PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – Pitt’s new head football coach promised his team would play a high-octane brand of football.
The Panthers opened up their season on Saturday and it was the running game that was running on all cylinders.
Ray Graham ran for 201 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Panthers to a 35-16 win over Buffalo, which gave Todd Graham a win in his Pitt coaching debut.
Tino Sunseri completed 16 of his 28 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown for the Panthers.
Fans may have been nervous with a slim 7-3 lead at the half, but things picked up in the second half.
Pitt broke it open in the third quarter behind Graham, who scored on runs of 3 and 5 yards to help Pitt get some breathing room.
His 1-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter sealed the deal and capped the scoring in the game.
For Buffalo, Chazz Anderson completed 32 of 49 passes for 276 yards and was picked off once. His 2-yard touchdown run in the third quarter cut the Panthers’ lead to 14-10.
Graham has dubbed his brand of football “high-octane” and promised if his offense could run 80 plays a game it would score at least five touchdowns.
The Panthers only needed 66 snaps to produce five scores against the Bulls, but the high-octane performance will have to wait as Pitt operated in fits and starts for long stretches against a MAC team coming off a miserable 2-10 season.
Pitt operated quickly, as Graham promised, just not always efficiently. The Panthers often went just 15 to 18 seconds in between snaps but struggled to produce quality with their quantity.
The lead could have been bigger, but Kevin Harper missed two field goal attempts from 32 yards and 47 yards in the second quarter.
Buffalo began the second half with the ball. On 3rd and 11 from the Panthers’ 31 yard line, Anderson was picked off by Chas Alecxih, who returned it 47 yards to the Buffalo 20.
Graham put the Panthers up 14-3 two plays later.
Mike Shanahan led the way for Pitt receivers with five catches for 85 yards and a touchdown.
The Panthers will host Maine (1-0) on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field.