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November 26, 2011

I don’t know what to say at this point. I thought I had come to terms with Sunseri. I thought I had accepted the reality of the situation. Sunseri was the best option at QB. Not that he was great. Not that he was even particularly good. Just that he was the best option.

He had the experience. A coach’s son who knows what is expected. He supposedly worked hard and was smart enough. Picked up the system best. And if nothing else, no one else even challenged him in spring practices and training camp. There’s no alumni conspiracy at work to keep Sunseri as the starter. There’s really nothing more at work than the core belief of just about any coach — the guy who does the best in practice is going to start.

And yet, when it comes time for the game, there is no consistency. If anything, he just gets worse deeper into the game. He stops setting his feet. He doesn’t get rid of the ball. He doesn’t make a decision. All the coaching that is supposed to help a player do the right thing. To slow the game down and see the field. It goes out the window. Instead, the game speeds up on Sunseri. He doesn’t process. He doesn’t think. For lack of another way of putting it, he freezes.

In two years as a starter, the only time he led the team when behind in the 4th quarter was the opening game against Utah in 2010. He led the team to tie and send it to overtime (and, yes promptly tossed an INT in the OT). In games of six points or less, Pitt with Sunseri at the QB is 1-6 (and that 1 is Maine).

I don’t like typing that. I really don’t. But the evidence on the field has been hard to ignore. And the beat writers. The guys who have seen him practice, talked to him, talked to the coaches, more than I or anyone who comments are seeing the same thing:

Sunseri clearly held the ball too long on several sacks — something he has done most of this season — while failing to process what he saw in time to find open receivers. Graham said he was puzzled by the situation.

I don’t want to dump on the receivers today, because some of them were getting open, but Drew Carswell, Devin Street and Mike Shanahan could have helped their quarterback by making a couple of clutch plays that were available.

After 11 games in Graham’s offense, Sunseri has not mastered the rhythmic concept of 1-2-3, ball out, that is essential to making it go. And that’s puzzling because Sunseri is a bright student-athlete and a dedicated worker. Can it be that difficult? I don’t think so.

What is even more troubling is that Sunseri admitted to being “a little flustered” on Pitt’s last possession, while trying to keep an eye on the pass rush, look for an open receiver and not get called for intentional grounding.

And this:

Todd Graham tried very hard not to throw Tino Sunseri under the bus but his frustration level with Sunseri is very easy to see. He has preached about getting rid of the ball, throwing the ball away, tucking it and running – doing something but taking bad sacks.

And yet, with the game on the line, Sunseri took two of the worst sacks I’ve ever seen. Pitt faced a second-and-18 from its own 36, trailing by one, with 35 seconds left with no time-outs and Sunseri scrambled around and then inexplicably allowed Najee Goode chase him down and catch him and sack him – instead of just throwing the ball away.

Sunseri admitted after the game he should have thrown the ball away and that he needs to stop holding the ball and just throw it away.

I asked Graham about Sunseri and Graham really composed himself and just said “it is puzzling, I don’t understand it, it was disappointing because it was obviously not what we were trying to execute. You can’t take sacks, we sat there and took one right after another.”

Graham was asked a followup but still wouldn’t go there and even used the phrase “I’m not going to go there” but there is no question he has had enough of watching Sunseri take sacks.

** Here are two mind-boggling stats – Pitt gave up nine sacks in its final 25 plays and that includes giving up four sacks in the final seven plays from scrimmage. I can’t make that up – that is so ridiculously bad it is almost impossible to believe. But again, a lot of those sacks were not on the line.

For Pitt fans it has been 2 years of watching Sunseri repeat the same mistakes. To keep making his “correctable mistakes” over and over again. This has been a new coaching staff. A new group thinking they could fix things. For them, it has only been this season to try and make it work. They have tried to reopen competition. Yo-yo another QB in. Declare absolute confidence in Sunseri so he isn’t looking over his shoulder. Continually simplified and slowed down the offense. Further gone to emphasizing the run to take the pressure off him to make plays. At best, they have been short-term fixes that briefly seemed to do the trick before Sunseri reverted. What is left?

The question is, what to do? Pitt is sitting at 5-6. There is no shortage of open bowl slots, even for 6-6 Big East teams. The Liberty Bowl now has an open spot with the SEC not having enough qualifying teams — and will take a Big East team. It will be the final home game for the seniors. The season finale is against 5-6 Syracuse. A Cuse team that has lost 4 straight since their stunning dismantling of West Virginia.

