Well thank God he was there.
That’s all you can say about Scott Orndoff’s presence in the Pitt passing game vs. Villanova Saturday. If it hadn’t been for him, it could’ve gotten really ugly against a 1-AA defense.
The senior tight end had 5 catches for 68 yards. All the wide receivers combined for just 8 catches and 81 yards. And with Nate Peterman’s inconsistent performance, it was good to see his 6-5/255 frame coming wide open. That was something the other pass catchers failed to accomplish.
Orndoff was by far Pitt’s most effective pass catcher in game one of the 2016 season. And that’s a trend that may continue.
After playing the role of Robin to J.P. Holtz’s Batman in the Pitt TE room a year ago (Orndoff had just 13 catches), Orndoff may well be more valuable to the Panther’s air attack this year than Holtz was a season ago, even though Holtz was perceived to be a more dangerous target. And that’s because Tyler Boyd took his Superman act to the National Football League.
Where Orndoff appears to be filling Holtz’s shoes nicely, no such successor to Boyd appears to be available. Orndoff welcomes being part of the collective in an attempt to soften the blow of Boyd’s departure.
“As soon as last season was over it was like ‘We’ve all got to step up now.’ We’ve all gotta step up now that Tyler is gone. We’ve all got to do our part. Get passes. Get touches,” explained the Waynesburg native.
But the more Orndoff gets involved, the more he potentially loses his best weapon: The element of surprise
“A lot of people don’t like to cover the tight end. So we are going to take what the defense gives us,” said Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi.
In fact, one reporter asked Narduzzi if Nate Peterman’s reliance on his tight end may become too “predictable.”
“Not if he’s open and he keeps catching it,” quipped Narduzzi.
I asked Orndoff if he felt ignored by the Nova defense in week one. “I couldn’t tell you. I’m not really sure. It’s just kinda how the plays worked out.”
According to Peterman, it may have been because Villanova used a different defensive approach against the wide receivers that Pitt wasn’t expecting. And that Orndoff may have become an option out of necessity.
“They gave some different looks I wasn’t expecting and didn’t have a plan for. But whatever teams are going to give us we are going to take,” said Peterman.
Regardless of whether or not his performance was by design, Orndoff is embracing a broader role.
“It’s different for me because in the past I’ve been playing an HBack. Now I’m the tight end. But through spring ball and camp I knew this was my responsibility now.”
It’s one Orndoff owned in game one. It’s also one he may need to carry more than many thought for the next eleven.