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Ludwig: Can’t Help But Wonder ‘What If’ After Nick Patti Leads Sun Bowl Comeback

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If Nick Patti did one thing against UCLA, he made sure to give Ben Sauls a chance.

The stats don’t jump off the page (just under 300 yards of total offense with a touchdown and an interception) and the interception was brutal. But man, you could tell Patti wanted to win the Sun Bowl.

When it mattered most, with 34 seconds in the fourth quarter and no timeouts left, Patti was ice-cold. He hit both of his throws, picking 18 yards and then 17 more. And with 20 seconds from the UCLA 40, he decided to scramble.

If UCLA had dragged him down before the marker, the clock likely would’ve hit zero before Patti would’ve been able to spike the football.

Instead, he was flushed from the pocket, decided to take off, split two would-be UCLA tacklers and bounced across the line to gain for the biggest first down of the game.

“So, I was thinking in my head, you gotta get a first down because the clock’s gonna be running,” Patti said after the win. “So, I think I got hit short, and I had the time clock in my head, and I’m like, ‘Aw, I’m probably at eight or nine yards here, so I gotta break the tackle.’ Broke the tackle, looked up, had it by a yard.”

Patti spiked the ball with 10 seconds on the clock, Ben Sauls trotted onto the field to nail a game-winning 47-yard field goal and push Pitt to a 37-35 win. It was perfection.

“I never thought about leaving even when Kenny was gone, we brought in Kedon, I just had all the confidence in the world in myself,” Patti said. “Obviously didn’t go my way, but as you said, just stepping in a big moment today, it was great to get a win.”

Patti completed 20-of-41 pass attempts for 232 yards with a touchdown and a pick, and he added 72 yards on the ground. It wasn’t perfect, he made a mistake or two, but he got the job done when it mattered most.

When Patti was hit hard, especially toward the end of the first half and his helmet bounced off the turf, he missed just two plays before running back out onto the field. It was a performance that embodied the heart and soul of Pitt football — and the pure desire to win.

It was a performance that sometimes felt like was lacking at Pitt this season.

It was a performance that makes Pat Narduzzi’s seemingly blind loyalty to Kedon Slovis all season that much more of a ‘what if?’

Slovis was brought in from USC to replace Kenny Pickett. There wasn’t any doubt that he was going to start the season for Pitt against West Virginia, and to his credit, he’s a quarterback with a talented arm who just never seemed to click in Pittsburgh, but he was largely a non-factor for most of the season.

The Tennessee game, with both Slovis and Patti picking up injuries, was a near miss. But it was a good loss to the Orange Bowl champion — a team that crushed Clemson 31-14.

In losses to Georgia Tech and Louisville, Slovis didn’t make an impact. Aside from some turnovers. I don’t know what Patti would’ve done in Slovis’ shoes, and he did miss some time to injury, but in Patti’s lone start this season, Pitt rallied around him. He was a beloved teammate and leader.

Pitt didn’t need a Kenny Pickett to be successful in 2022. It was a successful season. But I can’t help but wonder what Pitt would’ve been able to accomplish with a beloved leader and savvy veteran athlete at quarterback this season either. Hindsight is 20/20, but Patti never appeared to be a consideration.

It’s a moot point now, especially after what certainly was a successful 9-4 season, but if Pitt does ride with Patti this season, who knows where the season ends up. Maybe better? Maybe worse? Maybe a few more wins?

One thing is certain though, Nick Patti — no matter how many starts he made at Pitt — embodies what it means to be a Pitt man.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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david ryan
david ryan
1 month ago

One thing to describe Nick Patti is that he has guys and plays his heart out.

david ryan
david ryan
1 month ago

Guts

Tom D
Tom D
1 month ago

Its always what if with Narduzzi. He loved Joey Yellen, Max Browne and Slovis. Just loves those shiny toys. But Patti shouldn’t have been passed over. Not sure the record would have been better/worse, but Narduzzi tried everything to lose that game yesterday. Credit to the team. The 4th down shotgun formation fumble was a terrible call. same as the pick six. terrible play call. In the end they overcame to win. So that was a nice end.

