October 18, 2017

Unsurprising Outcome

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 7:43 am

Well, that UNC-Pitt Thursday night game on November 9 looks to be one hell of a dog.

That Pitt lost was not a surprise. That the running game struggled again, not a surprise. Poor handling of working Kenny Pickett into the game — kind of a surprise.

Let me get the positive part first. I’m not displeased with the defense. It isn’t a shut-down defense by any stretch, but there is clear improvement. Each week, they are getting better. There are leaks. There are busted plays — which are always going to happen with a defense that takes risks — but they have been far better then the low point that was Oklahoma State.

Unfortunately, the offense is now killing the team.

I’ll get to the QB stuff in a moment. First the running game. The box score is amazing. Credit to 9 different players with runs. NINE. No player had more then 18 yards on the ground. And Pitt still could not finish over 100 net rushing yards.

A lot of it is on the O-line, but some of it has to fall on the shoulders of the backs. There is talent there. They should not be this collectively poor. Hesitancy and slow to make decisions when given the ball all around.

The entire offense, really, just seems to have not come close to meshing this year. Even before Browne was hurt. There is a very disjointed feel to the entire offense.

And yes, that falls on the Offensive Coordinator, Shawn Watson. It has to.

Prior to this year, were there any complaints with the position coaches on offense? I sure didn’t. Not for the O-line. Not with the running backs. My biggest complaint might have been the somewhat slow development of the wide receivers, but that feels like a reach.

For what ever reason, it is seemingly the complete opposite of last year. When Matt Canada came in, and everything on the offense was virtually perfect. Somehow it all aligned. Obviously a different QB. The loss of Conner at RB. Key departures on the O-line and tight end. Still, the absolute collapse of the offense was unforeseen.

The running game is the biggest puzzle, and the biggest reason for the offense being so bad. It is no secret that head coach Pat Narduzzi and Watson want to run the ball first. Balance in the offense, sure, but they expect to run the game and grind a bit. And they can’t.

The NC State game had 32 rushes and 45 passing attempts — and that isn’t even correcting for dropbacks where the QB scrambled or was sacked. They are trying to compensate for the lack of rushing by doing a lot more short passes, but again there is a failure to mesh.

You would think with the emergence of Rafael Arujo-Lopes, TEs like Flanagan and Clark, and Quadree Henderson the short passing game would thrive. Especially with more chances for Lopes and Henderson to get into space. But Henderson, especially seems to be in tight boxes at all times.

The last thing I want is to see Pitt go to a fifth offensive coordinator in five years. A little continuity at the coordinator spot would be nice, but Watson is making it hard to justify a desire for that continuity with the lack of production.

The post-game press conference from Narduzzi was… subdued. It seemed to be a longer wait then usual before he came out to the podium, and when he did there was a definite sense of restraint. Careful with his words, and obviously very frustrated with the offense.

And he had to know that there would be a big focus on the handling of the QBs. The handling of the QBs was my fear heading into this. While NC State is a top-25 team, they are not a dominant team. That meant it was going to be a close game for the most part, which meant changing the QB at any point would be awkward. And boy was it.

With N.C. State leading, 21-14, and 2:32 left in the third quarter, Narduzzi pulled starter Ben DiNucci from the game after he had thrown a touchdown and an interception and replaced him with freshman Kenny Pickett.

DiNucci said the move surprised him. Pickett said he expected to play.

“I wasn’t necessarily aware they were going to try to get him a series,” DiNucci said, “but that’s ultimately their decision. All I can do is respect it and try to help him out as much as possible.”

He said there was no discussion about a quarterback rotation prior to the game. “I was a little caught off guard,” he said.

Narduzzi told a different story.

“We had talked with them prior to the game,” Narduzzi said. “There was communication prior to the game on what we’re going to do and what the plans were.

“We stayed on our plan. We really wanted to get Pickett in the first half (the score was tied at 14 at intermission), but Ben was doing a nice job.

“We are going to need (Pickett) somewhere. I don’t want his first (appearance) coming when he has to go in there. I wasn’t taking Ben out because he wasn’t getting it done.”

Beyond just the QB switching in the second half, with the game still in doubt. There is the ongoing fact that Pitt’s offense is practically non-existent.

The entire second half followed a distressing trend in which Pitt struggles after halftime. Pitt has been outscored, 112-49, in the second half this season, including scoring a total of only 13 in the third quarter.

Narduzzi was a little more defensive and defiant about the QB and offensive struggles in general with his Monday press conference.

Narduzzi became a bit contentious when asked about the “odd” timing of his quarterback flip, with Pitt down seven, the game still well within reach and DiNucci having led two touchdown drives.

“I guess we’re odd, I guess. That’s your decision to make that call. We get paid to make those decisions,” Narduzzi replied, adding that it’s easy for a reporter to say that on Monday, sitting in a chair with an arm rest.

It was odd on Saturday and plenty of guessing then, as well.

“Kenny was planning on redshirting in the summer, because we felt good with Max and we felt good with Ben, obviously,” Narduzzi said. “Things change. … We had some plans, we changed our plans.”

