Oct. 22, 2012
Pitt (3-4, 0-3 Big East) vs. Temple (3-3, 2-1 Big East)
Oct. 27, 2012 • Noon, ET • Big East Network (WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh)
Heinz Field (65,050/Grass) • Pittsburgh, Pa.
Pitt Game Notes Link: Temple Game
• Pitt renews ties with Temple for the first time in eight years when the Owls visit Heinz Field this Saturday. Pitt and Temple played annually from 1974-2004 — the last 12 meetings as part of Big East Conference round-robin play — before the series went on hiatus.
• The Panthers have won six consecutive games against Temple. Not all of the victories during that streak came easy. Three of the past five meetings have been decided by single digits, including Pitt’s 27-22 win at Temple in 2004.
• Pitt boasts the Big East’s top receiving tandem in senior Mike Shanahan and junior Devin Street. Shanahan leads the league in receiving yards per game (80.6) while Street is second (79.3). Street is also averaging a Big East-best 6.3 receptions per contest, while Shanahan is fourth with 4.4.
• The receiving production is a reflection of the elevated play of senior quarterback Tino Sunseri. Over the past five games, Sunseri has completed 71% of his passes for 1,361 yards (272 yards per game) and eight touchdowns with only one interception.
• Safety Jason Hendricks, one year removed from season-ending shoulder surgery, continues to play at an all-star level. The junior had his team-leading fourth interception of the year last week at Buffalo. He also paces Pitt in tackles with 48 total stops.
• The last time Pitt started 0-3 in the Big East was 2001. That team finished the year with six consecutive wins — including four straight conference victories — to finish 7-5 overall and 4-3 in the Big East. The Panthers punctuated the season with a 34-19 win over NC State and QB Philip Rivers in the Tangerine Bowl.
Pitt-Temple Series Notes
This marks the 36th meeting between Pitt and Temple in a series that dates back to 1938...the Panthers lead the all-time series 26-8-1...Pitt has won six consecutive games in the series, including a 27-22 triumph in the teams’ last meeting, which occurred in 2004 at Lincoln Financial Field...three of the past five contests have been decided by single digits...in Temple’s last visit to Heinz Field (2002), the Panthers used a fourth-quarter 11-yard fumble return TD by Claude Harriott to turn back the Owls, 29-22...Pitt holds a 9-3 edge in Big East games (beginning with round-robin play in 1993)...Temple’s last victory in the series was a 34-33 decision in 1998 at Pitt Stadium...the lone tie was a scoreless contest in 1946...Pitt defeated Temple 10 consecutive times from 1974-83...the Owls’ longest winning streak in the series is two games (1986-87 and 1997-98).
Pitt-Temple Series in Brief
Series Began: 1938
Series Overall: Pitt leads 26-8-1
Big East Series: Pitt leads 9-3
At Pittsburgh: Pitt leads 12-5-1
At Temple: Pitt leads 14-3
Last Meeting: Oct. 9, 2004 (Pitt 27, Temple 22)
Current Streak: Pitt has won 6
Longest Pitt Series Win Streak: 10 games (1974-1983)
Longest TU Series Win Streak: 2 games (1986-87; 1997-98)
Largest Pitt Margin of Victory: 76 points (76-0, 1977)
Largest TU Margin of Victory: 10 points (28-18, 1990)
Pitt-Temple Broadcast Information
Television • Big East Network • Pittsburgh’s WTAE-TV
Eamon McAnaney, play-by-play
David Diaz-Infante, analyst
Paul Carcaterra, reporter
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 112, XM Channel 199
Pitt Team Notes
2012 Team Captains Selected
Pitt has selected its team captains for the 2012 season. They are senior center Ryan Turnley, senior wide receiver Mike Shanahan, senior wide receiver Cameron Saddler, senior safety Jarred Holley and junior defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Working for a Big East “W”
Pitt is 0-3 in Big East play for the first time since 2001. The Panthers have not started 0-4 in the conference since 1998 when they went 0-7 in the Big East and 2-9 overall. Pitt can look to the 2001 season for inspiration. That team started 1-5 overall and 0-3 in Big East play only to salvage its season by winning six consecutive games to finish 7-5 and 4-3. The Panthers put an exclamation point on their season by routing NC State, 34-19, in the 2001 Tangerine Bowl.
