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Saunders: Pitt Still Doesn’t Get Modern College Football

Saunders: Pitt Still Doesn’t Get Modern College Football

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi was asked on Monday what he thinks the identity of his offense is, now 17 games into Mark Whipple’s tenure as Pitt’s offensive coordinator.

“I evaluate it game-by-game,” Narduzzi began, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. He then followed up by saying, “The identity is we scored 29 points, which I hope is enough to win a football game.”

Here, we’ve arrived at the problem. Yes, Pitt did score 29 points against NC State on Saturday, and honestly, given the talent level of Pitt’s defense and the relative lack of success of the NC State offense, Narduzzi is correct that it should probably have been enough to win that football game.

But the idea that 29 points is somehow the mark of a successful offense is exactly why Pitt’s offense looks the way it does.

Last season, 56 FBS teams averaged more than 29 points per game. There are 130 teams. That’s not a good offensive output. That’s not an offensive output that a typical team should expect would win a typical game. It’s barely above average.

Narduzzi is a defensive coach, and he’s good at it. He was one of the best defensive coordinators in the country at Michigan State. Pitt’s defense has shown signs that it can be even better under the tutelage of Narduzzi and Randy Bates.

But Pitt’s offense is stuck in the past, along with the mindset that 29 points is somehow an acceptable output.

And largely, Pitt has failed to even sniff that figure under Narduzzi. Pitt averaged 42 points per game with Matt Canada as offensive coordinator in 2016 and had the nation’s No 6 offense.

Pitt’s second-best offensive output under Narduzzi was Jim Chaney’s 26.5 points per game in 2015 that was good for 68th in the country. In 2017, Shawn Watson’s unit was 98th in the nation while scoring 23.5 points per game. In 2018, he showed slight improvement, to 25.1 points per game and 86th in FBS.

Whipple’s 2019 offense was the worst of them, with Pitt’s scoring average falling to 21.5 points per game, 107th out of 130 teams. Pitt lost three games by one score last year. Pitt’s offensive outputs in those three games were 10 points at Penn State, 12 points at Miami and 19 points against Boston College.

With the defense that Narduzzi has built, even an average offense would likely make for a dominant team. Unfortunately for all involved, Pitt’s offense hasn’t even been remotely close to average.

The reasons for that could be complex. But I don’t think they can all be put on the offensive coordinators, either. Three of the four offensive coordinators have fallen short of their average career scoring mark during their time at Pitt, with Canada’s season the exception.

It’s clear that Narduzzi’s focus on defense — and perhaps his belief that 29 points is a good offensive output — has had a negative impact on his team’s ability to maximize the number of points it scores.

Of course, it should still be possible for a great defense to drag a mediocre offense to a successful season, but it doesn’t happen as often as one might think.

Of the teams ranked in the final AP Top 25 from the 2019 season, only one of them (Georgia) had a below-average offense. The Bulldogs had the No. 1 defense in the country. Similarly, only one of those 25 teams (Oklahoma) had a below-average defense.

It takes both sides of the ball pulling their weight to put together a football team that’s worthy of the kind of national recognition Pitt seems to aspire to.

Pitt’s offense has qualified for that standard once in five-plus years. If there’s an identity to Pitt’s offense, it’s that it’s not good enough.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Section 122
Section 122
16 days ago

His seat is getting warmer with each bad loss.

Dave
Dave
16 days ago
Reply to  Section 122

Unfortunately, I think the Pitt program has conceded to mediocrity and therefore won’t make a coaching change as long as we stick around 7-8 wins. Especially now that we have “stability”

Terrence Otoole
Terrence Otoole
16 days ago
Reply to  Section 122

I hope so I’ve seen enough. this crap

James from Florida
James from Florida
16 days ago

Very good analysis, you are spot on

Tackle made by Hugh
Tackle made by Hugh
16 days ago

I’m not as frustrated with Whipples offensive play calling as much as the execution. Dropping balls that are first downs , TD’s or 2 point conversations missed FG extra points and let us not forget the penalties. There is more talent on the Defense the last two years but not necessarily before that time during Narduzzi‘a 5 years. I think it’s an overall lack of focus , in game decisions and failure to adjust the game plan at halftime that has plagued the Panthers last 5 years more then a unbalance of talent on either side of the ball or… Read more »

Section 122
Section 122
16 days ago

Borbly needs to be held accountable for his OL getting blown off the line in every short yardage situation. The lack of physicality is disgusting from that group.

