Pitt Football: Offense needs to be more consistent
Monday, August 16, 2010
By Paul Zeise, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

After Pitt scrimmaged for the first time Saturday, Dave Wannstedt said he didn't know what to make of it because the Panthers were without so many key players.

A day later -- after watching the film -- his thoughts on it didn't change, though he said it is clear the Panthers need to begin to develop more consistency on offense and make plays when they are there to be made.

[IMGR]http://i36.tinypic.com/r25dmt.jpg[/IMGR]"I thought it was very sound, defensively we didn't make a ton of big plays," Wannstedt said. "I think we played one front and three coverages and were very vanilla and with the four starters being out, I thought it was a very good, solid performance on defense.

"But on offense, we left some plays on the field, particularly some throws but we had two or three opportunities where we had some guys open and the combination of the throws, the route, the protection, whatever -- we just left some pass plays on the field."

The Panthers' quarterbacks were fairly efficient (starter Tino Sunseri was 5 of 11 for 61 yards while backup Pat Bostick was 9 of 15 for 163 yards) but both did miss some throws which would have resulted in big plays.

Offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti said that he was happy with the performance of the unit because the first- and second-team offenses didn't turn the ball over and because the easiest thing to correct are physical errors -- like bad throws.

"We always talk about helping the team win and when you looked at what we did, we did a lot of things that will help our team win games," Cignetti said. "I think we scored six [actually seven] touchdowns, we were efficient with the first three units, we minimized the penalties, we minimized the sacks and we stepped up and made a few big plays on the perimeter.

"Tino missed a couple of throws but we know that eight times out of 10 he is going to make those throws. You are not going to complete every ball, the most important thing is that you come back and make the next play. There were definitely four plays out on that field that were big chunks that were wide open that we would expect to make."

Cignetti said the focus of the scrimmage Saturday was put on the passing game mostly because the Panthers were without their top two tailbacks -- Dion Lewis was given a very light load and Ray Graham was knocked out with a knee injury -- and it is clear that the passing game is coming around.

He said there is no question that the players on offense in general -- and Sunseri specifically -- are much further ahead at this point than they were last year after the first scrimmage. A lot of that has to do with the fact that this is Cignetti's second year as a coordinator and the players have a much better understanding of what to expect from him and know what he expects from them.

They are also much more familiar with the nuances of the offense and that showed up in a number of plays Saturday where players made good adjustments in order to make some big plays.

"As an offense we are further along," Cignetti said. "Part of that is that we had a lot of good players coming back and we have some continuity on the coaching staff. The players are really buying into what we are asking them to do. And Tino has had two springs and this is his second camp in our offense and he is doing a great job for us right now running the offense."

If there is an area that has been a concern for the Panthers it is the offensive line because three of the five spots will feature first-year starters. Even more important, the three players listed as starters in those positions (both guard spots and center) have combined for only one career start.

Cignetti said there are some clear signs that the offensive line is improving each day.

"We are clearly making progress," Cignetti said. "We'd like to be more efficient in the run game but the pass game stepped up and we had some chunk plays and that was because the pass protection overall has been pretty good. We have to improve every day but [the line] is better as a unit now than it was when we got started a week ago."