It’s often said that in order to win a big game, a teams best player must live up to that title and be the best player on the field.
That certainly was the case on Saturday as Kenny Pickett played a near perfect game as Pitt beat Tennessee, 41-34, their first road win against a Power Five non-conference team since 2008.
It can be argued that considering the circumstances that might have been Pickett’s best performance in a Panthers uniform. Sure, he’s had games with more passing yards and touchdown passes but I don’t think he’s ever looked better and more in control than he did in Knoxville. It’s hard to point out a bad pass attempt that he made, a bad decision or even a mistake. Their were no forced passes into double or triple coverage, didn’t miss an open receiver, didn’t take any bad sacks and most importantly made a ton of big completions, especially on third down.
Not only did he make completions, he made a few NFL-type throws, particularly the 11-yard touchdown pass to Melquise Stovall and the 31-yard back shoulder throw to Taysir Mack. Those were big-time throws and no doubt caught the eye of NFL scouts.
Just throw it up to Mr. Mack 🏈
4 catches, 100 yards for 1️⃣1️⃣ on Saturday including this great grab
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) September 12, 2021
Pickett made the decision to return to Pitt to play another season for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, he cares for this football program and considering the talent on the roster, wanted to try and lead them to a special season. So far, so good with that. The other reason is that he believed that he had the opportunity to improve his NFL Draft stock. At best, Pickett would’ve been a late round pick in last April’s draft and in his mind, he was better than that.
Two games into this season, the decision to return looks like a real good one as he’s completed 51 of 73 passes for 557 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and has a quarterback rating of 152.0.
Statistics aside, Pickett has the look of an NFL quarterback and someone that will be better than a 6th or 7th round pick.
I’m sure this next sentence will raise some eyebrows and draw some interesting comments but I mean it. If you ask me who the best quarterback in the ACC conference is, my vote goes for No. 8, Kenny Pickett.
I know all the experts will name either Clemson’s D.J. Uiagalelei or North Carolina’s Sam Howell and those two no doubt have a ton of talent but people around the country need to start realizing that Pickett does too.
His first couple seasons at Pitt, too many people failed to take into consideration that he was dealing with musical offensive coordinators and a roster full of average to below average offensive offensive playmakers. Part of what makes a quarterback successful is talent that he’s surrounded by and the bottom line is that Pitt’s skill position players were lacking. That hasn’t been the case the last two seasons and the results are starting to show.
While Uiagalelei, Howell and others get the headlines, all I know is that if all things are equal and I need someone to quarterback my team in a meaningful ACC game, I’ll pick Pickett everyday of the week. The kid has toughness, is really smart, is a leader, mobility and can make ALL the throws.
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) September 11, 2021
This hasn’t always been the case but thanks to his drive to be better and the work he puts in during the off-season with Mark Whipple and his personal quarterback coach Tony Racioppi, Pickett has worked and developed himself into a star college quarterback and legitimate NFL quarterback prospect.
Quarterback is the most important position on the field and thanks to his decision to return, Pitt is a legitimate contender in the ACC Coastal Conference. Panthers fans, appreciate Pickett because he’s a good one and this is his last year before Pitt has to develop another one.
Missing Pickett is something that no Pitt fans would’ve been saying two years ago but that will be the case in the future because they haven’t had a quarterback as good as him since Dan Marino.