BY NATALIE BIGLEY
On the eve of today’s game at Notre Dame, allegations have surfaced that three Pitt football players have been accused of simple assault and conspiracy for an incident that occurred last month.
Running back Ray Graham, wide receiver Devin Street and defensive back LaFayette Pitts were not arrested but were mailed summonses by the Pittsburgh Municipal Court. They were asked to attend a Jan. 9 preliminary hearing.
The University of Pittsburgh released a statement Friday, saying that Street, Graham and Pitts have denied any involvement in the situation and agreed to speak to authorities.
Karl Olsheski, Diana Olsheski and Samantha Mitchell reported the alleged confrontation near Pitt’s campus on Oct. 21.
In that report, the students said Graham approached Karl Olsheski saying, “What’s up?” accompanied with a racial slur. Olsheski said he tried to walk away from the situation, but the three players kept him from leaving.
Shortly after, Olsheski said Street struck him on the left side of his head.
In the university’s statement, officials said they take player discipline seriously and they would continue to cooperate with the investigation. Officials also said they would not rush to judgment on the misdemeanor allegations.
That means that Street, Graham and Pitts will play against No. 3 Notre Dame (8-0).
And Pitt (4-4) will need all three in hopes of scoring an upset.
The bad publicity comes on the heels of Pitt’s 41-17 win against Temple.
Although the current allegations could be a distraction, the Panthers can’t let it get to them.
Pitt’s passing game continues to shine and could pose a challenge to the Irish’s defense. Quarterback Tino Sunseri threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns against Temple. On the season, Sunseri has 2,199 yards for 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
And Sunseri will be happy that Street is playing. Street is Pitt’s leading receiver, with 50 catches on the season for 695 yards and four touchdowns. The Panthers’ second-most productive receiver, Mike Shanahan, who has 631 yards and three touchdowns this season, also could be very involved in the offense.
Sunseri will face Notre Dame’s second-ranked scoring defense. Opponents have only averaged 9.9 points per game against the Irish.
The Panthers, and Sunseri especially, need to be aware of where Notre Dame’s defensive players are on the field. Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman hopeful Manti Te’o is a pro at capitalizing on these opportunities. He seems to find himself at the right place at the right time.
He leads his team in interceptions with five on the
season, a pretty special feat for a player in the linebacker position.
On the ground, the Irish’s front seven have only allowed one rushing touchdown this season. That was during last week’s 30-13 win against eighth-ranked Oklahoma.
Graham hopes to change those numbers. Last week, he rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns against Temple and continues to show improvement after last season’s knee injury.
Perhaps overshadowed by Notre Dame’s defense, the Irish offense also brings a lot to the table. This unit is led by redshirt freshman Everett Golson. Although the offense only averages 26.4 points per game, it has found a way to get points on the board and, more importantly, get the win each week.
And when it comes down to it, winning is the most important thing.
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