Through four weeks of the 2012 college football season, things have been a roller coaster ride for the Pitt Panthers.
However while there have been many inconsistencies on both sides of the ball for Paul Chryst’s team, the one constant has been the play of quarterback Tino Sunseri, which is not only quite surprising for Panthers’ fans, but also quite nice to see.Other than a couple rough series’ against Cincinnati, Sunseri hasn’t done anything to hold the Panthers back. He’s not making many of the mistakes that have plagued him throughout the past three seasons and most importantly, the Panthers have won because of his play and not in spite of it.
Sunseri has had it rough during his two-plus seasons as the Pitt starting quarterback, currently on his fourth head coach and third offensive coordinator during that span, but he has responded in a good way.
Through four games, Sunseri has shown better accuracy then he has at any other time in a Pitt uniform. To date he’s completed 67.2 percent (80-of-119) of his pass attempts, which is an all-time high as he completed only 62 percent coming into the season.
In addition, Sunseri has made his throws count this season, throwing eight touchdowns to only two interceptions. By comparrison, he threw only 10 touchdown passes all last season. In his previous two years as a starter, Sunseri threw only 26 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
It will be hard to ask Sunseri to keep this pace up all season, given his inconsistencies of the past, but his performance is encouraging.
Can Pitt contend in the Big East with Sunseri under center? Sure, why not?
He’s not going to be a guy that will put the Panthers on his back and carry them through big stretches of their schedule, but he’s a senior and has emerged as a leader considering everything he’s gone through.
When talking quarterbacks, we use the term “game manager,” a lot and that’s exactly what Sunseri could become- a good game manager, who can make some plays when given the opportunity.
If he has a running game, which he should almost every week, and a solid defense, which is starting to look promising, then Sunseri has it in him to do enough to help this team hang around in their last season in the Big East.
Remember that Sunseri won eight games as a sophomore under Dave Wannstadt, so he’s capable of playing winning football.
The difference is that lately he’s not doing anything to hurt his team. If he can continue this level of play, then I like Pitt’s chances.
Of course that’s a big if, but at no time during his Pitt career has Sunseri looked as sharp as he has during the past two weeks, when he combined to go 37-of-52 (71.2 percent) for 627 yards, six touchdowns and only one interception.
That’s something Sunseri and the Panthers offense hope to continue.
“The biggest thing about football is that it’s a team sport, so obviously we want to keep on scoring points,” said Sunseri. “The defense has to keep on getting stops as part of their game, and we want to just feed off each other. We want to make sure that we’re giving each other momentum, make sure we’re taking advantage of each other, and we just have to keep on moving forward and just keep on getting better.”
So far Sunseri has shown the ability to get better and improve as a quarterback. It’s a bad time for the Panthers to have a week off given the roll that he’s currently on, but if he can keep it up, the Panthers final season as a Big East member could turn out to be a big one.