Pitt's run game pivotal against Utah
By John Grupp
Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It is no secret Utah plans to turn loose its pass rush on Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri.

Sunseri, a redshirt sophomore making his first career start, has never attempted a pass on the road. All 17 of his attempts last year came at Heinz Field.

"We will have a high dose of things for him to look at and see how he reacts," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "All of the things any defensive coordinator would throw at a new quarterback you are going to see (coach Kalani) Sitake throw at Sunseri."

[IMGR]http://i55.tinypic.com/34o4nc4.jpg[/IMGR]But one factor can slow down that aggressive defense when No. 15 Pitt visits the Utes at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Rice-Eccles Stadium Dion Lewis and Pitt's running attack.

"They put eight men in the box, and we're pretty sure we going to see that because of our run game," Pitt fullback Henry Hynoski said. "But we have a great pass game to compliment our run game. It's something we are really prepared for."

Lewis, a Heisman candidate who rushed for 1,799 yards last year, and Ray Graham, who's expected to play, form one of the top backfields in the country. Working behind a run-first offensive line, they will be a big factor as Pitt tries to drop Utah to 0-6 all-time against ranked teams in the opener.

Utah, meanwhile, is counting on being able to stifle the Pitt run game and then send waves of pressure on Sunseri.

"We are committed to get after the quarterback and not let him get comfortable," Whittingham said. "For us, that's not unique to a new quarterback we're facing. That's every single week.

"Now, of course you can't do that until you take care of the run game. If you are never at third-and-long or second-and-long, you never get the opportunity to unleash your guys."

Lewis had some of his biggest games on the road last year. He rushed for 190 yards at Buffalo, 180 at Rutgers, 155 at West Virginia and 159 against North Carolina in the Meineke Bowl.

"He is quick, fast, not great size," Whittingham said. "He has great vision and balance, and he is a powerful runner in regards to his size."

Utah's defense is its biggest question mark entering the season. The Utes lost all three starting linebackers, including first-team All-Mountain West selection and Steelers' fifth-round draft pick Stevenson Sylvester, and three-fourths of their starting secondary.

The team's top returning linebacker, junior J.J. Williams, is out with a foot injury. That means the starting three linebackers against Pitt Chaz Walker, Matt Martinez and Chad Manis have no starts, 22 tackles and one sack in their careers. They have played in a combined 54 games, all off the bench.

Utah's starting strong safety, Brian Blechen, is an 18-year-old true freshman.

Utah sophomore quarterback Jordan Wynn, who took over the starting job in the eighth game last year, also can expect some pressure. Pitt led the nation in sacks last year with 47.

Defensive end Greg Romeus, a preseason All-American, will face Utah left tackle John Cullen, who will be making his first Division I start. The 6-foot-5, 285-pound Cullen was a highly recruited junior college player last year, picking Utah over USC, Oklahoma and Tennessee. He's replacing an All-American and second-round draft pick, Zane Beadles.

"(Cullen) has done very well in practice, but Division I football is a whole different world," Whittingham said. "We'll do some things to take some of the pressure off him, but the bottom line is John Cullen needs to play well."