Let's Believe
Let's Believe
16 days ago
Reply to  Section 122

There are not enough thumbs up possible for this comment! They bring in mid level 3* lineman, they haven’t developed, still having issues run blocking and punching it in from the 1 yard line.

Terrence Otoole
Terrence Otoole
16 days ago

Year in and year out we get the kick in the nuts game and Saturday when alot of us were drinking the kool aid there it was the kinda game that brings you back to earth when it comes to pitt football, i hate to say this but we are the wake forests ,indiana’s of the college football world,it sucks but thats what we are a below mediocre program

Section 122
Section 122
16 days ago

Get ready for another blow to the nuts this week. Do you remember their OL manhandling Pitt last year in a game that Pitt was “favored” in at home?

Terrence Otoole
Terrence Otoole
16 days ago
Reply to  Section 122

Yes. and that was with tyman ,so ya this game could get ugly

Terrence Otoole
Terrence Otoole
16 days ago
Reply to  Section 122

Plus our o line couldnt block a high school team

Thomas McGraw
Thomas McGraw
16 days ago

It looks like it at times, They just get pushed around. Maybe they should lift some weights put on a few more pounds…. FCS some one throw a pork chop in front of the ball pre snap maybe that will get them off the line faster.

Frank James
Frank James
16 days ago

Another typical statement from an overmatched Duzz. BC Coach, from the OSU tree, will our coach him badly this weekend.

Richard from Butler
Richard from Butler
16 days ago

Well Alan may not want to make any comments about the Offensive Coordinator, but I will. The 1 yard line, 4 play choke set, was an eye opener. Whipple’s play calling was way too consistent/predicable. He needs to open up that old play book, spread them out Mark! If that does not get 1 yard, then run it wide, or misdirection, etc, etc.

Terrence Otoole
Terrence Otoole
16 days ago

Who here would be fine with partridge as our head coach ,very good recruiter, coaches the strongest unit on our team and we would keep some of that stability coaches i would keep are beatty,collins, and possibly sanders , all the others plus duzz needs to go

Thomas McGraw
Thomas McGraw
16 days ago

Excellent article. Truth to power is always a GOOD thing.. And that is the HEAD Coaches Arrogance. I like that Pitt has a good Defense but a lot of teams have a good Defense. They don’t ignore the other side of the ball or settle for avg.. There are Two sides of the ball and it is the HEAD COACH’s JOB to strive to make both sides excellent. Not Just ONE. That is why Pitt got upset. The D is always bailing out the Offense. No matter how good you are that is eventually going to catch up to you.… Read more »

Section 122
Section 122
15 days ago
Reply to  Thomas McGraw

Well that’s what you average when your starting back weighs 160.

Thomas McGraw
Thomas McGraw
16 days ago

If you’re settling for “Red Zone Horizontal WHIPPLE” as your Offensive Coordinator… Well I’ll just leave it there.

Let's Believe
Let's Believe
15 days ago

Let’s see how the rest of the season plays out. I could be wrong but this reminds me of the Wanndstedt era. Lots of hype, and consistently “close” to the program reaching the next level only to be disappointed with losses to teams they have no business losing to. But I feel Pitt is stuck here, look how long it took Pitt to return to stable since Wanndstedt. I don’t think people realize you’re essentially setting the program backwards for the next few years if they go that direction. At the same time, Narduzzi said it best when he said… Read more »

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