Pitt coach Graham is keeping expectations high
College Football Videos
Not troubled by the ups and downs of a challenging season, Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri probably isn't looking for enthusiastic validation from coach Todd Graham. And Graham isn't going out of his way to offer it.
Sunseri, a redshirt junior, was named Big East Offensive Player of the Week on Monday for the first time in his career after throwing for a career-high 419 yards in a 35-20 victory against Connecticut last Wednesday. The performance is the fourth-most passing yardage in Pitt history and the best by a collegiate quarterback at 10-year-old Heinz Field. Sunseri did not throw an interception while helping the offense record 529 yards of offense -- the most at Pitt since 2000.
Graham's take: "I told Tino this," Graham said yesterday during his weekly news conference. "We played average. We can play a lot better than that."
Almost from the day he assumed control of a program that clearly needed direction after the ouster of two coaches in less than a month, Graham has set a high standard. Much of that thinking stems from his Tulsa teams that led the nation in offense in 2007 and 2008 and scored 661 points in '08, the second-most in NCAA history.
"I thought we would throw for 500," Graham said after the Connecticut game. "I really did. That's what I'm used to."
Graham did give Sunseri credit.
"I thought we were a lot better in rhythm," he said. "We did some things to simplify things that helped, and we executed better. We were on task on what we were doing, and our eyes were where they were supposed to be.
"But that was not a great performance — just an average to good performance. The thing that was great about it was not turning the football over. If we had not taken three sacks, then it would have been a good performance. That's just how we measure things. It doesn't matter if it's this year or last year. If you went and got one of our sound bites from last year, I would be saying the same exact things."
With Pitt (4-4, 2-1) four victories from winning the Big East and earning a BCS bowl berth, Graham believes his offense can succeed if it avoids turnovers and negative-yardage plays. The Connecticut victory was the offense's second turnover-free performance of the season.
"If we do those things, we are going to score points," he said. "Offensively, we made some good adjustments and got some good things done."
Graham isn't just challenging his quarterback. He also hasn't been satisfied with a defense that ranks 23rd in the nation on third down (85 stops on 129 plays) and 46th in yards allowed (363.8 per game).
"I think our guys are close," Graham said. "We are not playing championship-caliber defense. We are playing good. We can play great, and that excites me."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.