Kirschman: Pitt fans need to be patient with new system

By Lauren Kirschman

Maybe Pitt fans should have listened less to Todd Graham’s rhetoric and more to their common… Maybe Pitt fans should have listened less to Todd Graham’s rhetoric and more to their common sense.

Maybe everyone expected just a little too much.

If the Panthers’ struggles against Buffalo and Maine proved anything, it’s that a system overhaul as massive as the one Graham is heading at Pitt takes time.

Pitt is moving from Dave Wannstedt’s methodical pro-style of play to Graham’s (eventually) high-octane, explosive, no-huddle philosophy.

It’s fast. It’s complicated. And the players are human.

Those fans who expected to see the Panthers dominate with Graham’s system right at the beginning of the season probably need a reality check.

Those fans calling for Tino Sunseri to take a seat on the bench — I’m talking to you, people booing in the student section — really need a reality check.

Sure, freshman backup quarterback Trey Anderson looked impressive leading the offense for the short amount of time that he was on the field.

When Anderson completed four of five passes for 26 yards — including two third-down conversion passes — on a touchdown drive, the depleted (and that’s putting it lightly) crowd at Heinz Field started daydreaming about a freshman superstar taking over the offense.

I’ll admit, I was impressed with Anderson, too. He didn’t look like a freshman and he looked more than comfortable running the no-huddle offense, which is similar to the offense that he ran in high school.

Sunseri, on the other hand, struggled for most of the day and threw two interceptions. But he deserves a few more games to adjust before Panther fans start calling for him to take a seat on the bench.

The Pitt offense hasn’t looked good. That’s a fact. But that blame falls on more players than just Sunseri.

He was sacked seven times against Maine. Some of that stems from Sunseri missing reads from the opponent’s defense, but mostly it means there is trouble on the offensive line.

The line’s performance on Saturday wouldn’t protect Sunseri, Anderson or last year’s Heisman Trophy-winner Cam Newton.

And the Pitt receivers didn’t help Sunseri’s cause much as they dropped their fair share of passes.

After the game, Graham expressed his confidence in Sunseri. He admitted that the starter had to get better, and Sunseri said the same, adding that he’s going to learn from his mistakes.

Anderson said he expects Sunseri to bounce back. Wide receiver Mike Shanahan said the team has confidence in the redshirt junior quarterback.

Unlike Anderson, Sunseri is adjusting to the no-huddle system. It’s going to take some time. Patience, it seems, is not Pitt fans’ virtue.

It’s funny — just a few years ago students spent their time in the student section booing Bill Stull and chanting for Tino Sunseri. How things have changed.

I’ll need to see a little more of Anderson before I decide that he should take over the starting position. It’s going to take more than one drive for the freshman quarterback to replace the second-year starter.

Meanwhile, maybe it’s time for Panther fans to adjust their expectations for this year’s team as a whole. Graham came into the program talking about a Big East Championship and a BCS Bowl, but those might not happen this season.

It might take a few years for Graham to successfully install his philosophy at Pitt. Still, Pitt could get a handle on the new system before the Big East season comes around. After all, Graham does have a track record to back up his talk.

He turned Rice around from a 1-11 season to a 7-5 finish and a bowl game in one year. Tulsa finished 10-4 during Graham’s first season, crushing Bowling Green 63-7 in the GMAC Bowl.

Panther fans will just have to wait a little longer, try to be patient, and see what happens — with Sunseri and the rest of the team.