When Pat Narduzzi was serving as the defensive coordinator at Cincinnati, he wasn’t responsible for making the decisions regarding the Bearcats’ quarterbacks, but he got to see a lesson first-hand that he wouldn’t forget.
Cincinnati quarterback Gino Guidugli was hurt during a game, and the Bearcats’ staff prepared the entire week under the assumption that he’d be healthy enough to come out the next Saturday and lead the offense without missing a beat. Guidugli came out and was only able to push the ball a few yards downfield. He couldn’t play, and it was a deflating day for Cincinnati. He didn’t want that for Pitt Saturday.
“So, we knew early in the week (Slovis wouldn’t play),” Narduzzi said Saturday night. “I prepared them mentally just know that, ‘Hey, don’t be surprised on Saturday.’ I wanted our guys to be prepared in every respect to make sure we stepped up and did our best efforts for Nate.”
Narduzzi made sure to inform Pitt that Slovis would not be playing and that a new quarterback, the third- or fourth-stringer would be starting. However, while he prepared the team for that outcome, Narduzzi said he wasn’t entirely sure that Slovis wouldn’t play — considering Slovis was cleared to play.
“I can’t say I knew all week, but I didn’t want to play Kedon,” Narduzzi said. “He was cleared to play, he was cleared to play, but I didn’t want to play him. I just felt like we need to find a way to go on the road and find out what Yarnell did. And he could’ve played, he was out there going through warmups, he could’ve played, but I just wasn’t going to do it. I didn’t think it was fair.”
Narduzzi felt like Slovis wasn’t 100% right, and if that was the case, he didn’t want his quarterback taking necessary hits.
“You know, (Slovis) takes one hit, and then we lose him for the next two weeks,” Narduzzi said. “I just didn’t think — I want him being 100%. Maybe he was 98%, but I didn’t want to take any chances and I wanted to go find out what our football team had on the road.”
Yarnell would pick up the start over Derek Kyler Saturday night, completing 9-of-12 passing attempts for 179 yards and a touchdown in his very first game — let alone start — against Western Michigan. It wasn’t as if Pitt opened the playbook for Yarnell, considering he hadn’t played a competitive football game in nearly three years, but he was sharp.
Yarnell ran the offense mistake-free, and he made a few plays that allowed his natural arm talent to pop — including Pitt’s first passing plays of 20+ air yards of the season. It was a strong debut, a 34-13 win over WMU, and with Rhode Island up next, Narduzzi has a choice to make.
Slovis is obviously close to — if not already — 100% healthy. Does he want to slide Slovis back into a game against an FCS opponent or give Yarnell another extended look in a game with less consequences than ACC play?