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Pitt 35, UConn 20 - News and Notes

Written by Paul Zeise on .

** The big news of the night is not that Pitt won, it is not that Tino Sunseri set a record - it is that Ray Graham is hurt and may be out for the season. Graham went down in the first series and it really does not look good at all. He was accompanied on the sidelines initially by his parents - never a good sign - then he was carted out of the tunnel. He did return on crutches and he will have an MRI on Thursday but again, it doesn't look good right now. The players talked glowingly about what Graham means to the team and Todd Graham talked about he is irreplaceable (and no, Graham was not heard saying "you must not know about me....."). Bottom line is this team could face the real possibility of not having its best player for the last four games and if that turns out to be the case, I can't see how the Panthers are realistically going to win the Big East. With Ray, I'd say it was still possible - without him, I'm not sure. Zach Brown, by the way, did fill in and had 10 carries for 30 and nine catches for 84 yards. Brown will have to be the man if Graham is indeed done and that means Corey Davis is now the back-up tailback.

** Tino Sunseri obviously had a very good night - he completed 29 of 42 passes for 419 yards and two touchdowns and he ran for a touchdown. Basically, all of the things he failed to do the last two games - like make quick decisions, good throws and the right reads, he did in this game. The 419 yards are a new Heinz Field record for a collegiate game and the most yards any Pitt quarterback has thrown for since Rod Rutherford threw for 419 in a loss to West Virginia in 2003. That total is the fourth-highest in school history.

Todd Graham interestingly said "we thought we'd throw for 500" and really did his best to downplay what Sunseri did but it was a good effort. Sunseri talked a lot about how the offense re-committed to getting the job done but truth be told I thought this was a very good job of the coaches simplifying things and scheming against the Huskies defense. Clearly there was a mismatch with the Pitt receivers underneath against Connecticut's linebackers.

** One key statistic that stuck out with me - Sunseri completed passes to eight different receivers and five of them had 50 or more receiving yards. That means Sunseri was running the offense the way it was supposed to be run. “That is what it should look like, the ball should be distributed, it shouldn’t be one person,” Graham said. “Obviously when Ray is in there, we want him to have the ball every play if we can because he is that good. But in the passing game, the ball needs to be distributed because it shows that you are taking what the defense is giving you. The team we played tonight is a very, very well coached football team so they were mixing up a lot of different coverages and that was important – part of learning how to throw the ball is to learn to take what the defense is giving you, you can’t pre-determine presnap who you are going to throw the ball to.”

** Brown was the leading receiver on this night but it was good to see Mike Shanahan get back in the mix again as he caught four passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns. Shanahan has to be a big part of this offense and he got some opportunities and made some big plays. Pitt also got a big night from Devin Street - though it began with another drop - as he had five receptions for 70 yards. Todd Graham said he challenged both of those guys to take their game to another level and they responded the right way.

** Pitt had two other significant injuries - starting guard Matt Rotheram went down with an ankle injury and he could be looking at some significant time off. Also, Cam Saddler had some sort of shoulder injury and even though he didn't return, he tweeted after the game that he was OK. Also, along those lines - Lucas Nix (knee) as expected missed his third game in a row and so Greg Gaskins had to step in and start at left tackle and Ryan Turnley (foot) really gutted it out and played despite really being in a lot of pain. So Pitt is clearly a banged up football team but now has another nice break to try and get healthy.

** One other note for tonight - and we will have plenty more tomorrow once we sort out some of these injuries - but Brendan Carozzoni started for the first time and played almost every play, it seemed. He had three catches for 36 yards, but he did drop an easy pass (if you look at the drops in this game, Sunseri could have thrown for close to 500). It will be interesting to see what happens with Carozzoni as he hadn't played really at all until this game but in this game, he was used extensively.

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