Pat Narduzzi: Calijah Kancey’s Ejection Was Turning Point in UNC Loss
Pitt had two players ejected in the first half against North Carolina. P.J. O’Brien for an illegal crackback block — which turned into targeting — on a punt return, and Calijah Kancey for his own targeting call on a sliding Drake Maye.
The referees deliberated quickly on both and sent both players off the field, and while O’Brien was a loss on special teams, Kancey was a legitimate loss when it came to winning the game. At least, that’s what Pat Narduzzi heard.
“I thought Kancey’s departure from that game was a turning point,” Narduzzi said Monday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “I even heard their team after the targeting cheering saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got a chance now, we’ve got a chance now.’ That’s something I heard from our guys on the field when that happened, which I thought was interesting because they must have felt the same way.”
Kancey was ejected with 1:38 left in the first half, at a point where Maye and North Carolina had racked up 14 points and trailed by three. Maye escaped the pocket and took off downfield, sliding right before the first down marker, and as he slid down, Kancey’s helmet made contact with a rapidly descending Maye. He was ejected.
The notion of a sliding quarterback being hit in the head has been a heated debate in recent seasons, and Narduzzi couldn’t say for sure if it was the correct call or not.
“You know, it’s hard to say,” Narduzzi said. “I’m not going to criticize the officials. They do an outstanding job. It’s tough. The whole rule is tough. But the guy is going down and you don’t know it. Calijah is going; he doesn’t know he’s going down.
“Before you leave your feet if you knew he was going down then you wouldn’t even do anything. But you’ve got to say it’s a good call because they said it was a good call. But it wasn’t a good call for me on the sideline; I’ll tell you that. It was not one we wanted to lose.”
North Carolina racked up 177 yards and 14 points in the first half against Pitt, 164 of which came directly from Maye himself, and it wasn’t as if Maye was having an easy game. Pitt hit Maye hard in the first half, and Kancey was a big part of that.
In the first half, according to Pro Football Focus, Kancey recorded four quarterback pressures, three hurries and a quarterback hit. Kancey produced a team-best 33.3% win rate on the day.
With just a tackle, his only recorded stat on the day, it didn’t appear that Kancey’s impact was as large as it was, but it became more and more clear as the second half wore on. That inside presence that demanded consistent double teams melted away and Drake Maye found greater success in the second half.
“(Kancey) was pretty much — regardless of tackles or sacks, he was disruptive and he’s been disruptive all year. I think that kind of tells you that.”
Pitt allowed a season-high 42 points to North Carolina, which largely resulted from four straight touchdown drives in the second half. And while the loss of an individual player shouldn’t doom a defense, Kancey’s loss was impactful.
If you have to rely on one player to win, then your team isn’t really that good. And I don’t believe for a second that UNC said “hey we might have a chance to win now.”
Take Drake Maye off of UNC for the 2nd Half and what is the Outcome? Take Patrick Mahomes or Jared Allen off of their NFL teams and see what the Outcome is. Take Hendan Hooker off of UTK. Cancey is as disruptive similar to #99 for LA Rams, it was noticeable. We did not get to Drake Maye in the 2nd Half, he was able to evade the Rush and beat us on his feet several times and on key downs. If the QB is hurried or pressured he does not get to set his feet and throw those 2nd… Read more »
UNCnhas played this way all year long. Slow start then explode in the second half. For you to think this happened because of one player being out is disingenuous.
Mack Brown and his staff thoroughly outcoached the Duzz.
Freshman QB plays ten times better than Slovis.
Narduzzi didn’t really say that did he? What a silly, unbelievable comment. He lost at UNC bc of a single player. It wasn’t due to being outplayed on both sides of the ball? Sometimes you just have to own it and people will respect you more.
What’s he going to say when Kancey shuts it down for the NFL draft (along with a few others)? If they lose this weekend look for a mass exodus.