Posted by Chip Patterson
Pittsburgh's "high-octane" offense has not exactly put up the kinds of numbers that were expected when head coach Todd Graham arrived from Tulsa. The Panthers are clearly still getting adjusted to the fast-paced scheme, and the results in their first two games have been mixed. Moving Tino Sunseri out from under center reportedly had a positive impact on the quarterback's performance in camp.
But Sunseri has had issues in the new offense, struggling to get the ball downfield and relying on the efforts of running back Ray Graham to spark production. The sample size is small, but after facing Buffalo and Maine at home many did not expect Sunseri to put up the kind of numbers currently on his stat line.
Sunseri has completed 37-63 passes for 403 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, and a 111.4 quarterback rating which ranks next-to-last in the Big East. After struggling through three quarters of action against Maine, backup Trey Anderson finished out the game against the Black Bears.
"We planned on putting Trey in anyway, it wasn't that I pulled Tino, It was a planned deal," Graham explained after the game. "I still have 100 percent belief in Tino and like I told you at the beginning of the year, he has a very difficult job, he has a lot on his plate and we've got to execute better at that position.
"But Tino is our quarterback and will be next week and we will move forward from there. I didn't want to come out of this week, playing against an opponent we should totally dominate, and not get another quarterback any reps."
In Sunseri's defense, the close final score is more of a credit to a relentless Maine team than discredit to the Panther's offense. The Black Bears score 14 points in the final four minutes, including a touchdown with just three seconds remaining to bring the final margin to six points.
Furthering Graham's confidence in Sunseri and the quarterback position was the announcement Anthony Gonzalez's move to H-back for Saturday's game at Iowa. Gonzalez pushed Sunseri for the starting quarterback role in spring practice, showing off his athleticism to the new coaching staff. The redshirt freshman was the recipient of the team's Ed Conway Award, annually presented to the most improved players of spring practice. But after an Aug. 31 arrest for possession of marijuana, Gonzalez was suspended for the first two games of the season.
With Gonzalez back in the lineup, the staff clearly wants to use the dual-threat signal caller's talents on the field - but not at the expense of Sunseri's playing time. The tight-end/running back hybrid position is currently manned by Hubie Graham and Drew Carswell. Gonzalez provides a nice change of pace to that position, and I would not be surprised to see him get some snaps against Iowa on Saturday.
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