BUFFALO, N.Y. — Well, it was about as far from pretty as you can get, but Pitt finally got back in the win column today. It was cold, windy and rainy, and some WPIAL teams could draw bigger crowds than tonight. At the end of the day, though, Pitt is 3-4 instead of 2-5, and that's the best result they could have hoped for coming into the game. Here are a few thoughts to leave you with before I go eat some of Buffalo's famous wings.
- Hats off to Dan Mason. It was a nice story when he made it back to practice with the team, it was an emotional moment when he made his season debut in garbage time against Gardner-Webb, and it was amazing to see him get his first start in over two years tonight. At this point, though, it's almost time for Mason to stop being "the inspirational comeback story" and just a flat-out good middle linebacker for Pitt. Yes, what he's doing defies all medical description, but he's doing it. He finished with 11 tackles (tied for a career high), one sack and two tackles for loss. The play that stood out to me tonight was Buffalo's final snap of the game. Bulls quarterback Alex Zordich, no slouch athletlically, sprinted right to try and get to the outside and Mason caught up and wrapped him up from behind. That's not something someone with a stretched nerve in his knee should be able to do. Mason might not be the potential superstar he was pre-injury (although at this point, who's to say he won't be eventually?), but he is a very solid, important piece of this linebacking corps.
- The numbers weren't pretty for Sunseri (9 of 17, 128 yards), especially compared to the last few games, but he didn't make any costly mistakes. He definitely missed a couple of throws, but the weather was far from ideal. He only threw the ball six times in the first half, and only one of those passes was longer than five yards. Pitt clearly came out wanting to run the ball, either because of weather or just game flow. Ray Graham and Rushel Shell were effective enough, combining for 109 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, but certainly didn't light the world on fire. It's tough to totally judge the offense on this one because of the weather, but I would say they were closer to the offense we saw against Syracuse, as opposed to the one that showed up against Virginia Tech.
- Nice to see Kevin Harper make a couple of field goals in adverse conditions. The 45-yarder was a season-long for him, and both kicks came in windy and rainy conditions. Harper was just 6 of 11 coming into the game, but he's a guy that Pitt needs to be consistent if they want to turn this season around. Judging by the parity in the Big East, I would guess that a lot of Pitt's remaining games (especially against Temple, UConn and USF) will be close, and a reliable kicker is a valuable commodity in those games. If Harper can build on this performance, he may end up winning the Panthers a game at some point down the stretch.