Improving run game a priority for Pitt


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No one who watched all of Pitt's 20-6 win against Buffalo Saturday would call it an aesthetically pleasing victory.

Through wind and rain, in front of few spectators, the Panthers (3-4, 0-3 Big East) ended their losing streak. After the game, though, Pitt coach Paul Chryst was quick to point out that his team still has plenty to improve.

"It was good to get a win, obviously there's a lot of things as we look at the tape that we have to clean up and get a lot better at," Chryst said.

With the inclement weather, Pitt was forced to run early and often. The Panthers ran 42 rushing plays, compared to just 17 pass attempts.

"They were letting us have wide open rushing lanes and we have to be able to take advantage of that," quarterback Tino Sunseri said. "We have to be able to run the ball and we have to be effective doing it."

Despite the Bulls daring Pitt to run, the Panthers only managed 126 net rushing yards, an average of 3.0 per carry. While it was an improvement over the 1.7 yards per carry they averaged in back-to-back losses to Syracuse and Louisville, the production Saturday was still a far cry from what it was in Pitt's other two wins this season. In the victories against Virginia Tech and Gardner-Webb, Pitt combined for 483 yards on the ground and 5.3 yards per carry.

Still, the running game was enough against Buffalo, and both Ray Graham and Rushel Shell found the end zone.

"There were some good things," Chryst said. "I thought Ray ran awfully hard on that touchdown. I thought, as a group, we weren't very good on the third-and-shorts."

On the other side of the ball, Pitt prevented the Bulls from getting into the end zone. Three players -- Dan Mason, Todd Thomas and Jason Hendricks -- registered 11 tackles apiece, and the Panthers totaled seven tackles for loss.

Bulls quarterback Alex Zordich racked up 244 yards of total offense, though, and Chryst said he wasn't pleased with the defense's inability to contain Zordich's scrambles. It was a continuation of a problem that cropped up last week in the loss to Louisville, when Pitt allowed Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to extend plays with his feet.

"I thought, especially at the end of the first half, it wasn't very good," Chryst said. "I think [Zordich] is a heck of a football player. I still think that's an area where we've got to get better -- flat out need to."

pittsports

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @SWernerPG. First Published October 22, 2012 4:00 AM


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