Pitt rebounds in Buffalo, but major questions remain

Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE

Winning is better than losing, but if you were looking for answers about the 2012 Pitt Panthers, you were disappointed Saturday.

There were so many things that were just plain ugly yesterday in Buffalo. That included the running game, which was called upon to deliver in a fall rain storm:

Rushel Shell welcomed the wind and the rain, because he understood the conditions were ideal for the Pittsburgh Panthers to find a spark from their sagging run game.

[snip]

"Me and Ray got pretty excited about the rain, so we just knew that sometime in the game it was going to depend on us," Shell said. "It was pretty fun."

Shell scored on a 4-yard run and finished with 40 yards rushing plus a 41-yard catch off a screen pass that set up one of Kevin Harper's two field goals. Graham finished with 70 yards rushing and scored on a 7-yard run.

[snip]

Pitt's 126 yards rushing were 6 more than the team combined for in its previous two games.

126 yards is a positive thing, but 32 carries to get it isn't. Graham averaged 3.7 ypc on his 20 carries, but Shell got just 2.9 on his 12, a number that was bolstered by a 16-yarder. Obviously, Buffalo was scheming to stop the run given Pitt's personnel and the weather conditions, but I would hope Pitt's offensive line could do a little better job clearing holes.

Kevin Harper, Pitt's oft-maligned kicker, pulled through two field goals and extra points after a very, very shaky first half of the season:

The day started poorly for Harper when he walked onto the field at UB Stadium and noticed the wind blowing in multiple directions.

The next thing he knew, Pitt coach Paul Chryst was asking him to kick a 45-yard field goal. He nailed it midway through the first quarter for the game’s first points.

He stayed calm by reminding himself that nothing has changed about his job since he first started booting a football a decade ago.

"You go through your mind that it’s still the same size goal posts, the same ball," he said. "Everything you have been doing since you were young."

"Kicker" seems up there with "pitcher" in sports positions that seem to be mostly mental, so any bit of confidence he can pick up now is a good thing down the stretch. Saturday brings him to 7-of-13 on the season, so I don't think we can say that Pitt's kicking game is out of the woods yet.

Pitt's defense did a nice job against the Buffalo offense, although some of that could also be contributed to the weather as well.

So what did we learn about the now 3-4 Pitt Panthers? Not so much, I'm afraid. The weather and the opponent make it hard to draw any rock-solid conclusions, but a win is a win is a win. Whether or not Pitt can take care of Temple next week should get us closer in learning about this team going forward and allow the Panthers to go 2-2 the rest of the way to earn a bowl bid.

Beggars can't be choosers, but please don't let it be Birmingham.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics.

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