I know all of you out there predicted Tino Sunseri would throw for more than 400 yards against UConn.
Sunseri looked much better in a 35-20 victory over the Huskies on Wednesday night, throwing for a career-high 419 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for another, and in the short term got critics off his back after poor performances in consecutive losses to Rutgers and Utah.
But of more immediate concern was the health of superstar running back Ray Graham, the Panthers' best player. Graham went down early in the first quarter with a right knee injury and will undergo further evaluation Thursday to determine its injury. Graham appeared to hurt his knee when he planted his foot in the turf, immediately grabbing it when he fell to the ground. He was carted off the field and ended up on crutches, with ice wrapped around the affected area.
His would be a devastating loss for an offense that has relied so heavily on him. Graham began the week ranked No. 2 in the nation, averaging just over 134 yards a game. He also leads the team in receptions and was a big-time asset out of the backfield. The Panthers also lost yet another offensive lineman when Matt Rotheram went down against UConn. Receiver Cameron Saddler also got hurt and never returned. Injuries have hit the Panthers particularly hard on the offensive line, where three starters have now missed time.
But Pitt was able to survive without Graham on Wednesday, in part because the Panthers were able to protect a little better up front and take advantage of screens and underneath routes. Sunseri did not burn the Huskies deep. His teammates just took 6-yard passes and turned them into big gains. Zach Brown, in for Graham, did well catching balls out of the backfield the way Graham has this season, leading the team with nine catches for 84 yards.
The Panthers (4-4, 2-1 Big East) remained in the hunt for the conference title, but the road is going to be much tougher for UConn, the defending BCS representatives. The Huskies (3-5, 1-2) have now given up more than 400 yards passing three times this season. To do that against a Pitt team that had 50 total yards passing against Utah was probably unthinkable to them. The biggest problem were the linebackers, who were essentially nonexistent. UConn never seemed to adjust to the Pitt game plan, and the Panthers just took advantage.
Meanwhile, the Huskies offense showed some signs of life but for the most part, quarterback Johnny McEntee was flummoxed once again. Amazingly, the UConn offensive line played worse than Pitt did, even down a starter. It all adds up to yet another disappointing performance for the Huskies.