practice so I'm sure he will continue to get opportunities to do it in the future. Let's hope the second version of the pooch was the exception, not the rule.
*** Ed "Scissorhands" Young - It could have been a very interesting game had Young caught two touchdown passes which were thrown his way. You feel bad for the guy as those were two really easy catches to make but such is life. Hopefully for his sake, he rebounds and has a good year but this wasn't his finest hour by any stretch.
*** Brian Kelly's sideline explosions and language......oh wait, that was a different game.