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Despite what you may think, Pitt running game needs to get better

By most accounts and appearances, Pitt displayed a nice running game against Buffalo.

Ray Graham was one of only two backs in the FBS to gain more than 200 yards in the first game of the season. Overall, the Panthers’ ground game came out ranked 22nd in the nation (231). Not bad, right?

Wrong!

If you think that satisfied coach Todd Graham, think again.

“We had a 200-yard rusher,” he said. “We would have had a 400-yard rusher if we had executed right. We didn’t block our base play. Our No. 1 play is inside zone, and we didn’t block it right one time. A lot of it is being keyed up that first game, but a lot of it is just trusting our fundamentals.”

Graham promises improvement this week.

“(Practice) went a lot better than it went last week,” he said.

Can Pitt reach 400 yards rushing Saturday agaisnt FCS school Maine? Graham is making no promises, and why should he? That’s not even a Pitt record.

The Pitt record for yards gained rushing in a game is 530 in a 52-20 victory against Army in 1975 when Tony Dorsett ran for 268.

And  just because I like weird stats, I looked up Pitt’s worst rushing effort. It was only three years later (minus-28 against Navy). Pitt lost that game, 21-11, but finished the season a respectable 8-4 under Jackie Sherrill, immediately before three consecutive 11-1 seasons.

What does it mean? Nothing. I just thought you’d like to know.

– The Pitt football office in the UPMC Sports Performance  Complex on the South Side is undergoing some interesting changes.

Graham is  having every inside wall painted with photos of past and present Pitt football scenes and players, including one devoted to the school’s NFL Hall of Famers. Also included will be a picture of the 1890 Pit t Panthers, who finished 1-2 and won the first game in school history (10-4 against Geneva). Funny thing about that team: It had no coach.

The 1976 national championship team did have a coach, and Graham and Johnny Majors are developing a budding friendship. As part of the renovation to his office, Graham said he will have a button he can push to activate one of Majors’ pep talks. That, to me, would be worth listening to, especially on a bad day.

Credit for the overall renovation can be traced to Graham’s vision and the importance he places on tradition in college football, but he said assistant athletic director Chris LaSala and senior associate AD E.J. Borghetti have spent a lot of time in the planning  and implementation of the project.

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