On a cool and wet Wednesday night at Heinz Field, there were a few (okay, more than a few) things that stuck out to me. Either way, a lot of things became very apparent last night, even some things that most people wouldn't expect.
* Pitt fans love Pitt Football and aren't going anywhere. Yes, I know that the attendance was reported at just over 30,000 which would not actually set a record for lowest attendance. This being said, it was much worse than that sinice reported attendance includes tickets sold rather than actual attendance. The fans that were there, though, cheered when they were supposed to. These smaller crowds at Heinz Field might not be the loudest Pitt has ever seen, but they are passionate. While quantity in this case is usually the better choice over quality, I'll take the latter.
*Regardless of size, the student section is going to be a student section. The students still go crazy when something good happens and at the same time they also felt hurt when Ray Graham went down. Attendance numbers and sheer size don't matter as much when considering the conditions (season hasn't gone as well as planned, Wednesday night game, midterms this week, cold, raining, class in the morning, work in the morning, class last night). The fact that the ones that showed up also got excited and made their presence count is what matters to me and the team. I'm not making excuses for the lack of attendance, just telling the truth.
*Ray Graham will probably be out for the rest of the season. He was hurting ... bad. Two good things that I noticed about his situation were the way that he was injured and his reaction after coming out of the tunnel on crutches. Ray didn't get hit and have his leg completely buckle at the knee instantly warranting a season ending injury. Instead, he tried to make a cut and tweaked it pretty good. Now, I said earlier that he would be out for the rest of the season, but that might not be the case if it was only a tweak. More than likely, though, he will be done. The second thing that I saw was Ray Graham smiling pretty often and enjoying his team's success. If the pain had subsided enough so that he could get excited about what was going on during the game, then maybe it was just a slight injury and he will be returning. The students and fans are all hoping for a fast recovery and can't wait to see him on the field again. If you have a Twitter account, go ahead and give him a shout at (@RayGraham1). I'm sure he would greatly appreciate the support and kind words.
*Tino Sunseri played good but not great. Yes, I saw the statistics. He threw for over 400 yards and had two touchdowns. Not only that but he led the team in rushing with another touchdown on the ground. I get that he played well. The reason I don't want to jump on the "Tino Sunseri Bandwagon" just yet is because I don't think he has thrown a good deep ball yet. A lot of his yards came from receivers running after the catch rather than running under the ball. By no means do I want to take anything away from Tino, the guy had an amazing night and deserves all of the praise. With that said, I do want to see some routes over 20 yards with throws that are on point. He still hasn't hit on that long pass yet like we we're accustomed to seeing Bill Stull throw to Jon Baldwin. While we don't have a receiver like Baldwin, Street and Shanahan are still pretty good and will make a catch if the ball is there. Street dropped the one long pass to the endzone, but he was also diving and it hit his fingertips. Hopefully Tino can take some confidence in to the next game from this one.
*I really have no clue what this Pitt offense will look like if Ray Graham can't play for the rest of the season. While Tino had an incredible night, it was also against a very bad UConn team. Again, don't want to take anything away from the guy, but I'm just trying to figure out where this team is at currently. Because the Big East is so bad, if Tino can play anywhere near as well as he played last night they could win out. West Virginia is the only team on the schedule that scares me, but I think that the outcome of that game will depend on how well Pitt's defense plays. If the defense can hold teams to one or two touchdowns, it gives the offense a chance to at least contend on any given night. The offense looks like it's going to be lost without Ray Graham because they have no real running threat. Zach Brown is a short yardage back and can catch the ball out of the backfield, but he isn't a feature guy. Look for Corey Davis to get some more looks next week if Graham can't go. Davis has great speed and is a guy that I really wanted to see on the field earlier in the season. The play of Ray and addition of Brown kind of overshadowed the ability of the true freshman. I hope that he can come in and be effective.
*Saw absolutely no West Virginia fans in attendance despite the "Occupy Heinz Field" movement that was supposed to happen. I know from Twitter and other outlets that there were some in attendance, but no real following showed up. I've always been that Pitt fan that can see the other side of the spectrum when it comes to West Virginia. Now, don't get me wrong, I hope their chess team loses every match just as much as their football team loses every game. I do give them credit, though, when they are good. As of late they have been a better football program than Pitt, and that's fine. Like I said, I can give them credit when it's due. The problem with West Virginia is their fans and not their players. Many of the guys on the field and court for West Virginia were probably a phone call or two away from committing to Pitt and vice versa. The fans are the ones that need to change. Things like "Occupy Heinz Field" and throwing things on to basketball courts and chanting and making shirts the say negative things about Pitt are the reasons that they are viewed nationally as a classless following. That's not even my opinion, either. That's the opinion of just about everyone outside of Morgantown.
*Mark May's standing ovation was awesome. It just made me think how cool it's going to be when Larry Fitzgerald (or another Pitt player from the last decade) comes back when he's done with his playing career. Since I never actually saw Mark May play, my clapping and appreciation stemmed more from what I hear he did and how he represents his alma mater in the media. It'll be nice to be doing the same thing later in life for a player that I actually watched growing up. It's something that makes college athletics as amazing as they are.
*At this point in the season, nobody really knows where Pitt is as a program. Those that aren't truly fans or don't know much about college football in general are probably still doubtful of this coaching staff and team. If you are someone who loves Pitt sports and is also a sensible and intelligent sports fan in general, you have got to see the bright spots that this team has had. The South Florida and UConn games have been great offensively and have been what Todd Graham has wanted all along. If he can (eventually) get his recruits to buy in to his system and execute it well, watch out for this program. The defense seems like it has a solid base plan and will eventually start to get some more turnovers. This is starting to look like it is going to be something great for the future even if it started off a little slow.
Well, that's most of the things that I noticed last night while I was sitting in the stadium. Hopefully everyone enjoyed watching Pitt play a good game as much as I did. Again, get well Ray Graham. Hope to see him back on the field as soon as possible.