There aren’t typically a lot of problems to clean up after a 55-0 season-opening win, and that’s certainly the case across the board for Pitt in the aftermath of the Panthers’ rout of Austin Peay on Saturday.
But there is one significant thing that Pitt needs to fix: its punt block team.
There wasn’t anything wrong with the way Pitt blocked for its returners, and in fact, they blocked one punt and disrupted another, so the results were just fine. The issue was that three times during Saturday’s game, the Panthers fielded a punt with two players on the field wearing the same uniform number.
Twice it was a pair of threes, wide receiver and punt returner Jordan Addison and safety Damar Hamlin, and the other time it was two nines, wide receiver and punt returner DJ Turner and safety Brandon Hill.
With over 100 players on the roster and a handful of retired uniforms, it’s extremely common for college teams to have several duplicate numbers. But they can’t play at the same time.
Pitt somehow got away with it three times on Saturday. If the Panthers had been caught, it would have resulted in a five-yard penalty and re-playing the down — something that could be painful after the defense forced a fourth and short.
Narduzzi said the team had prepared for the problem. Hamlin was not supposed to be on the punt block team — Pitt calls them Rangers — because Addison was the return man. But the Rangers weren’t on the field for those punts. Pitt was in what they call punt safe, meaning they keep their defense on the field to guard for a fake, only swapping one safety for the return man.
“A couple fourth down and shorts, we went to punt safe. We take one of our safeties out.” Narduzzi said. “We took No. 12 out, left No. 3 in there. That’s kind of what we ran into by accident. First game things that happen.”
Obviously, the biggest and easiest fix to the problem is that Hamlin and/or Hill has to be the safety that comes off the field for punt safe defense from now on. Narduzzi also said he and football operations director John Ford, Jr. went through the roster after the game and will make some uniform number changes.
“We’ll make sure we get our substitutions right this week,” he said. “I thank those officials for missing that.”