Saturday, September 22, 2012
No Pitt letdown in win over Gardner-Webb
By Matt Fortuna
What's gotten into Pitt the past two weeks?
The Panthers rolled Saturday to their second straight runaway win, taking care of business against Gardner-Webb in a 55-10 home victory.
Yes, these were the Runnin' Bulldogs, an FCS team that Pitt was supposed to do this to. But the Panthers deserve credit for not letting their foot off the gas a week after their upset win over Virginia Tech, especially with a bye date coming up. They held Gardner-Webb to just 127 total yards of offense, the road team's only score coming off a 65-yard fumble return late in the third quarter.
Tino Sunseri turned in another strong performance, building off his efforts against the Hokies by completing 18-of-24 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns. He did not throw an interception and was sacked just once. Two weeks ago, many were calling for Sunseri to lose his job, but he has answered defiantly since.
Mike Shanahan led Pitt's receivers with five catches for 144 yards and two scores.
Ray Graham looked like his old self early, rushing for a 78-yard touchdown late in the first quarter to break a scoreless tie. He finished the afternoon with 94 yards on eight carries and 23 yards on three catches, but he coughed up the ball deep in opponent territory in the third quarter, leading to Gardner-Webb's only score. Isaac Bennett and Rushel Shell contributed to a solid ground attack that averaged 6.2 yards per carry, with Bennett rushing for 52 yards and two scores on just six carries.
Again, the opponent will temper the excitement of Saturday's domination. But after a two-touchdown season-opening home loss to an FCS school and an embarrassing primetime performance at Cincinnati, Paul Chryst's squad really could not have bounced back any better, winning its past two games by a combined score of 90-27.
The Panthers will get Syracuse next in an Oct. 5 Friday night contest that will mark the schools' final meeting with each other as Big East members.