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Notes from Pitt’s Wednesday scrimmage

 *** Pitt just completed its second scrimmage of training camp and the offense looked, in a word, putrid.

Either that, or Pitt has one of the best defenses in the nation. Or maybe a little bit of both.  

But the offense was undeniably bad. You name it — dropped balls, underthrown passes, offensive line breakdowns, bad snaps, fumbles and interceptions – and the offense was the culprit. Granted, they are playing against a formidable defense – even without Greg Romeus and a limited Jabaal Sheard (coach’s decision) — but there was no excuse for the overall poor play of the offense.

“This film is going to be interesting to watch here in a couple minutes,” offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti said moments after the debacle.

All told, the offense mustered 154 total yards during the 90-play afternoon. For the second scrimmage in a row, the first-team offense didn’t score a touchdown.

*** Pitt rushed 54 times for 64 yards. The Panthers had one carry – out of 54 attempts – gain more than 10 yards, an 18-yard scamper by Chris Burns. Pitt’s defensive linemen, notably back-up end Justin Hargrove, had outstanding days.

 *** Tino Sunseri was 6 of 17 for 36 yards and no interceptions. Pat Bostick was 5 of 15 for 48 yards and one touchdown, a fluke 34-yarder on an underthrown ball to Greg Cross. Dion Lewis, who took part in 11 plays, had four carries for eight yards. Jon Baldwin had one catch for seven yards.

*** Here’s how bad the quarterback stats were played. Take away Bostick’s 34-yarder to Cross – the only touchdown of the day — and Sunseri and Bostick combined to complete 10 of 31 passes for 50 yards with a long of eight yards.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Wannstedt said. “It’s obvious that we’ve got some strengths, but we also have some areas of much needed improvement. These next four or five days of training camp are very important to us. Offensively, we’ve got to get in sync a little bit. We just aren’t consistent enough right now.”

*** Meanwhile, the defense overwhelmed the offense. They had five sacks, three fumble recoveries and an interception by freshman Brandon Ifill. The turnover total could have been more. Safety Dom DeCicco, middle linebacker Shane Gordon, safety Jason Hendricks and even defensive tackle Aaron Donald all had decent shots at an interception.

“We had four turnovers and it could have been 10,” defensive coordinator Phil Bennett said.  

*** The kicking game was a lone bright spot for the offense. Dan Hutchins made two field goals, including a 48-yarder, and Kevin Harper booted a 47-yarder.

= The defense was without Romeus (back spasms). Fellow all-Big East defensive end Jabaal Sheard was limited to 10 plays and sophomore middle linebacker Dan Mason’s day was cut short after being banged up mid-scrimmage. With Mason out, strong-side linebacker Max Gruder slid over to the middle and Greg Williams moved into Gruder’s spot.

*** Besides only having one of the nation’s best running backs for 11 plays, one reason for the uneven offensive play, according to Cignetti, is that Pitt was using a lot of one-back, three-receiver formations.  

“We know what we can do when Dion and Henry Hynoski are on the field,” he said. “That’s not what you saw today. We need to find out what we can do outside of those guys.”

*** Running back Ray Graham (knee) didn’t participate in the scrimmage, but Wannstedt said his second-string running back is getting better. Wannstedt wouldn’t try to predict whether Graham’s injury could linger to the Sept. 2 opener at Utah or beyond.

“He’s doing a lot better,” Wannstedt said. “He’s improving every day. We’re taking it day to day.”

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