Created on Thursday, 18 October 2012 23:44
Written by Dave Uhrmacher / Staff Writer
Coach Paul Chryst and quarterback Tino Sunseri will hope to lead the Pitt football team to its first road win of the season at Buffalo on Saturday afternoon. (Sheldon Satenstein, Senior Staff Photographer)
Even though the two football teams aren’t in the same conference, the Pitt Panthers and the Buffalo Bulls are no strangers.
For the fourth time in five years, the Panthers (2-4, 0-3 Big East) will face the Bulls (1-5, 0-3 Mid-American Conference) when Pitt travels to Buffalo for a non-conference matchup at 3:30 p.m. this Saturday. The game will be televised on the Big East Network and streamed on WatchESPN.com.
After losing a disappointing 14-13 contest at Syracuse recently, the Panthers trek into New York for the second time in the past three weeks, still searching for their first win on the road this season. But recent games between Pitt and Buffalo show that the Panthers should feel confident about ending their road struggles.
Since the series began in 2008, Pitt has won all three meetings with the Bulls by a combined score of 116-59, including a 54-27 triumph at Buffalo in 2009.
Coming off a week in which Pitt had a great opportunity to knock off another ranked opponent — the Louisville Cardinals — the Panthers will hope to rebound against a subpar Buffalo squad.
Despite the 10-point loss to Louisville, Pitt first-year head coach Paul Chryst said he was proud of his team’s effort against the undefeated Cardinals.
“I’m proud of the way our players prepared,” Chryst said after the game. “I thought our guys put it out there. That’s all you can ask for. The bottom line is they made more plays. We had a couple of opportunities, but they were better than us today.”
Pitt fans hope the Panthers will easily notch their third victory of the season against the struggling Bulls.
Buffalo’s lone victory this season came in a 56-34 romp over Football Championship Subdivision school Morgan State. Though their record may not reflect their play of late, the Bulls have been showing some improvement.
After dropping a tight game to Connecticut, they took No. 25 Ohio to the wire, eventually losing 38-31 after a touchdown in the game’s final seconds.
Now on a four-game losing streak, the Bulls have something to prove.
Junior quarterback Alex Zordich and running back Branden Oliver have led Buffalo to become the nation’s 34th-best rushing attack, averaging 197.5 yards per game. Oliver has been sidelined the past three weeks with a leg injury, and his status is in question for Saturday’s game, but the Panthers will still have to be stout up front and contain Zordich from making big plays with his feet.
After scoring 35 points against Louisville last week, the Pitt offense should have no problem tallying big numbers against Buffalo.
Redshirt senior quarterback Tino Sunseri leads the 21st-best aerial attack in the nation, and junior wide receiver Devin Street will be searching for his third straight 100-yard receiving game, attempting to become the first Panther since Jon Baldwin in 2009 to accomplish that feat.
Following the Louisville game, Street acknowledged that the offense’s recent play-calling has been focused on getting the ball in his hands.
“The coaches are calling on me and want me to be a playmaker — a complete guy,” Street said. “They’re definitely trying to get me involved and get the ball in different spots.”
Sixth-year senior offensive lineman Chris Jacobson also stated that the offense has been performing well.
“I think we did a great job up front today,” Jacobson said. “[Offensive line] coach [Jim] Hueber was proud of us and told us to keep our heads high. We did our job.”
After sputtering in the Panthers’ recent defeats to Syracuse and Louisville, Pitt’s three-headed rushing attack of senior Ray Graham, sophomore Isaac Bennett and freshman Rushel Shell will need to take advantage of a Buffalo defense that has given up an average of 194 yards per game on the ground.
“An ideal would be that they’re both really productive and feeding off each other,” Chryst said of Graham and Shell this week. “Those two have the ability to be difference makers in the game.”
He also said the Panthers have been focusing on the game at hand and not dwelling on frustrating losses.
“I’m looking forward to this week and going up to Buffalo,” Chryst said.