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Wednesday June 26 2019
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Pitt defeats New Hampshire 38-16

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The Panthers picked up their first victory of the season with a 38-16 win over New Hampshire at Heinz Field. Tailback Ray Graham had 116 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carres, and the Pitt defense recorded nine sacks.

Call it a much needed recovery game for Dave Wannstedt's boys.


Coming off a heartbreaking 27-24 overtime loss to Utah last week, the Pitt Panthers (1-1) righted the ship, found new key roles and learned much more about their veterans in a 38-16 victory over New Hampshire Saturday afternoon at Heinz Field.


The Panthers gained 169 yards on the ground, with 116 coming from back-up tailback Ray Graham, who saw his first action of the year after healing from a sprained knee suffered during camp.


New Hampshire stayed within seven points of the Panthers throughout most of the first half, until a Tino Sunseri to Cameron Saddler two-yard touchdown pass capped an 8-play, 62-yard drive with just 18 seconds left in the second quarter, giving the Panthers a much needed boost.


“From a game standpoint, we have a lot of upside; a lot of work to do,” said head coach Dave Wannstedt. “It's really exciting to be a coach of this football team.”


OFFENSE
Heisman candidate Dion Lewis carried the ball 10 times for just 27 yards and a touchdown, a two-yard rush late in the first quarter to give Pitt its first endzone appearance of the game.


Lewis received only two carries in the second half, while Ray Graham busted loose on the scene carrying the ball nine times but tallying up a 12.8 yard-per-carry average. The sophomore scored two times on runs from 64 yards and 8 yards out. The 8-yard score may have been more impressive than the long run, as Graham carried five defenders two yards before finding the endzone. On the same drive, Graham ran back-to-back draw plays for runs of 15 and 21 yards, showing that the Panthers ground attack went from “power attack” to more finesse and more of a spread-look.


“We struggled running the ball the first half,” Wannstedt said. “We changed it up the second half, and I think our offensive coaches did a good job. We started running some draw plays and some different runs rather than that block down kick out power stuff. We opened things up.”


“We came out and fought today,” said Graham, who tacked on his first-career 100 yard performance. “After the game against Utah, we could have put our heads down, but we want to get things going in the right direction as soon as possible and we did that today.”


The ground game wasn't the only headline news, as sophomore quarterback Tino Sunseri made his second career start, racking up 275 yards passing, going 24-of-34 for two touchdowns. Sunseri threw a 56-yard scoring strike to Jonathan Baldwin, who made several defenders miss and bounced off of two New Hampshire defensive backs to spring free for the score.


Baldwin finished with 100 yards on six receptions. Today marked the junior wideout's ninth 100-yard receiving game of his career. 


“Ray Graham had 100 yards rushing, Tino made progress today. You combine that with our defensive line who showed up today,” said Wannstedt. “Jonathan Baldwin got the challenge this week, and with his 100 yards, I felt he jumped up and played very well. There were some bright spots for our veteran players today.”


DEFENSE
The defensive unit, led by tackle Chas Alecxih, who got in the backfield for three sacks—all three coming on 3rd down plays—rocked New Hampshire from start to finish.


The Panthers held their D-1 subdivision opponent to just 73 rushing yards despite their defensive leader, Greg Romeus, not playing.


“After our performance at Utah, we just had to come out today and get some momentum back,” Alecxih said. “We came out and did what we had to do. I think this is a huge confidence builder coming into Miami, and it was something we needed.”


Along with Romeus, the Panthers were missing safeties Dom Decicco, Andrew Taglianetti and linebacker Manny Williams to injuries.


RUNNING BACK SITUATION
It seems now that Dion Lewis and Ray Graham will both split time in the upcoming weeks. 


“Ray's got a lot of ability,” Wannstedt said about Graham's breakout performance today. “It's great to get him out there. Having a one-two punch like him and Dion is pretty special.”


“I think we can play them both. We're going to need them both,” continued Wannstedt. “I've gotten involved in seasons where we've gotten down to our fourth team tailback. We played four today. We're committed to running the football, and we're going to need them all.”


Graham also had comments about splitting time with Lewis and seeing more carries.


“Whenever I go out there I just give it my all. Whether I'm in there for one play, four plays or three plays, I have to give it my all. When Coach gives me that chance I just go out.”


TALE OF THE TAPE
The Panthers posted a solid 445 yards of total offense today, and going a perfect 4-of-4 on redzone opportunities. Sunseri was sacked just twice and threw one interception, a Ryan McGuinness pick at the Pitt 30-yard line, during the opening drive of the second half. Pitt threw seven straight passes in that drive.


HOMETOWN SPECIAL
Former Moon standout and New Hampshire tight end Chris Jeannot led the Wildcats with 12 receptions and 110 yards today. 


NEXT UP
After their bye-week, Pitt plays host to No. 12 Miami on Thursday, Sept. 23. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.

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