We don’t know the status of Zach Brown — bruised sternum — for the game. That could mean a potential backfield of freshmen Isaac Bennett and Corey Davis. Ronald Jones — the WR, punt returner and wildcat QB —  suffered a concussion in the Brawl, so he will be a question mark. Devin Street is unknown.

Does that give Mark Myers a real chance? Is Pitt best served by going with Sunseri for this final game. Trying to win on senior day. Trying to get to a bowl. Giving the team more time to practice — and possibly make the change after December 3.

I honestly don’t have a good answer. I know what emotion says. Bench him. Pull the plug. Anything so I don’t have to see it again. But I can’t truthfully say that is the best option for this team and the next game.

Bring in a Juco QB.

Comment by alcofan 11.26.11 @ 7:52 pm

Still amazed that Pitt had a chance at the BCS berth for the Big East despite not even being bowl eligible yet.

Comment by The Voice 11.26.11 @ 7:56 pm

There is no question that Tino needs to be replaced. Just about every key game and every key moment in the past 2 years, he has assumed the ‘deer into the headlights’ syndrome. I hope that Myers and whoever else are given an opportuity this spring.

However, don’t think this is the sole issue … this team has no playmaker. As indicated above, it would have been helpful if Carswell or Street could have made a play. And it wouldn’t have hurt that Mike (not to be confused with Devon Heaster) Shanahan was not our punt returner.

I still claim that even if Tino had had 5 more incompletions and 5 less sacks last night, we still lose the game.

Comment by wbb 11.26.11 @ 7:57 pm

Shanahan dropped two balls that hit his hands too.
Can’t bench Tino entirely. That WOULD be entirely throwing him under the bus, and as much as many of us wouldn’t care about that, it won’t and shouldn’t happen. I could see alternating series with Myers early, then playing the (hopefully) hot hand the rest of the way. Just hope it doesn’t turn into a Utah-esque debacle where neither can complete a forward pass. Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Jason 11.26.11 @ 8:18 pm

Final Score Aliquippa 14 Jeanette 7

Comment by alcofan 11.26.11 @ 8:18 pm

I was thinking the same thing as alcofan earlier today. I wouldn’t be surprised if the coaching staff is looking for a JUCO QB who runs a spread offense, while bringing Voytik along.

Comment by velvil 11.26.11 @ 9:10 pm

we’ve had 2 years of sunseri. we know what he can and can’t do. let’s see myers for a full game. at this point, anything different at QB is good.

Comment by scott 11.26.11 @ 9:20 pm

Our recievers certainly didn’t distinguish themselves either. There were a couple of deep throws that Sunseri made including the 1st down throw from the end zone that were on the money that wern’t caught either. In addition to quarterbacking we need to improve our recieving.

Comment by Justinian 11.26.11 @ 9:38 pm

I do not think we have to go get a JUCO QB. If there is a good one that knows the system, that is a good route. Otherwise develop Gonzalez and continue to develop Trey Anderson. All we need is a serviceable quarterback that can run the system. Next year we will hopefully have a healthy Ray Graham, Isaac Bennett with one year of experience, and yet unknown red-shirted freshmen. Our wide receivers will have one year of game experience in the system. Hubie Graham will be a senior and have one year in the system. There will be enough of a supporting cast that it will not all fall on the quarterback. We just need a quarterback that will not freeze up when the game is on the line. Sunseri cannot be our quarterback next year! The more you listen to Coach Graham the more you hear the regret in his voice that he did not see this at the beginning of the year when he could have developed an option. Unfortunately Gonzalez, whom Graham was developing during spring practices screwed up off the field. He therefore could not continue his development as a quarterback.

Comment by John In South Carolina 11.26.11 @ 9:44 pm

Tino will not be on this team next year. If TG does not give Myers a shot next week, Myers will transfer too. Not sure TG would mind. Myers is a pro style qb and Tino is a no style qb. Neither one helps this team going forward. Anderson was offered 0 D1 scholarships for a reason. There are no good opszstions.

Comment by brett1 11.26.11 @ 10:30 pm

My opinion: Todd should go with Tino and then close the chapter for him as a Pitt QB. I’d like to see Pitt get to a bowl game for it’s seniors.

Comment by MariettaMike 11.26.11 @ 11:13 pm

There are very few things a coach can control once a season starts. One thing that is within their power is playing time. In my 16 yrs of coaching basketball, I can never remember a player that was drilled over and over on basic fundamentals not “getting it” to some extent. To “that” extent is how much playing time they got. Based on that example, Suneri owes the coaching staff and TG about 28 quarters.

