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Vukovcan: Plenty of Optimism Left for Pitt Football Season

Vukovcan: Plenty of Optimism Left for Pitt Football Season

I’m sure no one associated with the Pitt football program are in the mood for moral victories after their heartbreaking loss at Penn State but I’m here to give you a few.

Very few expected this game to be close let alone come down to the final drive of the game but that’s what happened.

Coaches often talk about games coming down to a few plays and that’s how you can look at Pitt grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.

Take away Journey Brown’s 85-yard run on 3rd & 9 from Penn State’s 3-yard line, Ricky Slade’s 40-yard catch on 3rd & 8 that led to Penn State’s field goal before the half and two failures inside Penn State’s 3-yard line and Pitt likely leaves Beaver Stadium with a win.

Those missed plays plus a coaching decision blunder makes the 17-10 loss harder to take but the positive is that Pat Narduzzi has plenty of positives to takeaway and a legitimate reason to believe Pitt has plenty of wins in them the rest of the season.

In fact, I feel more positive about Pitt moving forward than I did before the game.

Pat Narduzzi September 14, 2019 — David Hague/PSN

No doubt, some will focus on Pitt’s 1-2 record but that’s a waste of time. Up next is #17 ranked Central Florida (3-0) which means no one in the country will have played a more difficult schedule through the first four games than the Panthers. While it doesn’t help their overall record, it will have prepared them for their journey in the ACC Coastal, which is what ultimately matters.

Why should Panther fans be optimistic instead of negative?

Let’s start with the most important position on the team and that’s quarterback. Despite losing, Kenny Pickett was the best player on the field for either team and it wasn’t close.

Although a majority of the Pitt fan base wanted to ship him out of town following the Virginia game, Pickett has performed the last two weeks like a quarterback that can win games by himself and he seems to be getting better by the game.

In a venue that’s as difficult as any in the country to win at, Pickett finished with a line of 35-51 for 372 yards and a quarterback rating of 129.9. Over the last two weeks, the junior has gone 61 of 88 for 693 yards. That’s not too bad for a player that many thought wasn’t a Power Five quarterback.

Pickett did a great job of being accurate and not focusing on a single target as eight different Pitt receivers caught passes led by junior Taysir Mack. Prior to yesterday, people questioned his ability to throw the deep pass but that wasn’t a problem especially when targeting Mack.

The exciting thing for the future for Pitt football is that Pickett is still “young”, having only started 16 games and still has plenty of time left to get better and learn from quarterback guru Mark Whipple.

Kenny Pickett (8) and Mark Whipple September 14, 2019 — David Hague/PSN

Having a good defense gives you a good chance to win games and that’s been the case with Pitt to start the season.

Minus the opening drive of the second half, Pitt’s defense did an outstanding job of neutralizing a high-powered Penn State offense.

Despite not having two important starters in Rashad Weaver and Keyshon Camp, Charlie Partridge’s defensive line was once again outstanding as they got constant pressure on Sean Clifford and minus the Brown run, stuffed the Nittany Lions ground game.

Perhaps more encouraging than the play of the men up front was the performance of Pitt’s secondary.

Prior to this season, Pitt cornerbacks getting burnt deep was something fans witnessed on a game by game basis but that’s changed. Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne dialed up deep passes for KJ Hamler, Justin Shorter, Jahan Dotson and Pat Freiermuth but didn’t connect on a single one. Archie Collins’ unit of Dane Jackson, Damarri Mathis, Jason Pinnock, Paris Ford, Damar Hamlin and Jazzee Stocker played their best game of the season and shutdown the Penn State big play passing attack.

Damar Hamlin (3) September 14, 2019 — David Hague/PSN

That performance could be important because next up is the high-powered passing attack of Central Florida, which could prove to be an important game.

If they can beat #17 ranked Central Florida, the Panthers will be 2-2 heading into the Delaware game and the remainder of their Coastal schedule. Given the difficulty of that early schedule, a 2-2 start would be more than OK and would make a rematch with Clemson in the ACC Championship Game a possibility.

So, while losing is never good, the early part of Pitt’s 2019 season has shown that the Pitt program is building stability and have the talent and depth to be a contender in the ACC for years to come.

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Ed Rose
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Ed Rose

Mike. You are 100 percent right with everything you said. They need to take the penn st route and schedule to be 4-0 non conference every year. With everything you said one additional thought. The coaching on game day has to improve. Common sense eludes them during these games and costs them dearly

The 412
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The 412

You also must see that Clifford missed 2 long touchdown passes where PSU receivers were behind the Pitt secondary which would then make the final 31-10

Kevin
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Kevin

Really??? If you do the what ifs, what about the O-Line for PSU holding every play. Pitt would have had 10 sacks if they didn’t hold sooooo much; especially in the second half. Pitt played really well except for a few mistakes and poor coaching decisions.

