Confidence for Pitt's Sunseri returns in a snap

QB ready to rebound after show of support from coaches

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Tino Sunseri obviously is happy that his position as Pitt's starting quarterback has been reaffirmed by the coaches, but he said Wednesday that he never thought otherwise, even though he has been pulled in favor of Trey Anderson in each of the past two games.

Sunseri said he did not believe the shuffling of quarterbacks was a distraction, nor was it the main reason the offense never got rolling.

He took the opportunity when he was standing on the sideline to help Anderson any way he could as well as try to learn what the opposing defense was doing.

"I was basically trying to relay [to Anderson] whatever information I could see from the sideline because sometimes you can see some things that you can't see when you are on the field," Sunseri said. "As a competitor, you always want to be in there and be that guy to lead your team to victory. But the coaching staff felt that Trey was in a groove, and the ultimate goal here is to do what we can to win games.

"[Regardless of what happens] each week, I prepare like I am the starter. I prepare like I am the best quarterback in the country. That's the kind of demeanor I have. I am preparing to go out there and lead my team to victory. I am not worrying about what decisions my coaches are going to make because I have to make sure I am making my best decisions every day.

"That's what I am concentrating on -- making sure I am doing my job and my part, so that when my number is called, I am doing everything I can to help my team win."

Sunseri did very little to help the Panthers win the past two weeks, particularly Saturday in Pitt's 26-14 loss against Utah.

Sunseri completed only 4 of 11 passes for 38 yards and no touchdowns.

He was benched in favor of Anderson, who completed 5 of 19 passes for 12 yards and two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown.

Sunseri's numbers in the past two games -- losses to Rutgers and Utah -- were 18 of 39 for 160 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions.

More importantly, Pitt's offense has a total of 10 points in those two games, and seven were courtesy of a long run by Ray Graham.

That's quite a drop from Sunseri and the offense's performance Sept. 29 in a 44-17 win against South Florida. Sunseri completed 22 of 33 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown.

At that point, it seemed like things had clicked for Pitt's new offense.

But beyond Sunseri's poor performances, there have been other factors in the team's drop in offensive production, and that is why coaches believe Sunseri is still the quarterback that gives the Panthers the best chance to win each week.

"I'm painting the picture of [positive] glimpses in the Maine game, glimpses in the New Hampshire game, about 75 percent of the Iowa game and about 90 percent of the South Florida game," quarterbacks coach Todd Dodge said when he was pressed as to why the coaches are convinced that Sunseri is the team's best option.

"That's the picture I've gotten for Tino Sunseri and the picture I'd like to paint for all of the people who follow Pitt football. We are going with Tino Sunseri.

"We have the most invested in Tino throughout spring ball and camp and everything."

Dodge said one major reason for the dropoff in the offense's production is that Rutgers and Utah have brought a lot of pressure and have played a lot of man coverage on the receivers and the Panthers have not reacted well to it.

Sunseri said that defensive style has caused the Panthers a lot of problems because the receivers have not been able to get off the line and the offensive line has had some breakdowns.

"They challenged our receivers and they challenged our offensive line," Sunseri said.

"It started with Rutgers, and then Utah did the same thing.

"So, we have to be able to adjust and use our playmakers in different ways and make sure that we are finishing blocks, finishing routes, finishing throws, finishing runs and you have to be to go through learning experiences, and that is what those two weeks were."

Sunseri has been sacked 12 times in the past two games.

"Any time you give up a dozen sacks in two weeks people on the outside say the offensive line isn't playing well, but that isn't necessarily the case," Dodge said.

"It all goes hand in hand."

Paul Zeise: or 412-263-1720.


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