The big play of Saturday's Pitt win over Syracuse was undoubtedly the team's converted 4th down fake punt called by head coach Pat Narduzzi. With the score tied late in the fourth quarter, Pitt faced a 4th and 7 on its own 48-yard line. Instead of playing it conservatively, punting, and hoping for a defensive stop, the Panthers faked a punt with punter Ryan Winslow completing a pass to linebacker Matt Galambos.
The team continued to march down the field to kick a game-winning field goal to give the Panthers a 23-20 victory. Afterwards, Narduzzi discussed the call during the Panthers' post-game radio shows first with the Pitt announcers then with the media.
Narduzzi said a couple of things that I found interesting in both interviews. First, he said that Winslow had a few options on the play. One was to find fullback George Aston. If not him, then linebacker Matt Galambos was a possibility as well. He ended up going to Galambos and the linebacker picked up the first down.
The head coach also said that the team was going to run the fake punt play during that game no matter what. I'm not sure I agree with that decision since it's a play they could use to trick a team later on in the season. That's not to say that it can't be used going forward, but you have to think more teams will be looking for it. I'm glad it was used in a crucial point of the game than instead of using it with something like Pitt up by 14 or something.
Finally, while Winslow got the call, Narduzzi actually thought about going to backup quarterback Chad Voytik in that situation. However, he was concerned that his insertion into the game would be noticed by the Orange and that they might call a time out.
The whole thing was played beautifully. That decision by Narduzzi to go with Winslow instead of Voytik makes perfect sense. Don't forget, too, that Voytik couldn't connect on a trick play in the team's game against Georgia Tech last week. You almost have to wonder if that played into it as well.
Regardless, the result was that Pitt maintained possession, moved the sticks, and got a crucial win because of the gutsy call by Narduzzi.