“Pitt Was It” today and they sure didn’t look like a 4-win team.
While a final record of 5-7 isn’t what anyone associated with Pitt wanted, what happened the last month could be more important than if Pitt would’ve won six or seven games.
The foundation has been set for Pitt to be a legit contender for the next few years.
For the first time in a while, the 2018 Pitt football program will enter a season with a legitimate young, talented quarterback and a promising defense.
Although it came probably a week or two too late, Pat Narduzzi started true freshman Kenny Pickett and it paid off.
In the last two weeks, Pickett faced Virginia Tech and Miami and showed that he has all the skills needed to be a big-time winner. The New Jersey native has a huge arm, has touch, can run and is a tough, fearless competitor.
The drive that sold me was the touchdown drive right before the half where he ran over a Miami defender on a 3rd down run and then when he attacked three Miami defenders to scramble for a Pitt touchdown.
After having to go with graduate transfer quarterbacks over the last handful of years (Tom Savage, Nathan Peterman and Max Browne), Narduzzi and Shawn Watson are able to enter this offseason knowing they will have Pickett under center for the next three years.
It’s hard to stress how important that is.
By no means is Pickett a finished product but that’s the exciting part if you’re a Pitt fan. While he’s so young, in only two games he showed skills and made plays that has no doubt excited the fan base.
The Pickett era at Pitt is here to stay.
While Pickett will get much of the attention and credit for today’s win, Pitt won today because of the defense.
Today was the best defensive effort of the Narduzzi era.
Defensive coordinator Josh Conklin has been the target of much criticism from Pitt fans for the performance of his unit the last couple of years.
If he gets tortured for the bad games, people must be consistent and give him credit for what they’ve watched the second half of this season.
Pitt’s defense was dominating today.
In its last eight games, Pitt defense has held the opposing offenses to under 20 points four times and lost to Virginia Tech by giving up only 20 points. They played well enough to win vs. the Hokies.
Like with Pickett, virtually the entire unit will be back next season. Players like Rashad Weaver, Amir Watts, Keyshon Camp, Patrick Jones, Elijah Zeise, Saleem Brightwell, Dane Jackson, Phil Campbell, Damar Hamlin and Bricen Garner all got valuable on the job training this year and most importantly, all made huge strides as the season progressed.
For years, the struggles of Pitt’s linebackers has been well documented. They’ve been slow and not very productive.
That changed this year.
The improvement that they made since the Oklahoma State game has been remarkable. An argument can be made that Zeise has been their best linebacker and one of the best defensive players for Pitt the second half of the season.
It’s exciting to think that Zeise, Brightwell, Henry Miller, Chase Pine, Elias Reynolds and Oluwaseun Idowu will all be back.
It’s funny how one win can change the mood and outlook for a program.
The offseason starts right now for the Panther coaches and when they hit the recruiting trails next week, they’ll no doubt be selling optimism and the what appears to be a bright future for the Pitt program.
Can we dare say Pitt is back?