Football: Panthers win in home opener

By Alex Oltmanns

It took awhile, but Pitt was able to take over the game against an undermanned New Hampshire… It took awhile, but Pitt was able to take over the game against an undermanned New Hampshire football team in its home opener at Heinz Field Saturday afternoon.

Leading only 10-3 late in the second quarter, the Panthers started to push the Wildcats off the ball on the line of scrimmage and make highlight reel plays to outscore New Hampshire (1-1) 28-13 the rest of the way en route to a 38-16 win.

The tide started to turn in Pitt’s favor just before halftime when the Panthers (1-1) went on a one minute, 62-yard scoring drive highlighted by a 26-yard run by quarterback Tino Sunseri before throwing a two-yard touchdown to Cam Saddler to push the lead to 17-3 at the half.

The offense took charge in the second half, as Sunseri got into a groove with Jon Baldwin and the running game got it going.

Sunseri threw a 56-yard touchdown to Baldwin where the receiver made a highlight reel run after the catch, bouncing off a defender and making another miss to push the lead 24-3.

Sunseri finished the game 24-34 with 275 passing yards, with Baldwin accounting for 100 of those yards.

Ray Graham, making his first appearance of the season after not playing in the season opener, ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns on only nine carries and put an exclamation point on the game with a 61-yard touchdown with 10:43 left to play.

“Ray’s got a lot of ability,” coach Dave Wannstedt said. “It was great to get him out there, and having a one-two punch like him and Dion Lewis is pretty special.”

Lewis finished the game with only 27 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries but also had five catches for 52 yards.

While it took a couple quarters for the offense to get in sync, the defense set the tone for the game right away.

On the first play of the game from scrimmage, Jarred Holley intercepted an R.J. Toman pass.

The Panther defensive line seemed to get stronger as the game went along, wearing down New Hampshire’s offensive line on the way to recording six sacks.

“We had a pretty good rotation with the defensive line and getting fresh legs in there and they couldn’t handle it,” defensive tackle Chas Alecxih said.

Alecxih had three sacks, while defensive end Brandon Lindsey, starting in place of the injured Greg Romeus, had two.

“You could ask anybody on the team and everybody would tell you we don’t think we miss a beat (with Lindsey in the game),” linebacker Max Gruder said. “Chas makes a lot of plays in practice and it’s finally translating in the games.”

With the absence of Romeus and safeties Dom DeCicco and Andrew Taglianetti from the lineup, it was critical that backups like Lindsey step up.

“Those three are all great players and it shows what type of talent we have on this team when backups can jump in and we play very well as a defense as a whole,” Gruder said.

With the win, the team is off next week and can now look ahead to its highly anticipated game against Miami on Sept. 23.

”Miami is a great football team,” Wannstedt said. “We’re going to need everyone that’s possible from a health standpoint to get back.