03 October 2010
Ok, so maybe the title is a bit dramatic. But in case you weren't glued to your 15 inch laptop watching ESPN3.com, Ray Graham was nothing short of sensational against FIU, running to the tune of 277 yards, the highest total in Division I so far this season. He was incredible in the 44-17 win, simply willing the team to blow out their Sun Belt Conference competition.
Dave Wannstedt will not even entertain the notion of starting Graham. He is strongly standing behind Lewis, who missed the game with a shoulder injury. Instead riding the hot horse, Wannstedt is opting for past performance:
Nothing against Lewis, who is talented, but he has not been himself this season. Part of it might be health-related, but there have been other issues. Before the Miami game, for example, offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti said Lewis had been missing open running lanes.
Lewis was averaging a measly three yards per carry before yesterday, while Graham was averaging 9.3. Graham had 72 more yards on 24 fewer carries. Graham also had more yards receiving on fewer catches. And that was before a performance that included 78 kick-return yards and 19 receiving yards, for a grand total of 374 all-purpose yards. It tied Dorsett's total from the '75 opener and is believed to be the Pitt record.
I'm in favor of giving Graham the bulk of the carries until Lewis can show why he should get them instead. A very convincing case could be made as to why Lewis should remain the starter: experience, power running style, newly shuffled offensive line - but what drives me crazy is that it seems that there can never be any competition within the team. The last two summers there's been a pretend QB competition, but it was clear that Stull was going to be the '09 starter and Sunseri the '10 starter well before the first day of camp. Hell, on Februray 27th Wannstedt essentially named Tino the starter. And just like this decision, it's not yet clear whether these choices were right or wrong, but why not have an open competition? Right now, Ray Graham is clearly the best runner on the roster. Why not give him a shot to carry the workload?
As for the rest of the team, I was impressed with the new-look offensive line, which played considerably better than I expected. I haven't re-watched the game yet, but I thought Nix looked athletic enough to play the guard position and Jordan Gibbs was above average in his first start.
Penalties, both offensively and defensively, were a problem. From being overly aggressive to silly unsportsmanlike conducts, it was a fairly sloppy effort that included having a defensive touchdown called back.
In what might have been the second best news of the day. Dom DeCicco seems to be the newest member of the linebacking corp and looked pretty good in his debut. DeCicco recorded six tackles and looked much better in coverage than a traditional linebacker. His presence - and that of Jason Hendricks in the secondary - is a welcome addition. With the linebackers struggling even before the Mason injury, his presence is a welcomed addition. With a Brian Kelly coached team on the horizon, speed and coverage-ability is a must-have for the linebackers. DeCicco should continue to improve as he learns the position.
Tino Sunseri started off the game in an utterly dreadful manner - overthrowing Baldwin and the Cruz to kill the first punt - and the natives at the Ketchup Palace began to look restless to say the least. Tino settled down and was able to get better as the game went on and the safeties crept up to try and contain Graham.
The receivers also played well - particularly Street and Shanahan, but the coaching staff is looking to get Jon Baldwin more involved. As we saw the last time that Pitt played Notre Dame, being covered isn't necessarily a barrier to making plays.
Solid effort. Time to get ready for the Irish.