Oct. 15, 2012
Pitt (2-4, 0-3 Big East) vs. Buffalo (1-5, 0-3 MAC)
Oct. 20, 2012 • 3:30 p.m., ET • Big East Network (WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh)
UB Stadium (29,013/Artificial Sportexe) • Buffalo, N.Y.
• Pitt travels north for a non-conference encounter against the Buffalo Bulls of the Mid-American Conference. The Panthers are 28-3 all-time vs. MAC schools, including a 3-0 mark against Buffalo.
• Pitt is looking to snap a two-game losing streak when it heads to Buffalo. The Panthers are coming off a pair of frustrating, yet very different, defeats the past couple weeks. On Oct. 5, Pitt fell to Syracuse in a defensive battle, 14-13, in the Carrier Dome. Eight days later, the Panthers lost a track meet to undefeated Louisville, 45-35, at Heinz Field.
• Quarterback Tino Sunseri continues to play at a productive level. Over the past four games, the senior has completed 74% of his passes for 1,233 yards and eight touchdowns with only one interception. He is the Big East's most efficient passer (eighth nationally) with an impressive 163.49 rating on the year.
• Devin Street is coming off back-to-back 100-yard receiving efforts. The junior wideout had a career-high 11 catches (for 111 yards) against Louisville and currently leads the Big East with 6.5 receptions per game. Senior Mike Shanahan is second in the league in receiving yards (87.5 avg.) and third in catches (4.8 avg.).
• Pitt secondary coach Matt House was on the Buffalo staff during the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Serving as the defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator under Turner Gill, House helped the Bulls capture a share of the `07 MAC East Division title.
• The Panthers are looking to avoid their first 2-5 start since 2001. Pitt can use a valuable history lesson from that `01 team, though. The Panthers started 1-5 that year only to finish with six consecutive wins, including a 34-19 victory over NC State and QB Philip Rivers in the Tangerine Bowl.
Pitt-Buffalo Series Notes
This is the fourth meeting between Pitt and Buffalo in a series that began in 2008...Pitt has won all three encounters, including 35-16 last year at Heinz Field in the season opener for both teams...in the lone encounter played in Buffalo, the Panthers triumphed, 54-27, in 2009...the inaugural game was played in 2008 at Heinz Field and the Panthers won, 27-16...Pitt is 28-3 all-time against the Mid-American Conference, including 26-1 at Heinz Field...Pitt's lone home loss to a MAC opponent came in the 2008 opener when visiting Bowling Green upset the No. 25 Panthers, 27-17...Pitt is 2-2 vs. MAC foes on the road with its last such encounter coming in the `09 Buffalo game.
Pitt-Buffalo Series in Brief
Series Began: 2008
Series Overall: Pitt leads 3-0
At Pittsburgh: Pitt leads 2-0
At Buffalo: Pitt leads 1-0
At Neutral Sites: DNA
Last Meeting: Sept. 3, 2011 (Pitt 35, Buffalo 16)
Current Streak: Pitt has won 3
Longest Pitt Series Win Streak: 3 games (2008-11)
Longest UB Series Win Streak: DNA
Largest Pitt Margin of Victory: 27 points (54-27, 2009)
Largest UB Margin of Victory: DNA
Pitt-Buffalo Broadcast Information
Television • Big East Network • Pittsburgh's WTAE-TV
Bob Picozzi, play-by-play
Chris Doering, analyst
Pitt Radio • Sportsradio 93.7 The Fan & the Pitt IMG Sports Network
Bill Hillgrove, play-by-play
Pat Bostick, analyst
Gregg Giannotti, reporter
Internet Audio • Panthers All-Access
SiriusXM Satellite Radio
Sirius Channel 94, XM Channel 199
Pitt Team Notes
Looking to Snap a Skid
Pitt is looking to snap a two-game losing streak. The Panthers have dropped their past two contests by an average of 5.5 points (14-13 at Syracuse and 45-35 to Louisville). Pitt is trying to avoid its first 2-5 start since 2001. That `01 team salvaged its season by winning six consecutive to close the year, including a 34-19 win over NC State in the Tangerine Bowl, and finished 7-5.
