PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — Todd Graham made it pretty clear when asked if late game sacks were an issue of quarterback Tino Sunseri holding the ball too long in the pocket.
Both of them?
He expounded upon those answers Monday in his weekly press conference, saying multiple factors go into Sunseri getting sacked.
One, Sunseri holds the ball too long and doesn’t always pounce on opportunities for the split second they are available. Two, receivers run the wrong routes at times and execute their play calls incorrectly. Three, the offensive line is very young now without senior guard Chris Jacobson.
It all factors into the tempo in which Graham wishes to operate.
“Someone asked me what’s wrong with the offense?” Graham said. “We’re not running it.”
Sunseri echoed some of his coach’s comments after Pitt’s 23-20 loss to Notre Dame at Heinz Field. He said there are issues in execution throughout the offense that need to be corrected, but said they’re close.
“We’ve just got to learn to finish,” Sunseri said. “We’ve got to learn to finish in every way. We’re going to.
“We’re so close we can touch it. That’s the big thing, and that’s the thing that’s so frustrating right now in our locker room. We feel like we are inches away from really busting this open and really being in that (up-tempo) offense, understanding it and be able to put points on the board.”
The Pitt offense has been consistent in several areas. Sunseri has done a good job of finding his receivers on underneath routes and out in the flat. He completed 22 of 30 passes without an interception Saturday.
Running back Ray Graham has been a big part of those types of routes, as evidenced by his eight catches for 43 yards to lead the team. He’s also been the biggest playmaker on the team running the ball, as he toted it for 89 more yards Saturday to bring his season total to 508 yards through four games (seventh nationally).
But pushing the ball downfield in big chunks through the air has been an issue. Sunseri hasn’t been very accurate on his deep passes and, when he was Saturday, wide receiver Devin Street dropped a pass that would have set the Panthers up inside the redzone.
“We’ve gotta be able to push the ball vertically down the field,” Graham said. “If you watch our drives, every time we hit what I call a Bang-8, or a quick post, or a Seven-Cut, you see the drive start moving. If you have to execute 17 plays, four yards a pop, it’s tough to do that.”
Inability to stretch out defenses along with mental errors on the offensive line and at the skill positions has played a big part in causing Pitt’s offense to sputter and given headaches to fans that still search for what “high octane” truly means.
Graham said they’ve simplified things as much as possible. He even said the offense is ”so simple it’s hard for me to watch.”
Now it’s all about executing.
“Offensively, just too many penalties,” Graham said. “We had four procedure penalties, a critical holding penalty, too many misreads holding the ball.
“After watching the film (it was) just a lot of mental errors.”
In the end, though, Graham said Tuesday the blame is on him.
“I have a great deal of confidence in these players,” Graham said. “I really like how the team leaders have taken ownership of this team. And one of the things that I want to make perfectly clear is that everything we do, I am accountable for. Period. I am.
“I’m not pointing fingers and you will never hear excuses come from me. When I say “we” aren’t getting the ball out, I’m not talking about Tino Sunseri, I’m not talking about Trey Anderson, I am talking about we, I’m talking about [quarterbacks coach] Todd Dodge, I’m talking about Todd Graham, because it is our responsibility to coach and teach them.”