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Recapping The Orange

Pitt's win over Syracuse this weekend, in reality, did little more than assure the team can play well and is still alive for the conference championship. That's not to say Syracuse isn't a good team - rather, to merely point out that it was only the first game in a long conference season.

Still, there wasn't much to dislike about this win. Any time you blow out a conference opponent on the road is cause for at least some celebration.

For starters, QB Tino Sunseri threw four touchdown passes (to four different receivers, by the way) and has now played three good games after that Miami debacle. He's completed 69% of his passes, thrown for more than 700 yards, and six touchdowns to only one interception over that span. On the season, he's thrown nine touchdowns to only three interceptions, good for a 3:1 TD/INT ratio. I wrote this yesterday, but all of the silly talk about Sunseri being benched should officially have stopped after yesterday's game. Sunseri is good enough and capable enough to lead this team the rest of the season.

Even though Pitt is known for its running game, it showed yesterday that it can move the ball through the air as well: 

"I thought all of our players and coaches did a great job of bouncing right back after a very tough loss last week," Wannstedt said. "Today started a new season for us, that was sort of the theme. And from start to finish, Tino Sunseri maintained a consistency that he hadn't had before.

"As aggressive as they were in trying to stop the run, we felt like we had to throw the ball some and make some plays in the passing game. And we executed well enough to win."
And while Pitt entered the game with a non-conference record that was disappointing to say the least, it was Sunseri who reminded everyone exactly where Pitt stands:
"We knew it was a tale of two seasons all along," quarterback Tino Sunseri said. "We had a tough out-of-conference schedule, but we still have all of our goals ahead us. The Big East championship is ahead of us. We wanted to come out fast today and let the Big East know that we can play."
Don't get me wrong - Pitt can't keep losing games against good non-con teams and only hold on to the fact that it can win the Big East and get to a BCS game. That type of thinking doesn't improve the state of the program. And while I'm fully against the idea of scheduling as many difficult non-conference games that Pitt did this year, I understand the importance of getting on TV and all of the other attention it brings to the university. But Tino is right in saying that it really is a tale of two seasons.
Meanwhile, Pitt's two-back system worked well and it looks like it will continue unless someone gets injured. Dion Lewis and Ray Graham combined for 26 carries for 133 yards, 5.1 yards per carry, and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving). The more this goes on, the less I'm concerned about who starts. If both get to play and both are producing, it shouldn't matter.
Obviously, it wasn't all offense. The defense did their job forcing four turnovers and their goal was clear:

Enter Pitt's defense. The Panthers held Syracuse to 21 yards and no first downs on the next four possessions. By the time the Orange got another first down, with less than four minutes to play in the second quarter, Pitt led, 28-7.

"The message," defensive end Jabaal Sheard said, "is always three-and-out."

The defense set the tone early and five of Syracuse's six drives to start the game ended in a three-and-out. That, boys and girls, is how you start a game.
Like I said, hard to find anything you didn't like about a game like this. But if there's anything, it was penalties.
Pitt had ten penalties for 99 yards and showed it still is capable of making mistakes. At this point, I don't know what the answer is. Dave Wannstedt was all over the team during the game, even when Pitt held a comfortable lead, so maybe yelling is the answer. Eh, I doubt it.