Tino Sunseri makes strides in final season

The most maligned quarterback in the Big East over the last few years has played like one of its best so far in 2012.

That is right, folks. Tino Sunseri is quietly having his best season yet.

All his stats are up across the board. Sunseri ranks No. 2 in the Big East in passing yards per game (291.7), has already matched his touchdown total from a year ago (10) and is completing a career-high 70.4 percent of his passes. But here is the stat that is most impressive of all: Sunseri leads the Big East in pass efficiency, with a rating of 163.5. That ranks him No. 8 in the nation. Consider last season, Sunseri had more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (10), and ranked No. 6 in the Big East in efficiency (124.1). That put him at No. 82 in the nation.

Coach Paul Chryst, not one to dole out heaps of praise to any one player in particular, still sees room for improvement.

"I really think we can get better at the position," Chryst said. “I think he is making progress. I still think there are some very good plays he’s making, and when we are struggling, there are things that are correctable."

Pitt is 2-4 and has lacked any true consistency on offense. Sunseri is still getting sacked way too often, a product of the group in front of him and, at times, his inability to get rid of the football. Pitt had its opportunities late against Syracuse, getting into Orange territory twice in the fourth quarter.

On their final drive, the Panthers got down to the Syracuse 17, but Sunseri was sacked on back-to-back plays and the Panthers fell out of field goal range and lost 14-13. Last week against the Cardinals, Pitt jumped out to a quick lead, but fell behind. Its comeback bid in the fourth quarter also failed.

Still, there is no question that Sunseri has gotten much better, and the Pitt coaching staff is designing an offense to suit his strengths. It helps that receivers Mike Shanahan and Devin Street have played well, too. They rank as two of the top receivers in the Big East right now. Shanahan has 29 catches for 525 yards; Street has 39 catches for 514 yards. Each has three touchdown receptions.

"Guys around him are doing some things to help," Chryst said. "No one guy does it on his own, but hopefully we can get better each week. It helps the more we get to know him and he gets to know and be comfortable with the offense."

When asked to give an overall assessment of the way Sunseri has played, Chryst said, "I think it’s been solid. There’s some things we, he -- guys around him can do better and yet he’s been doing some good things we’ve got to build on."