Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Midseason Report: Pitt
By Andrea Adelson
Record: 2-4, 0-3
You will not find a more schizophrenic team than Pitt in the first half of the season. A brief recap:
Lost opener to Youngstown State. Then lost big at Cincinnati.
Pulled huge upset on No. 13 Virginia Tech, then beat up on FCS Gardner-Webb.
Lost to Syracuse, and then could not pull the upset on Louisville after a fast start.
So if this trend continues, Pitt will win its next two? Either way, the Panthers have been an incredibly difficult team to predict this season. Its offense has been quite the conundrum, alternating between a physical group that can protect Tino Sunseri and open up holes in the running game, and the same ol' line that played terribly a year ago. Pitt has given up 18 sacks -- only UConn has allowed more.
The defense has been inconsistent as well. Aaron Donald, who had 11 sacks a year ago, currently has one sack in five games he has played. The front, as a whole, only has 10 sacks in six games and has struggled to stop the run. The linebacker group has struggled in particular, especially with Todd Thomas out.
But as I said, there have been glimpses. Ray Graham has played admirably in his return from an ACL injury, and true freshman Rushel Shell has shown flashes of being a special player. Devin Street is one of the best receivers in the Big East, and Sunseri has limited his mistakes this year, leading the Big East in pass efficiency. But what Pitt needs above all else is consistency right now. The Panthers are 0-3 in Big East play for the first time since 2001. That team started 1-5 and won six straight to get to seven wins. Perhaps that can serve as some inspiration.
Offensive MVP: Tino Sunseri. As mentioned above, Sunseri has played much better this year. After throwing for more interceptions than touchdowns a year ago, he has 10 touchdown passes to two interceptions so far in 2012. He is also completing a career-high 70 percent of his passes and ranks No. 2 in the Big East in passing yards per game (291.7).
Defensive MVP: Jason Hendricks. He has been the most consistent player on this defense, leading the team with 37 tackles. He also has a team-leading three interceptions, tied for first in the Big East and No. 14 nationally. Pitt sure is happy he is back in the lineup after a shortened season a year ago (shoulder injury).