Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi had plenty to say after the Panthers’ ugly loss to Notre Dame on Saturday. But one of the things he hit on a few times was the play at quarterback.
I heavily criticized Narduzzi’s decision to basically sit on the ball before the half instead of trying to score. Narduzzi’s reasoning was, as you would expect, about trying not to turn the ball over again. And his primary concern was that Pitt was playing with an inexperienced quarterback.
“... with 1:22 and the backup quarterback in there, didn’t want to go slinging it around the park and see something bad happen,” Narduzzi said when asked about his passive strategy.
I sort of understand what Narduzzi was thinking there. But as I said in the recap, when you’re down 18 at that point, you don’t have too much to lose. Even beyond that, Pitt had decent field position near their own 40-yard line and really needed only about 20-25 yards to give themselves a shot at a long field goal — something kicker Alex Kessman has shown he is capable of making.
It would be one thing if Pitt was backed up there. But the Panthers wouldn’t have needed quarterback Joey Yellen to make a series of risky throws. Needing that kind of yardage and with plenty of time, they could have at least taken some shots with 5-6 yard routes to try to move into field goal range.
Again — I understand what Narduzzi was thinking. I just happen to disagree with it.
Narduzzi also talked about the juggling of quarterbacks in the second half. But surprisingly, he didn’t have a great answer as to why Pitt did it.
Specifically, Narduzzi was asked why Davis Beville came in for only one series and didn’t get much of an opportunity before the No. 4 quarterback, Nick Patti, came in. His response?
“You know, it’s not easy juggling quarterbacks, but we’ll look at the tape and see where we are with the quarterback,” Narduzzi said. “But it’s not easy when you have your backup in there and, again, against a really good defense,” he added.
Now, I’m not going to be too hard on Narduzzi here for not giving much insight. The game had just ended and he was clearly frustrated. But the question was a valid one and I wish he would have given a better answer. I didn’t have too much of an issue after they pulled Yellen following his third interception. But Beville and Yellen were so neck-and-neck close that neither was named the No. 2 guy to starter Kenny Pickett all year long until Yellen grabbed hold of the job last week. I wish they had given Beville a closer look and more of an opportunity.
And about those backups — we might see one of them for at least one more game. Even with a bye week next week, it doesn’t sound as if Pickett is a lock to return for the team’s next game against Florida State.
In fact, Narduzzi sounded pessimistic about that. While he does expect to get Pickett back this year, he wasn’t sure about the game against the Seminoles.
“Hopefully sooner than later,” Narduzzi said when talking about getting Pickett back. “He was out there today and he had a good week, he’s doing really well. We’ll see. Might be a stretch for Florida State, I don’t know, but we’ll see.”
Still two weeks before that game happens but that Narduzzi even mentioned it was a stretch doesn’t make me feel good about him coming back by then. Of course, that could all be gamesmanship by Narduzzi in hoping to confuse Florida State, too. And, it’s also worth pointing out that these were the words of a head coach that just saw his team demolished on the field. I’m not sure that parsing his words too closely in the aftermath of such an ugly loss is a great idea.