In my life, I have never seen a QB simply not “get it” like Tino. I am sure TG is utterly flabergasted…I know I am. And again, it all started when (he had single coverage on his split end and back out to the right with a safety over top) he thew into triple coverage for the pick.
Anyone here think we might have been able to use at least 3 points there?

As a human being, I would recomment to Tino that he see a good psychologist (maybe a sports psych)
who can help him get past that lump in his throat when he is the future QB for Slippery Rock.

Comment by Dan 72 11.26.11 @ 11:33 pm

For Pitt fans, it has been 30 years of watching this university make the same mistakes with its football program.

Comment by apm74 11.27.11 @ 12:00 am

I don’t care if you run the Houston Oiler’s “run & shoot”; Buffalo’s “K-Gun”; Air Coreal; Pro-style; High Octane triple option spread; the wishbone, whatever…

You can’t win in football without a QB that can make plays.

Comment by PaulyP 11.27.11 @ 7:15 am

Tino who?

Comment by Reed 11.27.11 @ 8:02 am

Thank you, Reed. My sentiments exactly. The horse is dead.

Comment by STFan 11.27.11 @ 8:16 am

You can’t play Tino. Forget the bowl game. The seniors have already played in meaningless bowl games, they don’t need to play in another. Playing Tino again is impossible. There is no reason to believe a freshman QB will be more “flustered” than the hopelessly inept and clueless Sunseri. I don’t care if Graham is planning to start the kid from Tennessee next year, he needs to find out what Myers looks like…

Comment by K.R.Y. 11.27.11 @ 8:47 am

Look to the future play myers than we will know if we want to keep him our have him transfer and if he is no good god help us becuse that leaves only tino and the freshmen.
but give him a shot becuse we lose with tino any way.

Comment by FRANKCAN 11.27.11 @ 12:47 pm

TA should not be on this team let alone play. His statistics match his size neither can be argued are any level of college football 5′ 10″, 185 lbs. 36.4 passing percentage, “1.64 yards per attempt” 0 TD, 3 INT. an unheard of 32.2 quarterback rating. As was obvious when he ran onto the field and threw his first pass why no college offered him to walk-on.
This is D1 football not recreation league. The decisoin to bring him to Pitt should have set off alarms as to why Graham was only an average coach in his 5 seasons in the USA-Conference 62% winning percentage.

Comment by DRW 11.27.11 @ 6:57 pm

sad you wrote this piece yet you are better than this

Comment by paul shannon 11.27.11 @ 8:00 pm

I hate to say it…but unless MM completely dominates practice…you have to play Tino. After the season, you sit Tino down and ask…Where can we help you transfer too?

Comment by Pittisnumerouno 11.27.11 @ 8:16 pm

CHOKE, defined, 1)strangle: suffocate; obstruct by clogging. 2)to hinder the growth or action of; smother;suppress.

And we’re wondering why the Pitt offense has been pathetic all season long?

Long story short Tino Sunseri CHOKES under pressure. He IS NOT a game day QB. He practices well, TG feels, “now he’s got the idea”, puts him in a tight game situation and Tino shits himself.

Some guys got it, some guys don’t.

Tino DON’T.

Sunseri experiment over. NEXT. Please, please, please, for the love of God,,,,please, next!

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.28.11 @ 8:15 am

Tino needs to be told that if he chooses to stay, he will not play in 2012.

If he wants to transfer, allow him to go wherever he wants.

If he stays, he will be the holder and will letter that way.

Comment by SFPitt 11.28.11 @ 12:20 pm

I will help Tino pack and drive his arrogant, panicky ass to the airport. Transfer, please. Maybe Daddy can carry your inaccurate ass on his roster for a year. ANYONE but Sunseri.

Comment by OnceProud 11.28.11 @ 5:05 pm

“Tino’s the guy that gives us the best chance to win,”

Comment by Leaseman 11.29.11 @ 2:47 pm

[…] I expected Coach Graham to name Sunseri the starter for the final game. It’s about winning the game and getting some bowl bid, and as bad as Sunseri is. He probably does give Pitt the best chance at the position. So, Mark Myers remains that tantalizingly unknown piece of chocolate. […]

DRW – and what does that say about Myers’ play the whole time?

Comment by Reed 11.30.11 @ 6:24 am

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