Sunseri's sensational play draws praise from teammates, coaches
Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, left, entered the game Saturday as the quarterback of the No. 13 team in Division I-A, but it was Tino Sunseri who owned the day == a day that earned him Big East player of the week honors for the second time in his career.
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In Pitt's upset of Virginia Tech Saturday, it seemed as if every facet of the offense finally clicked into place.
One of those pieces, quarterback Tino Sunseri, put together one of his best games in a Panthers uniform in the 35-17 victory.
Sunseri completed 19 of 28 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns and on Monday was named the Big East's offensive player of the week.
"I think he was just making great decisions," receiver Mike Shanahan said. "He was very decisive with where he wanted to go with the ball. He recognized what the defense was giving us."
Sunseri's play also opened things up for the running game.
The Panthers racked up 537 yards against the Hokies, their highest total since 2000.
While Sunseri's stats through the first two games were fairly impressive -- 43 of 67, 517 yards, two touchdowns and one interception -- both those games were disappointing losses.
Against Virginia Tech, Sunseri was poised in the pocket and led the Panthers to their first win.
- Game:Pitt (1-2) vs. Gardner-Webb (0-3), Heinz Field.
- When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
- TV: None.
Perhaps most important, Sunseri put it all together when it mattered most. He was 6 of 12 on third-down plays for 93 yards and three touchdowns.
He also showed massive improvement in the red zone. In the team's loss to Cincinnati on Sept. 6, Sunseri was 3 of 8 with an interception and one touchdown. Against Virginia Tech, he was 3 of 5 with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
"We just wanted to be able finish drives," said Sunseri, a fifth-year senior. "[In the first two games,] we were putting together long drives but couldn't capitalize down in the red zone. We were able to [Saturday.]"
Another part of the passing game that finally showed up was the big-play ability that Pitt was lacking in its first two games.
Sunseri connected on five passes of 20 yards or more, after hitting three against Cincinnati.
Two of those plays came on Pitt's first drive of the game, a 33-yard pass to Devin Street and a 23-yarder to Drew Carswell. That drive ended in a touchdown that gave the Panthers an early 7-0 lead and instilled some much-needed confidence.
"I do think being successful early kind of helped everyone," offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said.
"Hopefully, you're carrying that forward. I thought it helped later in the game when [we] were challenged. They made some big plays and [we] were able to come back and be successful."
NOTE -- Freshman defensive back Jamahl Pardner will miss the rest of the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the win against Virginia Tech. Because Pardner played only three games this year, he is eligible for a medical redshirt and will have four years of eligibility remaining when he returns. He played mostly as a nickel back in passing situations this season. Pardner was hurt trying to set up a block on a punt return early in the fourth quarter. He had three tackles, including one sack, through three games this season.
First Published September 19, 2012 12:00 am