Football: Miami defeats Pitt 31-3

By Alex Oltmanns

To say that Pitt’s offense struggled to move the ball last night against Miami would be an… To say that Pitt’s offense struggled to move the ball last night against Miami would be an understatement.

In fact, in the Panthers’ (1-2) 31-3 loss to the No. 19 Hurricanes (2-1) at Heinz Field, the offense didn’t even pick up a first down until Ray Graham moved the chains with 5:59 left in the second quarter.

“We are one good play on offense right now and two bad plays,” Wannstedt said. “We’re not consistently doing anything: throwing the ball, catching the ball, blocking or running. Right now we’re very inconsistent on offense.”

The offense only managed 138 yards through three quarters, as opposed to Miami’s 276. Quarterback Tino Sunseri went 8 for 15 with 61 yards before being knocked out of the game with a head injury in the third quarter. His backup, Pat Bostick, didn’t fare any better, going 5 for 9 with two interceptions.

“[Tino] got hit in the head, and he told the trainers that his vision was not right, so it was a medical decision,” Wannstedt said.

Miami got on the board quickly and never looked back as they marched the ball down field 80 yards for a touchdown on the first series of the game, capped by a Damien Berry 1-yard run.

The Hurricanes threatened to put the game out of reach in the first half, but Pitt safeties Dom DeCicco and Jarred Holley each made key interceptions on Miami quarterback Jacory Harris to keep Miami from increasing their lead.

The Panthers started to move the ball just before the end of the half on the drive when they picked up their initial first down, as Graham carried the ball five times for 22 yards and pulled in a 33-yard catch.

But the drive stalled and kicker Dan Hutchins pushed a 52-yard field goal slightly left to preserve the Hurricanes’ 10-0 lead at halftime.

Harris and the Miami offense came out hot to start the second half and put another touchdown on the board just 1:02 into the third quarter. The 19-yard touchdown reception from Leonard Hankerson made it 17-0 with 11:54 left in the third quarter.

Despite the two interceptions, Harris was 21 for 32 with 248 yards and two touchdowns to go along with the picks.

Pitt finally got on the board with 14:27 left to play as Hutchins hit a 27-yard field goal to make it 17-3 after several Graham runs and a roughing the passer call set the Panthers up deep inside Miami territory.

Graham was one bright spot for the Panthers offense, rushing for 100 yards on 14 carries and catching three passes for 41 yards.

“I just continue to work hard and give it my all when I step on the field,” Graham said. “Just leave it all on the field.”

As if the 28-point loss wasn’t bad enough for the Panthers, middle linebacker Dan Mason had to be carted off the field midway through the third quarter with a dislocated right knee.

Mason didn’t start the game because Wannstedt demoted him to the second team for being in the car with running back Jason Douglas when Douglas was charged with driving under the influence earlier this month. But Mason came in late in the first half with the first team offense.

Mason’s presence as the emotional leader of the defense will be missed.

“Dan plays a big part of our defense and it’s tough that he went down like that,” Holley said. “But we stand behind him.”

Meanwhile, defensive end Jabaal Sheard applied plenty of pressure on Miami quarterback Harris, recording two sacks, but it simply wasn’t enough to keep the Hurricanes from moving the ball up and down the field as they posted 348 yards of total offense

But the Panthers will have plenty of time to regroup — nine days in fact — before their next game against Florida International at Heinz Field on Oct. 2.

Between now and then, the team will look to pick up the intensity in practice because they know that they can’t keep playing the way they did last night.

“We have tremendous players but we have to play as a team,” Sheard said. “I don’t know what the problem is, but we have to find out and we have to fix it.”