On the Road
Pitt is 0-2 on the road this season, dropping contests at Cincinnati, 34-10, and Syracuse, 14-13. The Panthers have not gone winless on the road since 2005 when they went 0-5 (and finished 5-6 overall).
Holtz has played in all six games, starting three (Virginia Tech, Gardner-Webb and Louisville) in place of injured senior Hubie Graham.
Render, who has played in five contests, made his first career start in the Sept. 22 Gardner-Webb victory, replacing injured junior defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Pardner had been playing a significant role as a nickel back and reserve cornerback through the first three games but suffered a left ACL injury against Virginia Tech and will be out for the season. He is expected to receive a medical redshirt.
Shell is Pitt's second-leading rusher with 327 yards and two TDs on 63 carries (5.2 avg.) in five games played.
Senior quarterback Tino Sunseri is on a roll over the past four games. During that stretch Sunseri has completed 74% of his passes for 1,233 yards and eight touchdowns with only one interception.
Tino Sunseri leads the Big East and ranks eighth nationally in pass efficiency with a 163.49 rating. On the year he has completed 133-of-189 passes (70%) for 1,750 yards and 10 touchdowns with two interceptions.
Improved TD-to-INT Ratio
As a junior, Tino Sunseri threw 11 interceptions compared to 10 touchdowns. Through six games this year he already has 10 TDs and only two INTs.
Seasoned Signal Caller
Tino Sunseri has started 32 consecutive games dating back to the 2010 season opener at Utah. Sunseri's starting streak is the longest by a Pitt quarterback since Tyler Palko made 35 consecutive starts from 2004-06. Palko started every single game for the Panthers during those three seasons.
Alex Van Pelt holds the school record for consecutive games started as well as total starting assignments by a Pitt quarterback. Van Pelt started every game during his four-year career (46 starts from 1989-92). He also is the school's career leader in passing yards (11,267) and total offense (11,148).
Sunseri ranks fourth at Pitt in career passing yards (7,052) and fifth in career total offense (7,179).
Pitt's starting receivers, senior Mike Shanahan and junior Devin Street, rank among the most prolific pass catchers in Pitt history. Shanahan is ninth all-time in receiving yards (1,818) and 10th in receptions (126). Street recently joined the 100-catch club and has 117 receptions to rank 13th (tied). He is closing in on the top 10 in career receiving yards with 1,586.
Devin Street had 111 yards receiving on a career-high 11 catches against Louisville. It was his second consecutive game with double-digit catches and more than 100 yards receiving. Street previously had 10 catches for 130 yards at Syracuse.
Pitt last had a player achieve three consecutive 100-yard receiving games in 2009. That year Jon Baldwin closed the regular season with 142 vs. Notre Dame, 127 at West Virginia and 113 vs. Cincinnati.
Street has five 100-yard receiving games for his career.
Big East Leaders
Street leads the Big East in receptions per game (6.5) and ranks third in receiving yards per game (85.7). Shanahan is second in yards (87.5) and third in receptions (4.8).
A Winning Shell Game
Freshman tailback Rushel Shell was a key offensive catalyst in Pitt's 35-17 win over Virginia Tech by rushing for 157 yards on 23 attempts, an impressive 6.8-yard average. It is the highest single-game rushing total by a Big East player (regardless of class) this season.
Shell is the first Pitt freshman to rush for 100 yards in a game since Dion Lewis had 159 against North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Dec. 26, 2009. (Pitt defeated the Tar Heels, 19-17.)
Lewis had 10 100-yard games as a true freshman in 2009 en route to 1,799 yards, the second-highest single-season rushing total in school history. Lewis' total trails only Tony Dorsett, who had 2,150 rushing yards during his 1976 Heisman Trophy season.
By comparison, Dorsett also had 10 100-yard games as a freshman in 1973 (finishing with 1,686 yards in 12 games), while LeSean McCoy had seven 100-yard games as a frosh in 2007 (totaling 1,328).
Pitt has fielded the same starting five on its offensive front for each game this season: junior Cory King at left tackle, senior Chris Jacobson at left guard, senior Ryan Turnley at center, junior Ryan Schlieper at right guard and sophomore Matt Rotheram at right tackle. In 2011, due to a myriad of injuries, Pitt was forced to shuffle eight different starting offensive line combinations in 13 games.
