STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Pat Narduzzi chose to attempt to kick a field goal from the 1-yard line, while trailing by a touchdown and just under 5 minutes to play in what became a 17-10 loss to Penn State on Saturday.
Pitt kicker Alex Kessman missed the kick. That was irrelevant.
Pitt needed a touchdown to extend the game, and at least eight points to win. That was the math Narduzzi said he had in his head when he made the decision.
“I thought if we kick a field goal there, it’s going to be a two-possession game,” Narduzzi said. “You need two scores. A field goal is a good play. Then you come back and score again.”
Of course, that doesn’t exactly hold water. The only difference Kessman’s field goal would have made was that Pitt’s final abortive drive of the game would have been a desperate, last-second attempt for a win instead of a desperate, last-second attempt for a tie.
But unlike that drive, Pitt had a prime scoring opportunity on 4th and 1 to tie the game. Then, the last drive, if it happened, only would have needed a field goal to win.
“You can go back, question the 4th and 1,” he said. “Go for it, not go for it. If we go for it and we don’t get it, it’s like ‘why didn’t you kick the field goal, because you need two scores, anyway to win the football game.’
“That’s what it comes down to. You need two scores. We had three plays.”
Narduzzi is correct that Pitt had tried and failed with three chances from the 1-yard line after quarterback Kenny Pickett found Taysir Mack at the near pylon. A bootleg pass, a read-option quarterback run and another pass attempt all failed.
“I wish Kenny would have connected on the third down,” Narduzzi said. “We had a little pressure off the edge. We didn’t slam down long enough before we released. We had two guys open on that third down play. You run out of plays that you feel really good about down there in those situations. We thought we had three good ones. The coaches did a good job of trying to set things up.”
There’s certainly no guarantee Pitt would have made it. But a failure on the goal line would have given Penn State even worse field position for their ensuing drive.
Narduzzi said he felt as if going for the touchdown would have been playing for overtime.
“Because you need two scores to win the football game, unless you guys are playing for overtime,” he said. “We’re trying to win the football game.”
With Saturday’s game being the last on the schedule between Pitt and Penn State for the foreseeable future, Narduzzi’s decision is sure to loom large in the memory of Pitt fans for quite some time.
He said he’s OK with that.
“Ultimately, it’s my call,” he said. “You can blame it all on me. It’s my fault.”