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Pitt Football, It's Panic Time: How To Get Dion Lewis and Tino Sunseri on Track

PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 23:  Tino Sunseri #12 of the Pittsburgh Panthers hands the ball off to teammate Dion Lewis #28 during the game against the Miami Hurricanes on September 23, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Matt ShetlerCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2010

After a less than stellar showing on national television against a very good Miami Hurricanes team, fans left Heinz Field upset, angry and wondering why the Pitt offense flat out stinks.

The offense is flat.  It lacks big plays.  It lacks creativity. It doesn't give it's play makers opportunities to make plays.

What's even worse is that it's not going to get better anytime in the near future.

Should head coach Dave Wannstedt and offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti begin to panic? No, because if they are just starting to worry now, it's way too late.

Let's start with the game plan, which is way too predictable.  Fans in the stands Thursday night, were calling the plays before the Panthers even broke the huddle.  If a group of college kids, who likely had too much to drink, can tell you exactly what the Panthers are going to run four out of five times; then every defensive coordinator they face is way ahead of the Panthers right now.

It's actually a real simple formula. Run against a nine man front on first down. Repeat the process against the same defense on second down and on third and long throw a three yard pass that is considered safe. Get the punt team ready.

Pitt can't get Dion Lewis going at all.  Only 41 yards on the ground from a guy that was considered a Heisman Trophy contender just doesn't cut it.  Of course Lewis only got 12 carries, with most of them coming when the Hurricanes had the box stacked with defenders.

Backup tailback Ray Graham did hit the 100-yard mark, but the game was already in the bag by the time he made an impact.

On the year though, Graham has been the more effective runner.  Should he be given a shot as the feature back?  Both Lewis and Graham are similar runners.  The difference between the two is that Lewis is more of a north and south guy while Graham features a little bit more elusiveness.

It doesn't matter who carries the ball, but the Panthers have to get a consistent ground game going.

The quarterback play has been equally as bad.  Tino Sunseri didn't even attempt to get the ball down the field.  Teams don't respect the Pitt passing attack and until the Panthers can stretch the field consistently, teams will continue to take away the run.

What about Jon Baldwin?  Pitt fans almost forgot he still played for Panthers.  Sunseri looked his way only one time in the first half against Miami and naturally made a bad throw.  There is no excuse for one of the best play makers in the Big East to have only 3 catches for 26 yards, with those coming in garbage time.

You have to find ways to get him the ball.  Take a shot down field occasionally.  Throw it up and let Baldwin try and make a play.  Find ways to get the ball in his hands.  Wide receiver screens and quick hitters?  We didn't see one.  Get Baldwin the ball with blockers in front of him and he can make plays.

Granted the offensive line is not very good right now, but the Panthers need to be more creative.  Against an aggressive defense, what happened to screens and play action passes to take advantage of the Hurricanes aggressiveness.  We didn't see one called all night.

Oh, the Panthers were creative.  Just ask Wannstedt.  The didn't have a first down until midway through the second quarter and after getting two first downs on one drive, they killed the drive by running Greg Cross on a reverse pass, that was doomed from the start.

I guess when your quarterback had 1 yard passing at the time, the coaching staff figured they would let someone else try and throw the ball.

Nothing speaks predictability like the only time Pitt reached the red zone. Lewis got the ball on first down.  Second down, likely the time to throw, Lewis gets it again.  The third quarter ended before the third down play, so Wannstedt and company had over five minutes to make a call and they decided to give the ball to Lewis again.

Story of the night.  Story of the season so far for Pitt.

This coaching staff doesn't have the ability to get this offense going.  There is always the chance that once Big East play starts, the offensive line will lay better and Lewis will get rolling.  However, if that doesn't happen, don't expect major changes in personnel or play calling.

The coaching staff will tell you all day that they are frustrated, but they will never do anything about it.

Panic time?  No, panic time was a couple of weeks ago.  As usual, they are a little bit late on things.

 

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