Kedon Slovis made his first start last night as the Pitt Panthers starting quarterback and from all accounts, he came away with mixed reviews.
Slovis finished the evening 16 of 24 for 308 yards, 1 touchdown and zero interceptions.
Despite what on paper looked like a good night, I’ve heard and read many people micromanaging his performance. Frankly, I’m shocked at the nitpicking that’s being done but the more I think about it, I’m not shocked because we are talking about the most scrutinized position on the football field.
Hey, I get it, Pitt fans are excited about the trajectory of their football program and how much the expectations have risen. That’s fine but at the same time, people have to be fair and realistic about those expectations.
The first thing that needs to be remembered is that Slovis is not and will never be the current face and the poster boy of Pitt football Kenny Pickett. No. 8 had a magical 2021 season, and his arm led the Panthers to unprecedented heights but that’s in the past and as hard as it may be to do, fans have to cherish those memories but move on who’s on the field this season.
In no quarterback expert but I saw nothing last night that has me worried about who’s leading Pitt’s offense.
The two critiques that I have of Slovis are that 1) he held onto the ball a little too long taking a sack instead of throwing it away. From all accounts to his time at USC, that’s something that he’s done and I’m sure Frank Cignetti will talk to him about it and work to improve it because those unnecessary sacks are drive killers. 2) Slovis needs to get the ball out of his hands a tad earlier and anticipate where a receiver is going to be instead of waiting for him to be open to throw it. This point is something that I have no doubt that Slovis will improve upon, and it will occur with familiarity with his news receivers and playing in a new offense.
Practice reps and throwing in the offseason with your receivers is one thing but doing it live game action against a Power Five opponent and doing it the sort of atmosphere that Slovis competed in last night is entirely different.
All of that aren’t excuses, they’re simply reality.
If you remember and I do because I wrote about it, fans and media had strong opinions about Pickett as he went into his junior season. People wanted Pat Narduzzi to replace Pickett with another quarterback because of the lack of productivity in Pitt’s passing attack. Too many people failed to take into consideration the lack of weapons Pickett had to work with up until that point and how bad Shawn Watson was as offensive coordinator.
I’m not saying that Slovis is going to turn into a Heisman Trophy contender and a first-round pick like Pickett did, but I saw enough that showed me that Slovis is going to be more than fine once he gets settled in and comfortable with his surroundings.
The poise that he showed on the game-tying 4th quarter touchdown drive, knowing that he needed to lead Pitt to a touchdown, and he did just that. A couple of those completions to Konata Mumpfield were big-time throws. Earlier in the game, he made a couple of NFL level completions to Bub Means and in the 2nd quarter to Mumpfield prior to the Rodney Hammond 4-yard touchdown run.
The most important thing to come out of last night’s historic Backyard Brawl was that Pitt came out winners. I have a feeling that considering the weapons he has around him and the talented arm that he possesses, with a little patience, Slovis is going to lead Pitt to a lot more wins over his career.