Football: Panthers dominate Rutgers

By Alex Oltmanns

It almost looked too easy at times for the Pitt football team Saturday against… It almost looked too easy at times for the Pitt football team Saturday against Rutgers.

Quarterback Tino Sunseri had over 300 yards passing, Dion Lewis had over 100 yards rushing and the defense collected seven sacks in the 41-21 win over the Scarlet Knights.

Sunseri, who set a new career high with 307 passing yards, had his best game of the season, and with Lewis rushing for 130 yards, the two became the first Pitt tandem to pass for 300 and run for 100 yards since Tyler Palko and Ray Kirkley did so on Sept. 25 2004 against Furman.

“Tino continued to make progress. It was great to see Dion have a big day,” head coach Dave Wannstedt said.

While Sunseri had his best game of the season, Lewis did as well. His 22-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter put an exclamation point on the victory.

“We kept preaching we have to be aggressive all week,” running back Ray Graham said. “Then he went out and did very well. Now we have to keep doing the same thing week after week.”

Graham pitched in with 56 yards on 14 carries.

Meanwhile, the defense, and the defensive line in particular, dominated Rutgers (4-3, 1-1 Big East).

Defensive end Brandon Lindsey had three sacks, while fellow defensive end Jabaal Sheard had two.

“They were literally triple teaming Jabaal and then you get guys like Brandon Lindsey to step up and have three sacks,” Wannstedt said. “I thought our defensive line today showed up.”

The Scarlet Knights offense could only muster 203 total yards (compared to Pitt’s 503) and 14 points, but their last touchdown came primarily against backups. Their other touchdown came in the second quarter when they blocked a Dan Hutchins punt and Brandon Bing recovered it in the end zone.

The Panthers (4-3, 2-0 Big East) fell behind 7-0 early, after a Joe Martinek 1-yard touchdown run.

But Pitt responded right away on the next drive as Sunseri connected with receiver Mike Shanahan for a couple solid gains before finding tight end Mike Cruz in the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown, Cruz’s first of two on the day.

Ray Graham ran for a 13-yard touchdown to give Pitt its second score of the game, and the contest was knotted up at 14 going into halftime after the score on the blocked punt.

But the Pitt offense, and receiver Jon Baldwin in particular, took over in the second half.

Baldwin, who finished the game with five catches for 139 yards, had several highlight reel grabs in the game, one of which came on his 45-yard touchdown where he simply out-jumped the Rutgers defender for the ball.

“Today he had two big opportunities and made two huge plays for us,” Wannstedt said.

The win continues Pitt’s momentum, and leaves them alone at the top of the Big East conference standings heading into next week’s game against Louisville.