With an expanded playbook, Pitt fans got their first real look at quarterback Max Browne on Saturday in the Panthers' 33-14 loss to Penn State. Browne wasn't horrible but also wasn't great, which led to some fans hoping to see backup Ben DiNucci get a shot. DiNucci actually did play a little in the game and made a few plays but head coach Pat Narduzzi says that Browne remains the team's starter.
Pat Narduzzi, when asked, said Max Browne is still Pitt's starting quarterback.— Craig Meyer (@CraigMeyerPG) September 9, 2017
I believe that's the right move, as I mentioned in the game recap. In general, you don't want to bench a guy after one game. And while he played against Youngstown State, the playbook was so basic that the contest hardly counted as a fair evaluation.
On the day, Browne completed just under 60% of his passes (19-32) and only had 138 yards with no touchdowns. He did have two interceptions but at least one resulted in a total miscommunication with wide receiver Jester Weah and I'm not sure who was at fault. DiNucci certainly looked decent in his time there. He scored a touchdown on a crucial 3rd down play using his legs and in his final drive, was able to move the ball. I think by that point, Penn State was mostly playing pretty lax so I'm not sure I buy everything he did there as being all him. But there's no question that he did a good job.
A big indictment of Browne was that he wasn't mobile enough as Penn State's pass rush got to him on a few occasions, taking him down for a sack. That was certainly true but Pitt's offensive line could have done a better job. Jaryd Jones-Smith was completely abused on one play and on another, Chawntez Moss whiffed on a blocking responsibility as well. The argument that Browne isn't particularly mobile is a reasonable one but some of the sacks today just weren't his fault.
In addition, I've never been a big fan of making quarterback changes so quickly. As I said in the recap, Narduzzi actually had success doing that when he benched Chad Voytik so fast in favor of Nathan Peterman a couple of seasons ago. But the problem is that if it doesn't work out, you're then forced to go back to the guy you benched so quickly and his confidence has diminished. Not to mention, it can screw with the rhythm between the receivers and the quarterbacks.
I think Browne should start again but wouldn't mind giving DiNucci a look if he struggles. The good news is that the Panthers have another non-conference game next week, facing Oklahoma State, before the ACC games begin. Pitt can use that game to see if they want to continue with Browne or make a change to DiNucci.
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