Coming into the season, one of the biggest questions surrounding Paul Chryst’s Pitt Panthers football team was how long would it be before quarterback Tino Sunseri was benched for good.
Sunseri has answered that question by having an outstanding senior season in which he’s thrown for 2,199 yards and 13 touchdowns in Pitt’s eight games.
Sunseri continues to move up the Panthers’ all-time passing lists and should actually pass the likes of Dan Marino and finish second in program history.
What’s been the difference in Sunseri?
The new offense certainly helps as Chryst’s pro-style offense fits Sunseri much better than former head coach Todd Graham’s “high-octane,” spread attack.
But it’s just not the change in offenses, it’s Sunseri himself and the fact that for the most part he has eliminated the mistakes.
Sure he still hasn’t learned how to throw the football away and cost the Panthers a win at Syracuse, but overall he has cut down on the mistakes, only throwing two interceptions all season long.
In fact, Sunseri is currently riding a streak of 143 consecutive passes without an INT, which amounts for the third-longest active streak in the nation.
That will play an important role this Saturday against Notre Dame.
As good as Sunseri has been this season, there’s one thing missing from his resume for pretty much his entire career – a big win. Good quarterbacks win big games and through three seasons as a starter Sunseri is still looking for a meaningful victory.
Without that win, it’s still hard to get too excited about Sunseri’s achievements as we have all seen how he performs under pressure in a close game.
This season’s wins – against Virginia Tech, Temple, Buffalo and Gardner-Webb – aren’t anything that will put a quarterback on the map.
He also didn’t have that big win last season, beating only Buffalo, Maine, USF, Connecticut, Louisville and Syracuse.
His first year as a starter in 2010 was more of the same, winning the games he should win, but falling way short against the tough teams on the Pitt schedule, which included Utah, Miami, Notre Dame and West Virginia.
Of course those losses aren’t all on Sunseri, but sometimes a quarterback has to win games and so far we haven’t seen that out of Sunseri.
Luckily for him, he gets another chance Saturday at No. 3 Notre Dame.
Sometimes a quarterback just has to go out and win a game and this could be Sunseri’s last chance to get a signature win.
It won’t be easy as the Irish have one of the nation’s best defenses, allowing only 9.9 points per game.
Win or lose, we will see exactly how far Sunseri has come in three years. He’s having a great season. There’s no denying that. But he still needs to win that big game.
This is likely his last shot.