Anyone who thought that Ray Graham was not 100 percent has not seen the Pitt Panthers’ past two games.
Graham’s highlight was a 78-yard rushing touchdown, which set the tempo for a 55-10 win.
The touchdown was the second longest for Graham in his career as he has a 79-yard touchdown in 2009 against FIU.
The Gardner-Webb response was a 69-yard kick return from J.J Hubbard. The drive stalled as the Panther defense held the Runnin’ Bulldogs to a 41=yard field goal from Trevor Austin.
The Panthers then returned a kickoff in which Lafayette Pitts ran into Cam Saddler twice. It could have been a touchdown but the return instead resulted in a 41-yard Harper field goal to extend the lead to 10-3.
The Panthers would immediately get the football back as the Harper kickoff was dropped by Gardner-Webb. The end result was a 1-yard run from Rushel Shell.
Down 17-3, the Runnin’ Bulldogs tried to cut into the deficit but ended up with only a 17-yard punt to show for it. The result? A 34-yard pass from Tino Sunseri to Devin Street on the first play. It was the second one-play drive of the game.
Later in the half with the Panthers marching down the field, Graham had a fumble forced by Dylan Taylor which Kamar Morrison returned for a 65-yard touchdown.
Pitt led 27-10 at the half after the Panthers put together a quick strike drive that ended with a 22-yard field goal from Harper.
Pitt’s opening drive of the third quarter resulted in a Sunseri to Mike Shanahan 4-yard connection to give the Panthers a 34-10 lead.
The score allowed Sunseri to pass Tony Dorsett for fifth all-time in career offensive yards. Dorsett had 6,526. Also with the catch, Shanahan tied for 12th place on the Pitt all-time receptions list, a mark he would break later in the game.
The record breaker came on a 77-yard pass which established a new career high as he had 144 yards at that point.
Gardner-Webb then had possession and fumbled the football twice on one play. The Panthers had the ball on their opponent’s 5-yard line and Isaac Bennett scored the touchdown. This meant each of the three running backs scored a touchdown in the game.
The Panthers soon marched down the field again as Trey Anderson replaced Sunseri (18 for 24, 344 yds, 3 TD) and led a touchdown drive of his own. His 21-yard pass to Ronald Jones as well as solid running from Bennett got the drive moving. Bennett finished the drive with an 11-yard run.
55 points represents the most scored by the Panthers since 1999 when Pitt defeated Temple 55-24 at Pitt Stadium.
From there, the teams ran the clock and Pitt won to improve to 2-2 on the season. The loss dropped Gardner-Webb to 0-4 on the season.
“We’re pleased to get a victory,” Pitt head coach Paul Chryst said. “We did some things we can build on and things we can get better at. The best part of this is we took care of business and were able to get lots of players in.”
Game ball: Mike Shanahan and Tino Sunseri each get a game ball. Both moved up in the Pitt record books. Sunseri made good decisions and was effective with the football. While Ray Graham may have had the most explosive play, Sunseri was the most consistent player on that football field, this despite only two pass attempts in the first quarter. Shanahan had five catches, but made each one count. His yards after the catch kept drives moving and he still has the best and most consistent set of hands on the team. His 77-yard touchdown was impressive as he was able to keep his feet inbounds while running close to the sidelines. Both played important roles in the offense and equally deserve game balls.
Up Next: The Panthers have a bye week before visiting the Syracuse Orange Friday, Oct. 5. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. from the Carrier Dome.
“We have the bye week coming up and we wanted to win going into the bye and we accomplished that,” Chryst said. “It will give us an opportunity to get some guys healthy. We’ve got to maximize the opportunity we have this week.”
1. Here is some of what Devin Street said to reporters:
2. Mike Shanahan had a career game and here are some of his thoughts:
3. Jason Hendricks the defensive hero from last week’s win over Virginia Tech added another interception in this game:
4. Defender Shane Hale came up big today as well for the Panthers:
5. The always entertaining Cam Saddler and his thoughts following the game:
Pitt/Gardner-Webb scoring 9/22/12
Pitt- Graham 78 yard run (Harper kick good) 3:23 7-0
GW- Austin 41 yard kick 1:00 7-3
Pitt- Harper 41 yard kick 14:32 10-3
Pitt- Shell 1 yard run (Harper kick good) 11:27 17-3
Pitt- Street 34 yard pass from Sunseri (Harper kick good) 8:41 24-3
GW- Morrison 65 yard fumble return (Austin kick good) 1:10 24-10
Pitt- Harper 22 yard kick 0:00 27-10
Pitt- Shanahan 4 yard pass from Sunseri (Harper kick good) 10:16 34-10
Pitt- Shanahan 77 yard pass from Sunseri (Harper kick good) 1:00 41-10
Pitt- Bennett 3 yard run (Harper kick good) 13:37 48-10
Pitt- Bennett 11 yard run (Harper kick good) 9:03 55-10