1:00 PM ET, September 10, 2011
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
PITTSBURGH -- Ray Graham ran for 121 yards and three touchdowns to lead Pittsburgh past Maine 35-29 on Saturday.
The junior running back added five receptions for another 30 yards for the Panthers (2-0), who struggled to put away the Black Bears (1-1).
Warren Smith passed for 334 yards and three touchdowns for Maine while receiver Derek Buttles added seven receptions for 148 yards and a score for the Black Bears, who never led but kept it interesting from start to finish.
Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri threw for 224 yards and two interceptions before giving way to true freshman Trey Anderson in the fourth quarter. Anderson, a walk-on who was offered a scholarship just before the season-opener against Buffalo, guiding the Panthers to a touchdown in his first series to provide some needed breathing room.
Turns out, Pitt needed every last bit of it.
Zach Brown appeared to put the game away with a 1-yard touchdown run to put Pitt up 35-15 with 8:39 to go.
Maine, a member of the Football Championship Subdivision, simply wouldn't go away. The Black Bears scored on a 1-yard plunge by David Hood with 3:12 to go and Smith found Maurice McDonald for a 2-yard touchdown with three seconds remaining.
The Black Bears, however, were offsides on the ensuing onside kick and Pitt escaped thanks again to its star running back as coach Todd Graham's "high octane" attack operated in simple fits and starts.
The first-year coach was hoping his team would start working the kinks after an uneven debut against Buffalo a week ago.
Not quite yet.
Sunseri had trouble getting the ball downfield once again. The junior's longest completion was a 25-yard strike to tight end Hubie Graham.
Then again, Sunseri rarely had time to throw. Maine sacked him seven times and harassed him into throwing the ball away on a handful of other occasions.
Not exactly the kind of performance Todd Graham was looking for as Pitt prepares for the meat of its schedule. The Panthers travel to Iowa next Saturday before hosting Notre Dame and South Florida.
The Black Bears were supposed to be a chance at a tune-up. They gave Pitt plenty to work on.
Ray Graham, who ran for 201 yards and three scores a week ago, again proved to be the only consistent weapon in the Panthers' arsenal. He scored on runs of 1, 3 and 1 yards, the last of which gave Pitt a 28-15 lead.
Pitt's defense made a stand and the Panthers quickly got the ball back, only this time Sunseri didn't lead them onto the field. Instead it was Anderson, who has gone from walk-on to scholarship player in the span of a month.
The next stop on his journey could be starter.
Anderson completed 4 of 5 passes on his first drive and showcased his arm strength when he heaved it 50 yards in the face of a hard-charging Maine rush. The ball fell incomplete, but the throw seemed to revive the Panthers.
Pitt quickly drove down the field, with Brown capping the drive with a touchdown. Anderson remained under center on Pitt's next drive while Sunseri stood on the sideline with his helmet pushed atop his head.
It creates a murky picture going forward even as Pitt improved to 10-0 all-time against FCS opponents while the Black Bears failed to beat a BCS conference team for the second time under coach Jack Cosgrove.
Maine shocked Mississippi State in 2004 and while the Black Bears never found a way in front, they provided plenty of fodder for the boos that showered the Panthers at times as they tried desperately to gain some traction.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||6-17||7-16|
|4th Down Conversions||2-3||2-3|
|TD||10:28||Ray Graham 1 Yd Run (Pat Failed)||0||6|
|FG||06:02||Kevin Harper 44 Yd||0||9|
|FG||14:36||Kevin Harper 25 Yd||0||12|
|TD||09:13||Derek Buttles 22 Yd Pass From Warren Smith (Brian Harvey Kick)||7||12|
|TD||01:45||Ray Graham 3 Yd Run (Tino Sunseri Run For Two-Point Conversion)||7||20|
|TD||06:13||Derek Session 5 Yd Pass From Warren Smith (Chris Treister Run For Two-Point Conversion)||15||20|
|TD||02:26||Ray Graham 1 Yd Run (Tino Sunseri Pass To Mike Shanahan For Two-Point Conversion)||15||28|
|TD||08:39||Zach Brown 1 Yd Run (Kevin Harper Kick)||15||35|
|TD||03:12||David Hood 1 Yd Run (Brian Harvey Kick)||22||35|
|TD||00:03||Maurice McDonald 2 Yd Pass From Warren Smith (Brian Harvey Kick)||29||35|