Reese26
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom D

If you watched the play, Narduzzi didn’t throw the pass did he? That was Cignetti’s call, and the pass was intercepted because the blitz wasn’t picked up to the side of the field for the screen. Patti had to loft the pass to get it over the blitz, and that’s how it was picked. Where is Narduzzi to blame in that? Yellen and Browne hadn’t done anything to cause Narduzzi to not look to the portal, and if you noticed, they left. In hindsight, was Slovis the right QB to bring in here? Obviously not, but he had the pedigree… Read more »

Bob Landel
Bob Landel
1 month ago
Reply to  Reese26

I don’t believe Slovis has close to the ability of Patti; quickness and mobility alone. Yellen and Browne also didn’t have it. After Browne got hurt he bowed out of football. Whipple actually made the statement: wondering why some QB’s stayed with the PITT program. Later, Yellen found Hawaii as a transfer home. How did he do?
You take the best player you can get in the transfer pool. If it doesn’t work, a winning coach should look elsewhere. This Narduzzi didn’t do. He screwed Patti. I wonder what the team feels about their head coach today.

Pittband
Pittband
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom D

PN didn’t panic and throw the interception. The blitzing defender caused bad decision. The 4th down call was made because the crosswind made a field goal questionable.
Disagree with you totally.

Tony M.
Tony M.
1 month ago
Reply to  Pittband

Narduzzi is the head coach, he had a horrible game. There passed from the 5 yard line instead of running the ball and the clock. Passing up the field goal on 4th down, Saul’s was 4 for 4 and kicking extremely well. Back to back timeouts – inexcusable. Pitt plays hard for him but is coaching ability is subpar

Tom D
Tom D
1 month ago
Reply to  Tony M.

Tony I completely agree. Can’t field the defense with 11 players after the TO. Then having to burn yet a 2nd timeout. They won in spite of the poor coaching. Not sure how you can explain it any other way. PN has been a terrible game day manager. Go back to his first two seasons–zero adjustments on defense, awful time outs. I get all the positive elements to the program, but he’s got lots of shit to clean up from a game day perspective

Bob Landel
Bob Landel
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom D

Tom D, agree with a lot you say.

Student section
Student section
1 month ago

Slovis is the better passer, but the OC is not a good modern passing game coordinator. Patti fits the Cignetti system better.

Reese26
1 month ago

Cignetti runs a pro set, run first offense. It’s basically what you see most NFL teams run that have a competent QB. It’s why Pickett was a 1st round pick; he’s athletic, can make plays on his own but also knows how to manage an offense.

QB’s like Slovis are a dime a dozen in college football; he’ll be selling used cars in two years.

Bob Landel
Bob Landel
1 month ago

You base your comment about Slovis being the better passer on what fact? The young man made the decision to leave PITT before he had the offer from BYU. He knew how badly he played. I think Patti can play in any system.

Gus Polinski
Gus Polinski
1 month ago

Patti sucks. Nate made the best pass for us yesterday and we’re MUCH better off with Jurkovec moving forward. Slovis was the clear choice this past season.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  Gus Polinski

Slovis is a headache. Patti is was and always will be better than slovis.

Rooster
Rooster
1 month ago
Reply to  Gus Polinski

Don’t be a dick Gus

Bob Landel
Bob Landel
1 month ago
Reply to  Gus Polinski

Gus, Patti is the main reason PITT won the Sun Bowl. Don’t understand Narduzzi’s sightless choice of Slovis. From the Spring on, it was obvious Slovis didn’t have the right stuff. He didn’t play well against UWV (defense won that game) or Tenn. From then on all of Slovis play was down hill. What Narduzzi did to Patti is unforgiveable.

I think Jurkovec will be a positive get for PITT; shows Cignetti is liked.
I would like to see Patti signed by an NFL team.

Burton Tee
Burton Tee
1 month ago

No “what ifs”.

PN should have benched Slovis during the GT game. If he does that, Pitt wins 11 games and is in the top 10.

Anyone that watch’s Pitt football can honestly tell you that under Narduzzi, his teams are very undisciplined, no adjustments are made, and his use of TOs is idiotic.

Add his mishandling of QBs this season, and we all how what SHOULD have been done.

Dave
Dave
1 month ago
Reply to  Burton Tee

No adjustments? I’m pretty sure the defense adjusted in the second half

Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave

They ran man coverage every game all game
That’s why passing teams
always torch us. That shit worked against 2000’s big ten teams but it’s time has gone unless we have a 45 points per game offense to offset it.

Dave
Dave
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob

Worked against 20 teams over the last 2 years

Burton Tee
Burton Tee
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave

Go back and watch the season Dave. PN is so stubborn on defense that he refused to get out of man coverage at all, all season long. Never went to zone, and it cost Pitt two games.

Check it out.

And no, he made no changes on defensive in the Sun bowl. They just played better.