Dixon
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Dixon

and if Pitt doesn’t miss a couple of tackles, Penn State doesn’t run 85 yards on a 3rd and 9 from inside their 10 yd line…minus 7 PSU. and if Davis doesn’t slip on his run around the right side he waltzes in for a touchdown…plus 7 Pitt. and if Penn State doesn’t kick a record breaking 57 yd field goal…minus 3 PSU. and if Pitt doesn’t miss a chip shot field goal…plus 3 PItt. See, two can play this game.

Christopher Shawn
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Christopher Shawn

Did you even read the article? The author actually wrote about taking away Journey Brown’s run and Slade’s catch and run. He was ALREADY playing “this game”. Both teams missed opportunities.

The 412
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The 412

And it would be 31-10 if Clifford hits the two long wide open TD passes

Terrence Otoole
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Terrence Otoole

well he missed them cause he was pressured and pitt should’ve had 2 td’s when twice we had 1st and goal sothen the score should’ve been 31-24 ,so i really dont know what your point is ,

The 412
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The 412

He overthrew them, bad throw nothing to do with pressure. What two times on the 1? Are you talking about the same series

Kevin
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Kevin

What about the interception, wait called back. Once again another great PSU call.

The 412
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The 412

So it wasn’t a hold?

Terrence Otoole
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Terrence Otoole

one series it was 1st and goal at the nine and the other was 1st and goal at the one we can play the what if game back and forth all day but the bottom line is penn st won and pitt lost and these 2 teams arent thst far apart

Augie Laputtezerella
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Augie Laputtezerella

And you are a douche bag, too. Btw. I wonder how Clifford the big red dog is feeling today. Pitt put him on his rear end all day long!

The 412
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The 412

Narduzzi gets the D-bag vote. He’s awful. Jimmy Morrissey is a close 2nd. Walk on with no P5 offers should zip it during the week, especially when they have so little confidence in the line that they won’t even sneak 4 times from the one yard line.

Christopher Shawn
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Christopher Shawn

He said that he feels fine. He also told me to tell you “scoreboard”.

Terrence Otoole
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Terrence Otoole

good article mike ,i have been one of pickets hardest critics but he did have a hell of a game yesterday especially with no running game which needs to improve ,im really impressed by the defense as a whole ,twyman is a beast, him and danielson are gonna be a great pair of tackles for a couple yrs ,and i would also add the linebackers have also played well ,team speed on defense has reslly improved ,i also have learned to be cautiously optimistic when comes to pitt football

Tom
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Tom

To Say there is optimism after a loss is a fools errand. We all thought to be optimistic after the hire of PN and the defense was the worst in all of CFB for 3 years. Last year, they got trounced in the last three games. Haven’t scored a 2nd half TD in seven games going back to last season. No bowl game wins since he’s been here. Can’t be NC. Narduzzi ain’t the answer.

Rob
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Rob

Sure KP has his best game but Micah Parsons was the best player on the field not Pickett, and I’m a Pitt fan. He was a constant menace and it was noticeable when he left the game because of injury.

Augie Laputtezerella
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Augie Laputtezerella

Rob. Jalen Twyman was just as disruptive. Clifford took some shots yesterday

Christopher Shawn
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Christopher Shawn

Pickett played a great game, but to say no one was close fails to acknowledge the fact that his offense only scored 10 points. Micah Parsons was definitely at least “close”.

Section 122
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Section 122

I thought about suggesting that Pitt hire a guy to hold Narduzzi’s hand making HC decisions during the game like the Steelers did with Teryl Austin for Coach Sunglasses but that hasn’t worked out too well yet.

Smljf
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Smljf

I feel no optimism because I have zero confidence in Narduzzi. Couldnt lead a lady of the evening to bed. Gutless!

Richard Johnson
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Richard Johnson

Wow, Coach Naz deserves some credit for this loss, but also have to include the blocking from the O-line, RB’s and wide receivers. Pitt has talented backs but we will never know. If this continues, Pickett will not finish the season. I thought Dave Borberly was this great line Coach, well 2 years in I’m still waiting. Great job by the defense. Except for a few missed tackles and a few blown assignments they played extremely well. I do not think Naz will get us to the top echelon of Football ever. He IS, making progress but at this rate… Read more »

Christopher Shawn
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Christopher Shawn

This game means nothing unless they can follow up with another good effort against UCF.
Can they shake this off, or will losing lead to a letdown?

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