Justin K. Aller
Pitt routs Rutgers on senior day at Heinz Field.
On a cold afternoon at Heinz Field, the Pitt Panthers dispatched the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in front of a mostly empty stadium. It was senior day for the likes of Tino Sunseri, Ray Graham, and Mike Shanahan and they all played a big role in today's victory. Sunseri threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Another game went by without an interception by Sunseri. Ray Graham passed Ironhead Hayward for third on Pitt's all time rushing list, and is a few yards shy of Curvin Richards for second. Graham had 113 yards on the ground with a score, and five catches for 50 yards. He also played some gunner on the punting unit for the first time all year.
The excitement really did not begin until the second quarter as both teams traded eight punts between the two in the first quarter. Pitt was able to build a nice drive led by big plays from the freshmen JP Holtz and Rushel Shell and capped the drive with Tino Sunseri finding a wide open Mike Shanahan in the corner of the end zone. Pitt held down Rutgers in the entire first half and had an opportunity to take a two score lead but a botched snap ended that threat. Pitt forced a punt and a Kaseem Greene penalty and a roughing the passer led to a one yard Ray Graham dive to make it 14-0. Sunseri was able to lead a last minute drive before the half finding Ed Tinker in the back of the end zone with seven seconds left to take the 21-0 lead. Tinker was playing in place of the injured Devin Street, who left the game in the first half.
Rutgers, which needed a win, and a Louisville loss to win the league's BCS's berth, never seemed to get anything going on offense. Gary Nova was flustered by constant pressure from Aaron Donald. The second half saw much of the same. Rutgers was finally able to get a solid drive going and finish it off with an 11 yard pass by Nova, but failed to make the two point conversion. That was as close as it got, as not much happened in the forth quarter. Kevin Harper made his second Field Goal with 6:01 left to set the final at 27-6.
Pitt used a solid all around effort from the offense, but the defense should be praised. They only allowed 49 rushing yards to two very good backs in Jawan Jamison and Savon Huggins. Gary Nova battled an injury, but did not look comfortable most of the day. Bryan Murphy, Todd Thomas, and Shane Gordon seemed to be around the football quite a bit when Aaron Donald was not making the play. Chryst and company called a good game overall, and Pitt will look to become bowl eligible next weekend at South Florida.