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Pitt’s Graham overcomes slow start

November 25, 2012
By Stephen Flinn - For the Mirror

PITTSBURGH - The Panthers saw first hand why Rutgers' defense was a formidable challenge, especially in run defense. They held Pitt senior running back Ray Graham to one rushing yard on five carries in the first quarter.

Graham took the advice of his running backs coach after the first quarter and found daylight on the field shortly thereafter on senior day at Heinz Field.

"After the first quarter, Coach [Desmond] Robinson told us good things are going to happen and bad things are going to happen. He said just let it go because you can't get it back," Graham said. "I just moved forward and never got discouraged. I knew our line would come together. We just had to get comfortable and feel their defense out."

Graham got comfortable, especially in the second half. By the time the game was over, he tore off 113 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. He also caught five passes for 50 yards.

"Rutgers' defense did a good job. We did a good job adjusting after they put ten in the box early," Graham said. "We started converting passes and first downs, and that opened up the running game. Our line started coming together, and we never looked back from there."

One lineman, senior center Ryan Turnley, credited Graham for running on Rutgers.

"Rutgers was an extremely tough defense coming into this game. Give credit to Ray [Graham]. He really handled it well," Turnley said. "Ray is a special player. We love blocking for him. Whenever he gets it going a little bit, he's a fun guy to block for.

Coincidentally, Graham's brother, linebacker Khaseeem Greene, is Rutgers' leading tackler.

"It was a great experience playing against my brother. We always played all sports together," Graham said. "It was fun. I got tested to see what I could do against him. "It's nice to have bragging rights. [Rutgers] got us last year. We had to get them this year."

Graham even volunteered to play on the punt team, and was the gunner to help out the Panthers' overall effort. He committed a personal foul for running into the punt return man, but on a subsequent punt, he made the tackle.

"I told coach [Chryst] to put me anywhere on the field that I can help," Graham said. "When I got that penalty I wanted to redeem myself by making the next tackle.

"I just like to play football."

It was Graham's fourth 100-yard game this year and the 11th of his career. He now has 948 rushing yards for the season. He has never rushed for over 1,000 yards. Pitt coach Paul Chryst thought Graham came through when the team needed him the most.

"We started early trying to run the ball and made some adjustments. We needed Ray [Graham] to run hard for us," Chryst said. "Ray should run the ball well. He's a good football player. We appreciate what he does for us."

Graham now has 3,177 career-rushing yards. During the game, he passed Craig "Ironhead" Heyward (3,086) for third place on Pitt's all-time rushing list. He is just 16 yards away from passing "Swervin" Curvin Richards for second place on Pitt's all-time list.

"I saw it on the scoreboard [third place]. It's a blessing and a great honor," Graham said. "I was fortunate to stay four years and break records and do the things I did. I wanted to make the best of my opportunity"

Pitt's all-time leading rusher is Tony Dorsett, who had 6,526 career rushing yards for the Panthers from 1973-1976.

"Nobody's going to pass up Tony 'D'," Graham said. "I'll still have something to talk about years after I'm done playing football."

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