at Rutgers 34 … Pitt 10
Posted Oct 8, 2011

Week 6 CFN Fearless Prediction & Game Story - Pittsburgh at Rutgers

2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 6 - Pitt at Rutgers

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Oct. 8 at Rutgers 34 … Pitt 10
CFN Analysis: The defense had done a decent job over the first four games, but it hadn't played anyone with a hot attack. Pitt, coming off its blowout over South Florida, was on fire with Ray Graham running as well as any back in America. The Scarlet Knights shut down the Panthers, and while Graham got his yards, the four takeaways and six sacks controlled the game. Gary Nova struggled throwing the ball, completing just 11-of-24 passes, but he avoided the big mistake and he and the offense took advantage of the breaks from the offense. The pass rush continues to be dominant and the line is doing a great job of getting into the backfield. With Navy up next, making things happen behind the line is a must, but the offense needs to prove it can start going on more scoring drives when the defense isn't controlling the game.

Ray Graham ran for 165 yards, but Tino Sunsieri was awful, throwing three picks and only finishing with 127 yards. There was a reason, though; the line couldn't keep the Scarlet Knights out of the backfield. The Pitt defense didn't exactly hold firm, but it did a decent job overall considering the offense put it in a bad position time and again. Dead last in the nation in sacks allowed coming into the game, the holes and the weaknesses were even more glaring this week. There's no worry next week against a Utah defense without a pass rush, but to get back into the Big East hunt the Panthers have to beat UConn, but the Husky defense has been terrific at getting to the quarterback.

(AP) PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Freshman Gary Nova threw two third-quarter touchdowns in his first start and Rutgers' ball-hawking defense intercepted four passes with Logan Ryan returning his second of the game 45 yards for a touchdown in a 34-10 victory over mistake-ridden Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Nova hit Mark Harrison on a 6-yard TD pass after Rutgers' third interception and connected with fullback Joe Martinek on a 60-yard screen pass as the Scarlet Knights (4-1, 2-0 Big East) handed Pittsburgh (3-3, 1-1) its third loss in four games.

Savon Huggins scored on a 3-yard run and San San Te kicked two long field goals for Rutgers, which is 2-0 in league play for only the second time in 21 years in the Big East. The only other time was 2006, when the Scarlet Knights went 11-2 and lost the conference title to West Virginia in triple overtime.

Pittsburgh's sensational junior Ray Graham rushed for 165 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown fourth-quarter run. Kevin Harper added a short field goal for the Panthers, whose high-octane offense was limited to 271 yards after an upset then No. 16 South Florida on Sept. 29.

The big question all week for Rutgers was who would start at quarterback. Nova had replaced Chas Dodd in the second half in rallying Rutgers to a double-overtime win over Syracuse, and coach Greg Schiano said his decision would be made at game time.

Nova, who decommitted to Pittsburgh after Dave Wannstedt was fired, got the call and made plays when needed. He finished 11 of 24 for 174 yards and no interceptions, although he put two snaps on the ground that the Scarlet Knights recovered.

The constant for Rutgers was its defense, which came into the game with 18 turnovers, which was tied with Cincinnati for No. 1 in the nation. It pushed the number to 22 with the four picks.

The defense recorded six sacks for 50 yards in losses and its play helped the Scarlet Knights score 17 points. A stop deep in Pittsburgh territory set up Te's career-long 50 yard field goal that tied the game at 3. An interception by Steve Beauharnais deep in Panther territory led to Nova's TD pass to Harrison for a 13-3 lead and Ryan late pick of Tino Sunseri, who was benched at the start of the second half and brought back after Trey Anderson threw the ball to Beauharanis, closed out the scoring.

Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene, Graham's brother, led the Scarlet Knights with 10 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks.

The Scarlet Knights led 6-3 after a mistake filled first half that featured a combined three turnovers, 11 penalties and 3 of 16 on third-down conversions.

Pittsburgh scored on its opening possession, marching 74 yards in 14 plays with Harper kicking a 29-yard field goal.

Te tied the game with a career-long 50 yard field goal and he added 44-yard in the second quarter that was set up by Nova's 28-yard pass to Harrison.

Rutgers took command in the third quarter with Beauharnais' interception and return to the 18-yard line, setting up Nova's TD pass to Harrison. A pass interference penalty gave the Scarlet Knights a first and goal.

The game breaker was the 60-yard screen pass to Martinek for a touchdown. Pittsburgh came with heavy pressure and the screen left Martinek with one player to beat and about four blockers as an escort.

Pittsburgh (3-2) at Rutgers (3-1) Oct. 8, 3:30, ESPNU

Here's The Deal … Suddenly, this weekend's game in Piscataway got a whole lot more interesting than it was just a few days ago. Pitt and Rutgers both delivered Week 5 upsets to get off to a fast start in Big East play. The Panthers were especially impressive, tossing aside ranked and unbeaten South Florida, 44-17, in front of a national TV audience on Thursday night. It was a profound response to back-to-back painful losses, and what the program hopes will be a turning point in debut season of head coach Todd Graham. The Scarlet Knights, while not nearly as sharp, were ecstatic with their 19-16 double-overtime win against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.

Rutgers has been finding ways to win despite its myriad flaws, and is just a field goal from being off to a perfect start. A victory this weekend would help reignite some local interest in the program, while moving it another giant step further away from last season's 4-8 disappointment.

Why Pittsburgh Might Win: Against a pretty good South Florida D, the Panthers showed strong signs of turning the corner with Graham's up-tempo spread offense. RB Ray Graham continued to excel on the ground, maneuvering through the lanes of the defense for 226 yards and two scores on 26 carries. Even oft-criticized QB Tino Sunseri played well, delivering the ball to his receivers and tight ends, and showing surprising mobility outside the pocket. Pittsburgh will enjoy a substantial edge on offense over a Rutgers attack that can't run the ball, is struggling to protect the pocket and has a decision to make at quarterback.

Why Rutgers Might Win: The main reason the Scarlet Knights can even contemplate a 4-1 start is because of the play of head coach Greg Schiano's defense. The program leads the Big East in sacks and scoring D, and tops the country in turnover margin. This unit will present a problem to a Pittsburgh offensive line that ranks last in the country in sacks allowed. Not only will Schiano be counting on tackles Scott Vallone and Justin Francis to ratchet up some inside heat, but he'll also look to turn loose linebackers Steve Beauharnais and Khaseem Greene on the blitz. Sunseri was nimble a week ago, but he's not typically the kind of quarterback who can evade the rush.

What To Watch Out For: Who gets the ball from Schiano? The coach has yet to say the week after he benched out-of-sync starter Chas Dodd in favor of rookie Gary Nova, who went on to help lead the Scarlet Knights to the win over Syracuse. Ironically, this is the third straight year that Schiano has given important minutes to a true freshman quarterback. Whoever gets the ball will need to feed it liberally to WR Mohamed Sanu, the only Rutgers skill position player who warrants frequent attention from the Pitt defenders.

What Will Happen: Although Pitt was fantastic in the South Florida win, don't expect that type of effort to become a regular trend in 2011. The program is improving, but remains flawed at the same time. Rutgers is a scrappy bunch that, while not pretty, is capable of frustrating opponents with its defensive tenacity and schemes. The game will be close throughout, and played conservatively on the offensive side of the ball. The difference-maker will be Graham, a New Jersey native who'll help carry the Panthers offense with 100 blue-collar rushing yards and a score.

CFN Prediction: Pittsburgh 23 … Rutgers 16
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