Bob Landel
Bob Landel
1 month ago
Reply to  Burton Tee

No question Narduzzi’s ability and judgements are seriously questioned after this past season. With Patti, would PITT have won beaten Ga. Tech and Louisville? I think yes.

Eli
Eli
1 month ago

The tough thing here is that Patti was clearly banged up in that Tennessee game. Not sure when he would have been healthy enough to really tempt the coaching staff to make a change. Not in the GT game, anyway.

Eric payne
Eric payne
1 month ago

It is ALWAYS better to look forward than to look back. Great game ,great win. This is the start of the 2023 season.

RonDon
RonDon
1 month ago

I like Patti, he plays his heart out and is tough, but he plays a little reckless. Let’s say he comes in and replaces Slovis in the L’Ville game and then starts the UNC game. We win that one and play for an ACC championship. Maybe we beat Clemson, I like our chances. This is a lot of ifs and as I said, Patti goes balls to the wall, so who knows if he can maintain his health and then we have to go back to Slovis anyway. Overall, good season though. H2P

Bob Landel
Bob Landel
1 month ago
Reply to  RonDon

RonDon, lots of maybe’s and if’s there. Let’s face it with Patti playing PITT is a better team.

Reese26
1 month ago

While I like Patti, there;s a reason he didn’t start this year and why they picked up Slovis in the portal. Patti is a D1 athlete, but that’s his ceiling. If there was anything more to Patti that what you saw, he wouldn’t be at Pitt right now. He’s a depth guy that has been with the program for a long time and his teammates will play balls to the wall for him, but that’s all he is. Now, is Slovis head and shoulders better? Based on pure QB ability yes.Based on Pitt’s offense, no. Slovis is a spread QB,… Read more »

Giovanni
Giovanni
1 month ago
Reply to  Reese26

After watching yesterday’s game and observing Slovis all season, I’d definitely rate Patti above Slovis. Slovis does have more natural talent but Patti plays gritty and with a sense of urgency. He also brings out the best in his teammates (Slovis, not). Patti’s intangible attributes just leads to him uncovering more ways to win — even if the path to victory doesn’t look pretty.

Bob Landel
Bob Landel
1 month ago
Reply to  Reese26

Reese26, you make all your statements based on what? The extensive study of the “many games” played by both athletes especially Patti. You wrote a lot of words based on your opinion only, no facts.

Dixon
Dixon
1 month ago

One thing for certain, Nick Patti handled himself with a lot more class than UCLA’s DTR. The kid ran his mouth all day, head butted Marquis Williams, left the field when his team was down, only to return after they took the lead…found it easy to dislike the kid.

Reese26
1 month ago

Look, people need to stop comparing Pitt QB’s to Pickett; that’s like comparing the QB;s that followed Marino to him, and Marino didn’t win a national championship.

Pitt won their last National Championship in 1976; of those players on that team. how many are named Matt Cavanaugh that had a successful NFL career and are in the CFB HOF? Try zero.

The good Pitt teams always do two things very well; run the ball and play defense. That’s been the history of the program and always will be because of where they play their home games, Pittsburgh.

Rooster
Rooster
1 month ago

Frankly I wish we never heard of Slovis and I’m not convinced that Nate Yarnell isn’t the best QB prospect on this year’s roster.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rooster
Maz1960
Maz1960
1 month ago

If I were to venture a guess, I would think Narduzzi learned a lesson this year. He by his actions was enamored with the bright shiny object from USC at the expense of his own nature. He had to know by watching Slovis perform that he did not have the toughness that has defined the players on the Pitt roster. He showed loyalty to the kid he recruited hard from the transfer portal at the expense of the season. That is why you are seeing tough minded kids like Jurkovic and Veilleux being recruited to play QB in a Cignetti… Read more »

Giovanni
Giovanni
1 month ago
Reply to  Maz1960

Patti showed Pickett-like leadership. The team played harder as Patti made them believe through his own toughness and determination. Slovis is a fail when it comes to these critical attributes for winning.

Last edited 1 month ago by Giovanni
Bob Landel
Bob Landel
1 month ago

 Karl Ludwig, problem was the PGN SN and all the media were praising and anointing Slovis the “second coming of Dan Marino” before we saw him throw a pass in the Spring game. From that scrimmage on, I shook my head and said to all he is NOT the real deal.

Rooster
Rooster
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob Landel

Now do you think BYU will be patient enough to let him flounder around for 8 games until he masters the offense ?

Last edited 1 month ago by Rooster

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