If Pitt's Ray Graham is healthy, Temple could be in trouble

Pitt tailback Ray Graham, showing flashes of last year's brilliance, ran for 94 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries last month vs. then-No. 13 Virginia Tech. CHRIS BERNACCHI / Associated Press
Pitt tailback Ray Graham, showing flashes of last year's brilliance, ran for 94 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries last month vs. then-No. 13 Virginia Tech. CHRIS BERNACCHI / Associated Press
Posted: October 27, 2012

There was a time when Ray Graham was arguably the most electrifying college football player in the nation.

The Pittsburgh tailback could start, stop, and start again with the best of them. And his trademark spin move routinely made would-be tacklers look foolish.

"Last year, I was real confident in making a few plays, like hitting a hole and being explosive and doing everything a running back brings to a game," Graham said. "This season, I just feel like everything is just not like the way it was."

A season-ending injury - a torn right knee ligament - suffered by making a move in a Big East game against Connecticut last Oct. 26 is the reason.

"I'm working to get back there," the senior said. "And I feel like it's getting better every week."

Temple can only hope that Graham doesn't completely return to his old form this weekend. If he does, the visiting Owls (3-3, 2-1 Big East) could have a tough time stopping the Panthers (3-4, 0-3) Saturday at Heinz Field. That's because Graham is still one of the conference's elite players despite playing at 85 percent.

While splitting carries with freshman Rushel Shell, the New Jersey native has rushed for 513 yards and five touchdowns. His two best performances against Football Bowl Subdivision foes came in consecutive games against Cincinnati and Virginia Tech.

Graham rushed 19 times for 103 yards in a 34-10 setback to the Bearcats on Sept. 6. Then, he gained 94 yards and scored two touchdowns on 24 carries in a 35-17 victory over then the 13th-ranked Hokies on Sept. 15.

But . . .

"I would say that this season is not going like I wanted it to go," said Graham, who was last season's second-leading rusher (132.1 yards per game) in the nation before his injury. "As always, my goal was to get better than the year before.

"I definitely came off of an injury. So I knew it wasn't going to be the same as last year."

Maybe not. He will, however, be remembered as one of the best running backs to play at Pitt.

With 2,742 yards, he pulled ahead of recent NFL Hall of Fame inductee Curtis Martin for eighth place on Pitt's all-time rushing list. He also is 75 yards shy of surpassing Eagles tailback LeSean McCoy for fifth place on the list.

And being in such elite company is the thing that keeps Graham's spirits up.

"It all started with Tony Dorsett," he said of Pitt's recent string of talented tailbacks. Dorsett, who played from 1973 to '76, is No. 1 on the list with 6,082 yards.

"I just think that we are turning into Running Back U. here. We are doing our thing, and we are playing our part. It's the Steel City."


Contact Keith Pompey at kpompey@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @pompeysgridlock.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|