And with that, Narduzzi probably will have to keep answering questions about those plans — even if he left no doubt that he’s plenty sick of discussing one position so often when there are 10 other players on the field at all times.

“It’s not just quarterbacks. As I’ve told Ben, we’ve got to run the ball. His shoulders, they’re like this big, but we make them like they’re this big,” Narduzzi said, stretching out his arms to illustrate his point. “This ain’t that big, and the poor kid can’t do it all by himself. We’ve got to help him out with some run game. I thought he did a really good job with the passing game early, but we’ve got to help him out a little bit.

“We talk way too much about the quarterback. There’s some other things that we should be talking about, too.”

Judging by the press conference transcript, he wasn’t too pleased talking about the other offensive problems either

Narduzzi EXPOSED in this morning’s Post Gazette…

“… he’s (Narduzzi) unwilling to be accountable when it doesn’t work. It’s a bad look.”

Just a matter of time.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.18.17 @ 8:05 am

I have to say, since the OSU game, the secondary has looked better in the sense that our players are in position to make plays. And, I have seen them make quite a few nice plays… Pitt has had a nice long run of very good RBs. Not so much right now. I think there is too much rotation at the RB spot and QO is our best option. Give the kid 20 carries a game and let’s see what happens. RBs need to get in a rhythm just like QBs.

Comment by HbgFrank 10.18.17 @ 12:03 pm

Exposed by a biased Nitter…

Comment by Lastrowofsection4 10.18.17 @ 12:50 pm

“Just a matter of time”??

For what? Fire another coach? Because turning over the coaching staff every 3 years has worked out so well. Are you really that stupid? “pittofdreams” nice troll handle.

Comment by John Ramella 10.18.17 @ 1:12 pm

No problem with switching QB Play whoever gives us the best chance to win. D backs looking good. Linebackers not so much

Comment by DocJLK 10.19.17 @ 7:39 am

Did not know that the Post Gazette Writer criticizing Narduzzi is a PSU Loyalist.

Regardless, REFUSING to take the blame for anything is a MAJOR Narduzzi flaw.

It’s been evident for some time with how Narduzzi is CONTINUALLY pinning the majority of blame on the Players… seldom if ever on himself or his Coaches.

It’s NEVER the Scheme, the Pre-Game Preparation, the Recruiting… or in this case… the truly “stupid” move to pull a Quarterback who in the words of the Coach was “getting the job done.”

Ya, it really is just a matter of time… unfortunately.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.19.17 @ 8:32 am

PoD, I’m not as down on Narduzzi as it seems you are, but there is a bit of a disturbing likeness to Stallings with regard to accountability.

You might also add player development to your list of possible failures. He’s had most of the two deep in his program for at least 2 years. Many returning players, particularly disturbing on offense, have failed to produce like they had in the past including Weah, O’Neill, Bookser, Officer, Ollison and Henderson. Only Lopes has markedly improved on offense. I don’t feel that Whitehead has improved as a DB since his freshman season. I think that Maddox has improved somewhat over last year and Jackson has improved a lot. I have seen no improvement during the season for the remainder of the defense.

What’s the PSU Loyalist comment regarding the PG Writer about?

Comment by Barvo 10.19.17 @ 10:09 am

As a LONG time Pitt fan I no longer expect much more than what we got last year. We beat PSU (sucks) and Clemson. That is about as good as it gets so I am more than willing to stick with Narduzzi for a few more years and yes i will continue to buy season tickets and show up for the games.

SO many fans wanted Jamie Dixon gone and we see how well that worked out. TCU did pretty well in the deal and we got stuck with “Bill Dauterive” from King of the Hill. Careful what you wish for as you may get it.

Comment by Tony in Harrisburg 10.19.17 @ 12:44 pm

Tony – agreed, Pitt needs to stick with Duzz for 2 more years. Let his systems and ideas play out with his recruits. In year five, if he has another year like this season, he will probably go back to being a DC in the B1G Joke conference.

I’m willing to give him somewhat of a pass this year if we can see some improvement in the 2nd half of this season.

I’d love to have his ear for an hour or two and share how I would attempt to fix this season. That would be a blast. I like his personality – he is brash and cockey, but fairly polite.


Comment by Erie Express 10.19.17 @ 4:33 pm


Comment by Pitt Dreamer 10.19.17 @ 6:09 pm

No argument here Dreamer. They are due to have a game where the breaks go their way.

Question is… Who’s going to be the Quarterback credited with the Win?

Comment by PittofDreams 10.20.17 @ 10:23 am


Comment by HbgFrank 10.20.17 @ 11:48 am

I also believe Dinucci, the Duzzi is starting to learn that you cant continue to make haphazard game changes to satisfy a game day plan. The only way you change QB’s is if you are far ahead or DiNucci is doing poorly. If Duzzi does anything different, he will have not learned any lessons. These kids need a win and the Duzzi needs to start acting like a head coach of a major conference team.

learned any lessons.

Comment by Pitt Dreamer 10.20.17 @ 2:45 pm

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