by Helen Sowell, Staff Writer

Rookie Pitt Head Coach Todd Graham calls his offensive philosophy “high octane” and boy, does he have the do-everything tailback to make it go – junior Ray Graham. The two Grahams are in sync in much more than just name. When the Panthers execute, the fireworks abound as player Graham slashes and dashes through opposing defenses. The workhorse can catch, too and return kick-offs, when needed.


Coach Graham, the 35thheadman in school history, preaches “hit the gas” which is a far cry from previous Panther skipper, Dave Wannstedt who used a pro-style offense that featured a fullback and a traditional defense. Graham prefers a spread-type approach and his defense borrows from the three-man stack used by West Virginia.


The 46-year old Texan broke into the collegiate coaching ranks as defensive coordinator at East Central University in Oklahoma (his alma mater). During the 2001-02 seasons, Coach Graham served as the West Virginia co-defensive coordinator helping the Mountaineers achieve the biggest turnaround in college football over that period, improving from 3-8 to 9-4. He also served as the head coach at Rice for one season (2006) ushering the Owls to their first bowl game in 45 years then moved on to lead Tulsa where in four years he had three 10-win campaigns and an undefeated bowl record (3-0). In fact, Tulsa led the nation in total offense twice (2007 & 08).


To date, his head coaching collegiate record stands at 43-23. He and his wife Penni have six children and he is the first person in his family to graduate from college earning a BA and later a Master’s Degree in Education.


So, you couple a mentor who believes in scoring a lot of points with a running back who has the drive, speed and tools to do just that and Pitt has got it going. The speedster in the backfield is currently #2 in the nation in rushing, averaging 149.83 ypg. He has more rushing yards than any other RB (899) and also the second-most carries of any runner with 150. In Week 5, his 226 yards and two TD’s against a good USF squad earned him “Big East Offensive Player of the Week.” The Panthers are 1-1 in the league standings and poised to compete for the conference crown so don’t take your eyes off the Cats or they’ll run right past you.