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Maine takes advantage of Pitt's offensive line

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By John Grupp
Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011
 

On Pitt's first play from scrimmage Saturday, quarterback Tino Sunseri was sacked for a 5-yard loss.

On Pitt's next possession, Sunseri was sacked again. On Pitt's next drive, he was sacked again, for an 8-yard loss.

The Maine Black Bears looked like the 1985 Chicago Bears.

"Everyone in that locker room is disappointed how we played," Sunseri said. "We've got to be able to execute better."

Sunseri was sacked seven times by the FCS school, including five in the first half. It marked the most against a Pitt quarterback in nearly three years, dating to the Nov. 22, 2008 game at Cincinnati (seven).

The culprits were mental breakdowns by the Pitt offensive line against a stunting Maine defense, and Sunseri, at times, holding onto the ball too long.

Coach Todd Graham said his junior quarterback needs to quicken his decisions in the Panthers' new up-tempo offense.

"He's holding the ball like he did in last year's system," Graham said. "Our system is not one that holds the football. It's 1-2-3, ball's out. We're trying to get that across."

The offensive line had its faults. Sunseri was sacked on back-to-back plays in the third quarter, the latter coming after center Ryan Turnley snapped the ball early and Sunseri and the rest of the offensive line was caught off-guard.

The line also had trouble with Maine's delayed blitz and a defensive stunt called "Steeler," in honor of Black Bears defensive coordinator Joe Rossi, a Pittsburgh Central Catholic graduate.

"We studied a lot of film and saw their (Pitt's) feet weren't the greatest," said sophomore defensive end Michael Cole, who had 2.5 sacks. "We were told to fly off the ball."

Graham said Pitt wasn't surprised by any of Maine's blitzes. He said they had practiced for them, and there was no excuse for the steady pressure.

"It was absolutely nothing they (Maine) were doing," Graham said. "We just didn't play good."

Said senior right guard Lucas Nix: "A lot of it is on us. It's not all Tino's fault. We let a lot of guys in there today, and it's unacceptable. We have five guys. They didn't bring a lot more than five. We should be able to pick that up."

Graham said he doesn't plan to make any personnel changes — sophomore left tackle Juantez Hollins is a first-year starter — and will stick with the current lineup, as the Panthers ready to travel to Iowa next Saturday.

Left guard Chris Jacobson, a fifth-year senior, wasn't overly concerned because the mistakes were mental. Those can be corrected.

"Nothing was physical, like a guy getting blown up and a guy getting beat," he said. "It's just little things. But we'll be fine. I'm not worried about it at all."

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