There weren’t many who were happy with how Bub Means’ Pitt career began, not with how he was expected to be inserted into the offense as a big-play option for Kedon Slovis, but Means never let it get to him.
Not when he was little used early in the offseason or in the midst of a case of the dropsies that has plagued him at times. He remained upbeat, confident even.
“Bub has been consistent all year,” Pat Narduzzi said following the Virginia win. “Since he got hurt in pregame against Louisville, which could’ve been a big day for him as well, but Bub is such an unselfish guy. In our first scrimmage, I don’t even think he had a catch, and he doesn’t care.”
Means entered the program over the offseason as a transfer from Louisiana Tech, by way of Tennessee, and his blend of size (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) and speed was expected to be a key factor in pushing the football downfield through the air this season. He even earned a starting spot out of training camp.
But when he dropped a would-be touchdown and let the football slip free of his grasp when attempting to juke a WVU defender in the season opener, it was clear that Means had a ways to go in adapting to the offense. To the level of play expected of him.
It took some time to adapt, and even as Konata Mumpfield and Jared Wayne hauled in six passes each against Syracuse last week — with Means not receiving a single target — he didn’t sulk, didn’t pout on the sideline or during practice last week.
So, when Means did haul in a 37-yard catch from Slovis on Pitt’s first offensive series, a beautiful pitch and catch down the sideline, Narduzzi couldn’t have been more pleased. It was exactly as the coaching staff drew up, a perfect deep post route.
Means’ impact continued, hauling in his first touchdown reception on Pitt’s second offensive series, positioning himself perfectly for a 31-yard strike from Slovis in the back of the end zone.
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) November 12, 2022
“(Bub’s) done a great job,” Slovis said following the win. “I think really just more and more getting him an opportunity to do what he does well. I think you’ve seen that speed and burst that he has to run past people. I think just getting him those opportunities has been huge.”
Means hauled in 3-of-4 targets for 90 yards and a touchdown against Virginia, career highs in yards and touchdowns at Pitt, but he valued the win — a bowl-clinching win, no less — more highly than a solid day on the stat sheet.
“I don’t really look at my individual stats too much, as long as we get a win,” Means said following the win. “As long as I get to help the team win.”
With a stat line of 297 yards and a touchdown on 22 receptions (13.5 yards per reception), it hasn’t exactly been a game-breaking season for Means. But he’s also made a jump from 5.2% of his snaps in the slot last season at Louisiana Tech to 56.1% of his snaps in the slot this season.
According to Pro Football Focus, he’s caught 22-of-33 targets (a career-high 66.7% catch rate) this season. But he’s dropped a few crucial balls this season, too.
The first drop came against WVU, a perfectly-thrown Slovis deep ball bouncing off his hands after he worked his way into space behind the secondary.
The next came a week later against Tennessee, unable to haul in an off-platform Slovis throw — on what was expected to be a free play due to defensive holding that was then called back — that bounced off his hands and into the waiting arms of Tennessee’s Trevon Flowers.
And even against Virginia, in the second half, Means let a football bounce off his hands on a throw that only gave him a chance to haul it in.
But despite the drop against Virginia, a pass that would likely love to have back, Means’ breakout performance — as just a redshirt sophomore this season — was, admittedly for Means, an amazing feeling.
“At the beginning of the season, we did have a few drops, but we stayed consistent,” Means said. “We just worked on it, everything that we did in practice is showing right now.”
Means’ touchdown reception came in the first half, in the first quarter, to be accurate, at a time when Pitt’s offense felt emboldened by 14 defensive points. There were no doubts about two very, very precise offensive possessions in the first quarter.
The Slovis to Means connection hasn’t always been open this season, but when given a chance, it shined against Virginia. It likely won’t be the last sunny day between the two either.