2 former WPIAL stars excel for Pitt
Lost in the big Pitt victory over Gardner-Webb on Saturday at Heinz Field was the performance of two highly decorated players from WPIAL schools who had slipped into the shadows the past two seasons at Pitt.
But defensive Shayne Hale of Gateway and linebacker Dan Mason of Penn Hills left the locker room with smiles that may last the entire weekend.
“It felt great,” said Hale, who had a sack and a fumble recovery on the Gardner-Webb 5-yard line that led to a touchdown.
“I was so hungry to keep making plays and just having fun, I was upset the clock kept running. It felt good to get back out there.”
Hale came to Pitt in 2008 as a high school All-American, but he appeared in only 10 games before this season. This year, he was suspended before the opener for breaking an undisclosed team rule, but he never got discouraged.
“I have been pretty patient,” he said. “You let things go the way they go, keep your head straight and keep going. It was frustrating, but things happen for a reason. You can't dwell on the past. I am playing now and having fun.”
Coach Paul Chryst said the 55-10 victory was a good opportunity to give several players a chance.
“The best part about one of these is we kind of took care of business and also got some guys in (the game),” he said. “It was pretty neat for me to see Dan Mason get in at the end there.
“What he has done and overcome, probably a lot of you guys know more than I do. That's a pretty neat moment.”
The game marked the first action for Mason since suffering serious knee ligament and nerve damage in a game against Miami in September 2010.
“That was big for him,” Hale said. “He was excited. He couldn't wait to get out there. It felt good to be out there with him.”
Pitt played the game without three key starters: defensive tackle Aaron Donald (knee), fullback Mark Giubilato (knee) and tight end Hubie Graham (clavicle).
Freshman tackle Darryl Render made his first career start and made three tackles — 1½ for a loss — and a pass breakup.
Bethel Park graduate Adam Lazenga, a former walk-on who was awarded a scholarship this week, started for Giubilato.
On the run
Running back Ray Graham gained 94 yards for the second consecutive week, including 78 on a touchdown run in the first quarter in which he sprinted, untouched, through a wide hole in the line and outran a Gardner-Webb defensive back into the end zone.
Freshman running back Rushel Shell didn't start but led the team in rushing attempts (13) and gained 41 yards. Third-stringer Isaac Bennett had 52 yards and two touchdowns.
Pitt has produced consecutive games of more than 500 yards in total offense (626 vs. Gardner-Webb and 537 vs. Virginia Tech) for the first time in 20 years.
In 1992, Pitt had 558 against Rutgers, 596 against Minnesota and 552 against Maryland in consecutive games.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7997.