Pitt's confidence grows after offensive display

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One week after sputtering in rain and wind in Buffalo, Pitt's offense came together in impressive fashion Saturday in the Panthers' 47-17 win against Temple.

It wasn't just the running game or just the passing game that allowed Pitt to pile up score after score, but rather a steady mix of both that showed how good this offense can be.

"The receivers are running downfield making blocks downfield, linemen are making blocks downfield, running backs are making great plays in the running game," quarterback Tino Sunseri said. "I feel like as an offensive unit, we're really growing, really maturing. You can see each week, we're fine-tuning details more and more."

The numbers speak for themselves. Pitt had 528 yards of total offense -- 207 on the ground and 321 through the air -- against Temple. The 47 points were the most Pitt has scored against a Division I-A opponent at Heinz Field.

Sunseri's efficient performance (20 of 28 with three touchdowns) pushed him ahead of Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater for the Big East lead in passing efficiency. Sunseri ranks eighth nationally.

"I think the biggest thing Tino's doing right now is just staying consistent," receiver Devin Street said. "He knows where to go with the ball, the right reads. I think every time we come out, Tino has just grown so much that he's going to do a great job. As long as he has protection, we get open, he's going to do well."

Street was Sunseri's favorite target once again Saturday, with six catches for 140 yards and a touchdown.

While Sunseri and the passing game helped Pitt establish its big lead Saturday, the running game salted it away in the second half. Ray Graham had 109 yards on 19 carries, including a 35-yarder where he juked and cut his way down to the Temple 2. Graham is still trying to regain the form he had before a knee ligament injury last season and that run was a welcome sign.

"That was the old Ray Graham," Street said. "I came back to him and said, 'You're back, baby.'"

Pitt coach Paul Chryst said afterward that he felt good about the game plan, but he never expects to put up numbers like that. In fact, Chryst joked in his postgame news conference that he is "always surprised when we get a first down."

"You go into every game confident of the plan, but you're also appreciative when players execute it," he said.

The Pitt offense will face by far its biggest challenge next week when the Panthers travel to Notre Dame. The Irish have the nation's second-best scoring defense and are coming off an impressive 30-13 victory in Oklahoma this week.

The Panthers aren't lacking confidence.

"With Tino throwing the way he's throwing and us running the way we're running, I feel like it's going to be hard to stop us and we can play against anybody," Graham said.


Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @SWernerPG. First Published October 29, 2012 4:00 AM


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