2011 Pitt Football Spring Game Recap: Blue Romps Gold, 48-13

The rain and wind was enough to keep a lot of fans (including myself) home for the Spring game. Sorry, but I couldn't justify sitting in miserable weather for an intrasquad exhibition game - no matter how exciting Todd Graham's new offense may be.

So what happened? Well, Pitt's offense seems to be adjusting pretty well.

Despite the weather, Pitt still had a pretty potent passing game:

Pitt concluded its spring drills Saturday in the annual Blue-Gold Game by filling the dark, rainy sky with 81 passes, running its fast-break offense without regard to the conditions and committing five turnovers.

The football was slippery, and the turf was slimy. But you won't hear any excuses from coach Todd Graham.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "Rain, sleet, snow, wind. It doesn't affect how we are going to operate. We are going to run our offense. We are going to throw the ball, run the ball, do all the things we always do.

Oh man, looks like we're going to be in for another season of complaining about the quarterback.

 

Tino Sunseri is the clear cut starter and in leading the blue to a big win, doesn't look like he's relinquishing that spot anytime soon:

On a wet and soggy afternoon at Heinz Field, quarterback Tino Sunseri went 8-for-8 for 124 yards and two touchdowns on his first two drives as Blue dominated Gold, 48-13, in Graham's first Blue-Gold game in front of 1,507 fans Saturday.

"I always tell [my teammates] that I throw better in the rain," said Sunseri, who finished with 35-for-55 with 416 yards. "I feel like guys are able to come out of their breaks offensively it puts pressure on the defense.

On the day, Sunseri was 35 for 55 for 416 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. I've said repeatedly that I think Sunseri had a pretty good year last season for a first-year quarterback. That's the thing that gets forgotten or underestimated quite a bit - he was a FIRST-YEAR quarterback. Sure, he had weapons. Sure he's not a great deep ball thrower. But completing 65% of his passes, throwing for nearly 2,700 yards, and having only game where he threw more than one interception ... well, I just don't know how much more you'd expect out of a guy who was basically a rookie.

Conversely, Anthony Gonzalez, the apparent backup quarterback, struggled:

His counterpart, Anthony Gonzalez struggled leading the Gold after winning the 2011 Ed Conway award winner for the spring's most improved offensive player. The redshirt freshman went 9-for-26 for 82 yards and two interceptions.

However, Gonzalez did show his mobility, scrambling out of the pocket on a number of plays, but without going live on the quarterback, it's tough to gauge his effectiveness.

"It's kind of hard," Gonzalez said. "You see openings and want to take it, but it's spring ball and they don't want to get anyone hurt.

The receivers were plenty busy with 14 different guys catching at least one pass. Before you're too praiseworthy of Sunseri or decide you want to bash Gonzalez, just remember that Tino had the first-team to work with.

I was looking forward to what Ray Graham would do in the new offense, but he had a relatively light day, carrying only five times with three catches. Desmond Brown, who projects as the backup to Graham, had a bigger workload rushing 15 times for 64 yards and two touchdowns.

But it wasn't just the offense that shined. A few lesser-known players had some big games on defense:

There were a number of other players Graham had to choose from—especially on defense. Two players who might be scratching the surface making an impact are Carl Fleming and Emanuel Rackard. Fleming led all defensive players with 12 tackles on Saturday. Rackard is a walk-on at linebacker who was second on the team with 10 tackles on Saturday. He also had the lone defensive touchdown of the day, scooping up a Tino Sunseri fumble, and returning it 10 yards for a touchdown. Rackard also tied T.J. Clemmings for the team-lead with three quarterback hurries.

And then, there were the big plays on special teams:

Pitt wasted little time demonstrating the explosiveness that Todd Graham wanted to bring here, as Buddy Jackson returned the opening kickoff 87 yards for the Blue team. The offense followed suit en route to a 48-13 win over the Gold.

...

The Gold forced a total of nine three-and-outs on defense out of 28 total series. Two of those three-and-outs ended up in Gold territory, resulting in two Kevin Harper field goals. Harper added field goals of 52 and 41 yards, kicking into the open end of Heinz Field.

"I’ve gotten used (to the open end) over time," Harper said. "But, you have to prepare for it like you’re kicking on any other field. I don’t do anything different going into the closed end."

I'm excited to see what Buddy can do on special teams and another good option back there is better than leaving it all up to Cam Saddler. Plus, a 52-yard field goal? Nice.

So now with the Spring game over, Graham knows there's a lot of work still to do on  the field. But he says the team's biggest obstacle now may have nothing to do with football:

After the game, Graham gathered his players around him and talked about their next challenge.

The players are faced with a lot of free time before summer camp. Some members of last year's team couldn't handle it responsibly, and the legal problems that ensued helped lead to Wannstedt's firing.

Graham expects no such problems, especially after he had his players sign a document earlier this year reaffirming their commitment to the program.

"I told them, all over the country between now and camp, you are going to see every day somebody getting in trouble," he said.

Graham said it's not enough to ask them to stay out of trouble.

"Every day I see them, I am going to shake their hands, look them in the eye and tell them I'm committed, and I expect them to do the same thing.

"We have given each other our word, so I have a great confidence that these guys are going to do the right things."

Yeah, I've got to say - it'd be nice if I didn't see Pitt's players in the news quite as often as last year's offseason.
 
And for the record, there were a decent number of injuries including Mark Myers, Brandon Lindsey, and Antwuan Reed
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