Pitt football notebook: Graham nearing elite company
• Senior running back Ray Graham has only one 100-yard game this season (103 against Cincinnati last month), but if he reaches that mark Saturday against Louisville, it will mean another step up Pitt's all-time rushing list. Graham has 2,648 career yards and is in eighth place after passing Pro Football Hall of Famer Curtis Martin last week. The next target is Elliott Walker (2,748). Graham is averaging 84 yards per game, and if he reaches that standard over the final seven games (not counting a bowl), he will finish second to only Tony Dorsett (6,526). No. 2 on the list is Curvin Richards (3,192), followed by Craig Heyward, Dion Lewis, LeSean McCoy, Billy West and Walker.
• Graham said minor mistakes, such as hesitation through the hole and missed blocks, prevented Pitt from getting its running game in gear against Syracuse. He matched his season high with 24 carries but gained only 57 yards. “I think (Syracuse) did a good job. I worked for everything I had,” he said. “We are going to learn from that tape.”
• Defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable called for a nickel package against Syracuse's spread offense, and it worked so well that it may return later in the season, especially against Notre Dame and South Florida. “I think it surprised them a bit, initially,” said senior defensive back Andrew Taglianetti, who started as the nickel back. Said Huxtable: “We will continue to grow that and build on that.”
• Pitt ranks 24th in the nation and second in the Big East in pass defense.
• Taglianetti is impressed with the defensive athleticism. “We may not be the biggest defense you'll see across the country, but we have guys who can run to the ball and guys who can play in space.”