Blog Entry

Graham promises 'high-octane' football at Pitt

Posted on: March 7, 2011 2:24 pm
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Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The past few seasons, there haven't been many adjectives less applicable to Pitt than "high-octane." Even in the Panthers' best days under Dave Wannstedt, their erratic passing game and slog-it-out rushing attack -- on display in the cavernous, often frigid, choppy, rarely lively Heinz Field -- never made for appointment viewing. When arguably the most memorable game* of your team's past decade is the lowest-scoring bowl game in 40 years , yes, it's probably time to look for something a little more pulse-pounding.

So it's no surprise that Todd Graham has begun his Pitt tenure by promising exactly that :
Members of the Pitt athletic department distributed gray T-shirts to season ticket holders that had on them, in blue ink, "High Octane Football, Coming Soon to Heinz Field."

Those shirts summarized football coach Todd Graham's message to fans during a "Let's Talk Football With Coach Graham," event Sunday at Petersen Events Center: Next season his offense will stomp on the gas pedal, creating more offensive possessions and more explosive plays.

"This isn't nanotechnology or nuclear science," Graham told the crowd of approximately 2,000. "We are going to mentally and physically wear you out."

If Graham and co-offensive coordinator Mike Norvell live up to their talk, some information-processing nanotechnology might actually be necessary to help Panther fans understand what they're seeing; they promised to snap the ball within five seconds of it being marked ready for play, to run the two-minute offense the entire game and throw "10 40-yard passes outside the hash marks per game." Tino Sunseri throwing a three-yard check-down on third-and-13, this sounds like it is not.

What it sounds like, in fact, is a carbon-copy of the offense installed by Gus Malzahn when he worked under Graham at Tulsa. The question is whether Graham can transplant it to Pitt with any real success; even with Malzahn on hand, the Golden Hurricane defense (the side of the ball on which Graham, a former defensive coordinator, would have more input) struggled so badly opposite the high-tempo no-time-of-possession offense that Graham never did win a Conference USA title. And at Auburn, Malzahn reined in the tempo to a certain degree ... and won a national title.

So it remains something of a question mark whether the all-out offensive approach can work for someone who's not a Chip Kelly- level genius. But after so much time spent watching -- or sleeping through -- Wannstacheball, it's understandable that Pitt and its fans want to give it a shot.

*Personally, this blogger would argue for the Panthers' wild 45-44 loss to Cincinnati to see the 2009 Big East title slip away, but that game's not nearly as representative of the Wannstedt era ... nor one Pitt fans will want to recall any more than the Sun Bowl disaster.

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