Pitt won’t make big changes despite Miami debacle

Nobody can accuse Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt of panicking

following the Panthers’ worst loss at home in nine seasons.

Wannstedt decided against making major changes despite the 31-3

defeat to No. 16 Miami, and that means the unproductive quarterback

Tino Sunseri remains the starter and all 11 defensive starters will

stay in the lineup Saturday against winless Florida International

(0-3).

Wannstedt’s message to his players: It’s no time to panic,

especially since the first Big East game isn’t until Oct. 16. With

a 1-2 record that includes losses to the ranked Hurricanes and No.

13 Utah, Pitt is off to its worst start under Wannstedt since

opening 0-3 during his first season in 2005.

The one lineup change is Lucas Nix shifting from right tackle to

right guard and 315-pound junior Jordan Gibbs starting at right

tackle. Going to the bench is Greg Gaskins, who had trouble

blocking during Pitt’s worst loss at Heinz Field since a 42-10

defeat to Syracuse in 2001.

Wannstedt hopes the alterations create more running room for

Dion Lewis, who has been held to 158 yards and a 3.0 yards per

carry average. Last season, Lewis ran for 398 yards in his first

three college games en route to a 1,799-yard season.

”I hate to make a change in one position when we’re struggling

as a group,” Wannstedt said Monday. ”When you don’t win a game,

when you get beat like we did on Thursday, as a coach you have the

tendency to look at everything under the microscope a lot closer

after a loss than you do after a win.”

One problem is that Wannstedt lacks the flexibility to make

substantial changes at numerous positions.

While Sunseri looked overmatched at times during his first three

college starts, the only experienced backup is junior Pat Bostick.

He has been unable to win the job despite leading Pitt to road wins

against Notre Dame (2008) and West Virginia (2007) in his last two

starts.

Sunseri’s inability to consistently get the ball downfield is

making it even harder for Lewis to find running room. While backup

Ray Graham had a pair of 100-yard games, Lewis gained only 27 yards

against New Hampshire and 41 against Miami.

”I think that until we start becoming more consistent in the

passing game, they’re going to overplay the run,” Wannstedt said.

”I think that as we become more consistent in the passing game

that will force people to back out of there a little bit.”

Sunseri is 48 of 77 for 520 yards, three touchdowns and two

interceptions, and was 8 of 15 for 61 yards while often looking

confused against a fast and aggressive Miami defense.

”We’re going through some growing pains with the quarterback

now; (we’re) looking at what he can do, what he can’t do,”

Wannstedt said. ”We have played two pretty good defenses in Utah

and Miami, where you didn’t have a couple of cushion games to build

your confidence. … We have to get a lot better there. Tino

Sunseri knows it, we’re addressing it and we’re trying to do some

things to help that situation.”

Pitt will be without sophomore linebacker Dan Mason (dislocated

right kneecap) for the rest of the season. He also has ligament

damage and will undergo surgery later this week. Mason is eligible

to be redshirted.

Florida International was competitive in losses against Rutgers

(19-14) and Texas A&M (27-20) before losing to Maryland 42-28

on Saturday.