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Pitt’s Passing Game Looks a Bit Different Under Mark Whipple



Pitt (4-2, 1-1) currently leads the FBS in passing attempts (265), through six games this college football season.

If you have paid any attention to Pitt football, in the last whatever many years, you know that a stat like that wouldn’t even be possible with the way that they have won the majority of their games.

With quarterback Kenny Pickett playing and starting in five of the six games and Nick Patti playing and starting in one, they have combined to throw for 264 of the 265 attempts through six games this season. Wide receiver Aaron Mathews threw the other one attempt when they ran the “Pitt Special”.

Pitt has completed 162 of their 265 attempts (61.1 %), for 1660 yards (6.3-yards per attempt). Through the first six games, that has equaled out to 44.1 passing attempts per game.

Kenny Pickett (8) September 21, 2019 — David Hague/PSN

Are these staggering numbers all a testament to the way that first-year offensive coordinator Mark Whipple likes to run his offense? Or is it just what they have had to work with because of the injuries and inconsistencies for their running backs?

Last year, Pitt threw 316 (22.6 attempts per game) passes all season and completed only 182 passes. Pickett was still the quarterback and their weapons pretty much consisted of the same players.

The passing attempts per game have doubled and Pitt only needs to complete 21 passes the rest of the season to surpass the number of completions that they had all of last season.

Last season as the head coach at UMass, Whipple’s offense threw 411 pass attempts in 12 games; 34.25 per game. This season with Whipple at Pitt, UMass is averaging 30.7 attempts through the first six games. The average is down, but not as drastic as you might have thought.

It’s clear that Whipple prefers to pass the ball and Pitt seems to be just fine in doing so. Teams are definitely going to make them run the ball, but Pitt is even doing a solid job using their running backs in the passing game.

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

It seems that each week, they get another guy doing some things well in the receiving game. With more weapons coming into their own, it will make it even easier for Pickett to drop back so often.

Maurice Ffrench is No. 3 in the country in receptions with 50 and Taysir Mack is No. 12 with 41. They both have two receiving touchdowns this season. Pitt has also had receiving touchdowns from V’Lique Carter (2), Dontavius Butler-Jenkinns (1), Nakia Griffin-Stewart (1), Tre Tipton (1), and Kenny Pickett (1).

A lot of Whipple’s confidence in throwing the ball, has to do with the improvements that Pickett has made each day. Before the UCF game, Whipple was seeing positive jumps from Pickett and he talked with the media about how their on-field relationship was taking steps in the right direction.

“I think we’re getting on a much better page,” Whipple said. “I’m hoping my play calling will help him. … There’s a ways to go, but there is no question that there is improvement.”

Pickett’s toughness and growth this season has a lot to do with the Whipple putting the ball in his hands so often. Last year, Pickett wasn’t counted on nearly as much.

He threw 310 times in 14 games last season. Through his five starts this year, he has thrown 224 times and has completed 60.7 percent of his attempts.

With the vast improvements in Pitt’s passing game thus far with Whipple, it will be interesting to see how dynamic this offense can be as a whole when they get more time together and everyone is clicking.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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4 years ago

You don’t think Pitt’s dismal running attach has anything to do with why Pitt has so many passing plays this season? I do

4 years ago
Reply to  jrnpitt

Yes, I agree. I really hope they’re visiting RB H Parrish down in South Fl this week. Show that young man some love.”IF” they could manage to land that Young man. With the way the passing game is improving… WOW! Selling point is this Mr Parrish… The ball is your’s Young man! You’ll on top of the RB depth chart as soon as you sign.
It is a big “IF”.

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