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Pitt

Panther Hollow: Rudolph Looking For Consistency

By Abbey Way and Matt Popchock
Pitt touchdown celebration

Pitt tight end Hubie Graham celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown in the second half against the Cincinnati Bearcats on Nov. 5, 2011 at Heinz Field. (Photo credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — The Panthers lost two, won two, lost two, then got back on track with a win at Buffalo. So, if you believe in patterns, they’re due to claw back to the .500 mark at home this Saturday.

Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph isn’t necessarily a fan of said pattern, as he looks for more consistency from the offense this week, including an improved running game.

Freshman phenom Rushel Shell scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown against the Bulls in a 20-6 triumph, with senior Ray Graham later adding insurance. But the Panthers were held to just 126 yards on the ground, and were out-gained in total, 334 yards to 254, by a one-win UB squad.

Despite recurring flashes of excellence, Pitt enters Saturday a meager sixth in the Big East with 142.2 rushing yards per game.

“It’s hard to run consistently, and just kind of hang your hat on that,” Rudolph said after practice on the South Side Tuesday. “So we’ve got to be able to mix it up, but when we do run the ball, we’ve got to be able to make the most out of those opportunities, and it’s just inconsistent right now.”

Rudolph hopes to see a boost in the offense this weekend with the possible return of senior tight end Hubie Graham, who has been injured most of the season.

With the injuries this season among the tight ends, other players like wide receiver Mike Shanahan have had to change their roles and pick up responsibilities that they don’t normally have to shoulder.

Rudolph said he was impressed with how Shanahan filled in at that spot.

“I think his experience is you throw something at him and he doesn’t flinch he adapts quickly and he understands what your talking about when your talking about looks,” he remarked. “He’s someone that doesn’t need a ton of reps to understand something, so you feel confident throwing things at him, and he did a good job adapting during the game.”

Furthermore, Rudolph expects to see a physical defense with a lot of pressure from the Owls on Saturday:

Kickoff between the Panthers (0-3, 3-4) and Temple (2-1, 3-3) is set for noon Saturday. Panther Preview, featuring Gregg Giannotti, begins that day at 9:00 A.M., on your flagship home for Pitt football, SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan.