Sunseri spreads wealth to receivers
SYRACUSE, N.Y.— Talk about getting everyone involved.
Tino Sunseri might be the first quarterback in Pitt history to throw the first career touchdown reception to four different players, all in the same game.
Devin Street, Mike Shanahan, Brock DeCicco and Ray Graham all had the first TD catches of their careers, thanks to Sunseri’s career-best day. For all but Graham, it was their first-ever touchdowns at Pitt.
Sunseri completed 17 of 24 passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns. That’s a passer rating of 218.9.
“I think it was probably his most complete game,” coach Dave Wannstedt said. “He has shown spurts in every game and signs of getting a little better. I thought today from start to finish he maintained a consistency that he hadn’t had before.”
Sunseri started quickly, hitting Street for a bubble screen that turned into a 79-yard touchdown. He added a 15-yarder to Graham on a wheel route, a 30-yard strike to Shanahan on a third-and-10, and a 6-yarder to DeCicco – who made his first career start – to close out the scoring with nine minutes to play.
Street and DeCicco are redshirt freshmen; Graham and Shanahan are sophomores.
Fifth-year senior cornerback Ricky Gary has played in 43 games at Pitt, started 16, and earned a degree in social sciences.
So nothing was going to stop him from his first interception return for a touchdown.
Gary picked off a Ryan Nassib pass early in the third quarter, and with nothing but end zone in front of him dashed 80 yards for a touchdown. It was Gary’s third career interception at Pitt and his first-ever pick-six since he started playing football. Nassib was the only Syracuse player with a chance, and Gary outran him.
“I was telling myself, ‘I got to run past him. I will not be denied. I’ve got to score this touchdown,’ ” said Gary, who was awarded his first game ball at Pitt.
Cam redeems self
Punt returner Cam Saddler, criticized for his play in the loss at Notre Dame, set up Pitt’s go-ahead touchdown with a 31-yard punt return in the first quarter. Saddler’s field-reversing, season-best return gave Pitt the ball at the Syracuse 22. Four plays later, Pitt took the lead for good, 14-7, on a Sunseri-to-Graham touchdown pass.
Saddler, who failed to catch a pair of fourth-quarter punts in the Notre Dame game, returned four punts for 44 yards and had one fair catch Saturday.
Star frosh DE dresses
Bryan Murphy, a freshman defensive end from Don Bosco (N.J.) Prep who missed the first five games with a foot injury, dressed for the game but didn’t play.
Murphy, a highly regarded 6-foot-3, 245-pounder, was a training camp standout before sustaining a broken foot in late August. Wannstedt is unsure whether he will redshirt.
“He wants to play; he’s ready to play,” Wannstedt said. “But I’m trying to do the right thing, too. There is a fine line there. If we need him to win a game, we are going to play him.”
Three players suspended
Redshirt freshman linebacker Kevin Adams, defensive lineman Bernardo Nunez and freshman running back T.J. Peeler are not practicing due to academic issues.
“When we are at practice, they are at the academic center,” Wannstedt said. “Whenever they show me here in a week or two and if they get their things in order, they will be back on the team.”
Wannstedt said redshirt sophomore defensive end Shayne Hale didn’t travel with the team due to personal reasons and is expected to return to practice today.