Pitt is 2-2 at home this year, defeating Virginia Tech (35-17) and Gardner-Webb (55-10), while losing to Youngstown State (31-17) and Louisville (45-35). The Panthers have two games remaining at Heinz Field (Oct. 27 vs. Temple and Nov. 24 vs. Rutgers) and will be looking to achieve their sixth consecutive winning season at home. Pitt last had a losing home record in 2006 when it went 3-4, the only time in 11 seasons at Heinz Field that the Panthers had a losing home ledger. Pitt has a 50-26 all-time record (.658) at Heinz Field.
Through seven games, Pitt has had four true freshmen see action: tight end J.P. Holtz, cornerback Jahmahl Pardner, defensive lineman Darryl Render and tailback Rushel Shell. Holtz has played in all seven games, starting four. He has two receptions for 35 yards (17.5 avg.) on the year. Shell is Pitt’s second-leading rusher with 362 yards and three TDs on 75 carries (4.8 avg.) in six games played. Render, who has played in six contests, made his first career start in the Sept. 22 Gardner-Webb victory, replacing injured junior defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Render has five tackles, 1.5 TFLs and one PBU on the season. 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.
Senior quarterback Tino Sunseri is on a roll over the past five games. During that stretch Sunseri has completed 71% of his passes for 1,361 yards (272.2 yards per game) and eight touchdowns with only one interception.
Tino Sunseri ranks second in the Big East and 16th nationally in pass efficiency with a 159.59 rating. On the year he has completed 142-of-206 passes (69%) for 1,878 yards and 10 touchdowns with just two interceptions. As a junior, Sunseri ranked 82nd nationally in pass efficiency (124.09), completing 64% of his passes (247 of 385) for 2,616 yards with 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Seasoned Signal Caller
Tino Sunseri has started 33 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 (7,180) and fifth in career total offense (7,310).
Big East Leaders
Pitt boasts the most productive receiving tandem in the Big East in junior Devin Street and senior Mike Shanahan. Street leads the Big East in receptions per game (6.3) and ranks second in receiving yards per game (79.3). Shanahan is first in receiving yards (80.6) and fourth in receptions (4.4). A Pitt player has led the Big East in receptions per game four times since 1991, the most recent being Larry Fitzgerald during his All-America season in 2003 when he averaged 7.1 catches per game. A Pitt player has led the Big East in receiving yards per game nine times since 1991. Greg Lee was the last to accomplish the feat in 2005 when he averaged 87.5.
Mike Shanahan and Devin Street rank among the most prolific pass catchers in Pitt history as evidenced by the school’s career lists for receptions and receiving yards. Shanahan is eighth all-time in receptions (tied with 128) and ninth in receiving yards (1,857). Street has 122 catches to rank 11th (tied) all-time at Pitt and is 14th in career receiving yards with 1,627.
Ray on the Career Lists
Senior running back Ray Graham is prominent on Pitt’s career statistical lists for rushing, all-purpose yards and scoring. Graham currently ranks second in all-purpose yards (4,247), eighth in rushing (2,742) and 16th in scoring (174 points).
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.)
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 1-4 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.
The Pitt defense has recorded at least one quarterback sack in 31 of the past 32 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. 27 Temple game, Pitt has 13 sacks on the season, led by junior defensive tackle Tyrone Ezell’s 2.5.
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 four interceptions. His average of 0.57 INTs per game ranks first in the Big East and sixth (tied) nationally. The Panthers rank 27th nationally and second in the Big East in pass defense, giving up an average of 199.43 yards per game.
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 (254 of 257, .988). During his two seasons as Pitt’s starting placekicker, senior Kevin Harper has gone 55-of-56 in PAT kicks (.982). Harper is 23-of-23 this year.
Kickoff Return Defense
Pitt’s kickoff coverage unit has done an exceptional job this season. The Panthers are yielding just 17.57 yards per kick return to rank 14th nationally and third in the Big East.
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 lead the Big East and rank 11th nationally. 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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