Ray Graham gets hat-trick in upset of #13 Virginia Tech
“The Strike” was episode No. 166 of the hit NBC sitcom Seinfeld. On this particular episode, Jerry was dealing with a peculiar disturbing issue with his new girlfriend called the "two-face" where she would sometimes look attractive in one setting and bad in the next, depending on the lighting or environment she was in that day.
The aforementioned episode reminds me of the Pitt Panthers football team after a blunder in their home opener, losing to the Youngstown State Penguins, 31-17, then two weeks later, they shock the college football world with win over No. 13 Virginia Tech.
Pitt immediately set the tempo, scoring twice in first quarter, including a Ray Graham 12 yard touchdown run on the game's opening drive. Graham would finish with 94 yards rushing, six yards shy of having back-to-back 100 yard rushing games, which is a good sign for the Panthers offense.
Graham's fourth career hat-trick—scoring three touchdowns in one game—was slightly overshadowed the running back Rushel Shell, who finished with 157 yards rushing, chewing up the clock and Hokies defense; prior to the Pitt game, Virginia Tech ranked 17th in total defense.
“Whenever you have guys in the backfield that can make plays, it opens up the offense,” said Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri, with his crutches leaning against the wall while fielding questions from the media.
Sunseri had one of his finest games—going 19-of-28 for 283 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’m very proud of this team. I loved the way they competed,” Paul Chryst said after his first win as Panthers head coach. “I got to hear the fight song (in locker room). It was pretty neat.”
Witnessing it from the press box at Heinz Field, along with the 48,032 in paid attendances and the hundred some in the press box, episode 166 kept replaying over and over in my mind, and how eerily similar that show reflected the team wearing the blue and gold the Pitt Panthers.
Here is a team that thoroughly dominated the Hokies in nearly every aspect of the game; from time of possession—38:27 to 21:33—or going five-for-seven in red zone scoring opportunities, making those all seven point trips instead of three. The 35-17 win by Pitt marked the fourth straight win over the Hokies, averaging over 30 points in those games. Now your guess is as good as mine; will this team continue winning or will episode "166" glare it’s ugly ( or sometimes sexy) face again.
Credit the Pitt players and coaching staff for sticking together and beating a very talented Virginia Tech team. Quarterback Logan Thomas threw three interceptions in the loss and basically erased any hopes he had for having a run at college football’s most prestigious trophy, the Heisman. He had his moments, but he never gained enough steam to mount a serious challenge to the Panthers today.
Since Dave Wannstedt’s departure at the conclusion of 2010, the Panthers have had Phil Bennett, Todd Graham, Keith Patterson and Paul Chryst named as head coach in capacity or another. Oh, don’t forget the Mike Haywood, who was offered and accepted the head coaching job, but was arrested shortly after on felony domestic violence charges, resulting in the void of him being retained at Pitt.
Give this team of young men some credit for sticking to it and grinding while their collegiate career for most of them has seen a swinging door of new faces at the coaching helm.
Chryst seems to be the perfect fit for this team and the town of Pittsburgh, with his blue-collar mentality that meshes well with the atmosphere of the city.
“A season is a journey. You can’t get to one part of it without getting through others. This one day we did what we needed to do and came out with the victory. Everything you go through builds you,” said Coach Chryst.
This team can’t get back the first two weeks of the season, but they have the rest of the fall to right this ship and stay on the pretty side of episode "166", and stay away from the ugly.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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