Pitt rolled up 626 yards in total offense (397 passing, 229 rushing) against Gardner-Webb, the Panthers' highest single-game production since 1997 when they had 645 yards (470 passing, 175 rushing) in a double-overtime victory at Rutgers (55-48). The Gardner-Webb contest marked Pitt's highest total offense in a regulation game since 1995 when it compiled a school-record 648 yards (333 passing, 315 rushing) in a 66-30 win over Eastern Michigan.
Historic Two-Game Production
In its back-to-back September victories, Pitt produced a combined 1,163 yards in total offense (626 vs. Gardner-Webb and 537 vs. Virginia Tech). This two-game total set a school record for offensive output in consecutive games. The prior mark was 1,154 set in 1992. That season, Pitt had 558 yards vs. Rutgers followed by a 596-yard game vs. Minnesota.
Turnovers are Key
Pitt is 2-0 this season when forcing multiple turnovers in a game. In contrast, the Panthers are 0-4 when failing to generate more than one turnover.
In its 35-17 win over No. 13 Virginia Tech, Pitt forced a season-high four turnovers, including three interceptions of highly regarded Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas. Junior free safety Jason Hendricks had two picks while senior strong safety Jarred Holley had the other.
Additionally, sophomore linebacker Eric Williams had Pitt's first fumble recovery of the season. Williams recovered a fumble (forced by redshirt freshman defensive end Devin Cook) at the Virginia Tech 10 in the second quarter. Ray Graham rushed for a five-yard TD two plays later to give Pitt a 21-0 lead.
The Panthers forced three more turnovers in their 55-10 win over Gardner-Webb. Hendricks had his third interception of the year, while senior defensive end Shayne Hale and senior linebacker Joe Trebitz both had fumble recoveries.
Hendricks Leads Air Defense
Coming off an abbreviated 2011 campaign due to a shoulder injury, junior safety Jason Hendricks has bounced back in top form this season. Hendricks leads Pitt with three interceptions. His average of 0.50 INTs per game ranks first in the Big East (tied) and 14th nationally.
The Pitt defense has recorded at least one quarterback sack in 30 of the past 31 games.
The Panthers had a streak of 25 consecutive games with a sack snapped against Youngstown State on Sept. 1. The YSU contest marked the first time Pitt had been held without a sack since Sept. 2, 2010, when they lost in overtime at Utah (27-24).
Entering the Oct. 20 Buffalo game, Pitt has 10 sacks on the season, led by junior defensive tackle Tyrone Ezell's 2.5.
Matt Making His Mark
Junior punter Matt Yoklic is averaging 43.14 yards on 22 punts this year to rank second in the Big East and 25th nationally. Yoklic has placed nine punts inside the 20-yard line through six games. At Cincinnati, he averaged a season-best 45.3 yards on seven punts and had two downed at the Bearcats' one-yard line.
Nearly Perfect on PATs
Since the opening of the 2006 season, Pitt has been virtually flawless on its extra-point kicks. The Panthers have missed only three PAT kicks over this current stretch (252 of 255, .988).
During his two seasons as Pitt's starting placekicker, senior Kevin Harper has gone 53-of-54 in PAT kicks (.981). Harper is 21-for-21 this year.
Productive Rookie Returner
Redshirt freshman cornerback Lafayette Pitts is not only a starter on defense but also an impact kickoff return man. Pitts is averaging 28.79 yards per return to rank 16th nationally and second in the Big East. His 64-yard kick return against Gardner-Webb is the longest in the conference this year.
Panther Block Party
In the second quarter of the Oct. 13 Louisville contest, sophomore linebacker Todd Thomas blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown, giving Pitt a 14-7 lead. It was Pitt's first blocked punt for a TD since Oct. 15, 2011, when Andrew Taglianetti's block was returned 10 yards for a score by Antwuan Reed vs. Utah.
Pitt has blocked 42 kicks dating back to the 2000 season. During that stretch Taglianetti, a senior safety, leads all Panthers with a school-record six blocks.
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