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Pitt QB Phil Jurkovec Has An Added Level of Intensity in Preparation



Phil Jurkovec.

Frank Cignetti Jr. still remembers the first start for Phil Jurkovec in the 2020 season. It makes sense considering he was Jurkovec’s offensive coordinator at Boston College way back when.

Jurkovec’s high school coach Eric Kasperowicz had seen it before. And he had told Cignetti to just wait to see it for himself. Cignetti, obviously, had never watched Jurkovec go through his game day prep. But once he had? It changed everything.

“I can remember our first season at Boston College, our first game was against Duke, we really didn’t know what we had there,” Cignetti said Wednesday. “After that game, we knew what we had. We had a guy that, man, when the lights turned on and he stepped across that white line, he was different. From a competitive standpoint, from a leadership standpoint, and just his ability to make plays.”

Jurkovec completed 17-of-23 pass attempts for 300 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 26-6 season-opening win over Duke. And Cignetti could see why Jurkovec was a state champion in football — why he was an All-State performer in both football and basketball.

“He’s a special person,” Cignetti said. “A special athlete.” And he’s back with Cignetti.

It’s a relationship that picked up right where it left off, and it was certainly a major pull when it came to Jurkovec deciding to come home to Pitt, but it’s also not as if Jurkovec becomes a new person on game days. It’s just him.

“I mean, it is intense,” Jurkovec said Wednesday. “It’s an intense game, and I think with me running the ball and being able to take hits, you have to get prepared to — I like the intensity of the game. I think that’s something I’ve always loved. The toughness factor of football that people are coming to take your head off.”

Jurkovec doesn’t think he changes that much. It’s different than practice, of course, but it’s just a different atmosphere. When defensive linemen rush him in games, they’re not going to lay off. They’re going to lay him out if they can. And he doesn’t mind. It’s all about winning.

“Now coming on with Phil, he has done a great job this spring and firing up the huddle and being there for all the guys and stuff like that,” Matt Goncalves said at the ACC Football Kickoff on Wednesday. “I mean, just the leadership that we have every year and the culture that we bring in with our players, it’s outstanding. It all starts with coach Narduzzi and the standard that we set.”

Jurkovec put together a strong spring, all but being named the starting quarterback midway through spring ball, and he performed well during the spring game itself. But his style of play — or any quarterback, really — isn’t conducive for spring ball.

“I think Phil is a gamer, and he had an incredible spring, but I think what we’ll see is how he runs a game,” Narduzzi said during an ACCPM segment at ACC Football Kickoff. “I want to get on the same sideline with him. Someone mentioned at the press conference today how his best game was against us, and I’m like, really? But he had a heckuva game.

“But I wanna see him on game day, I wanna see him lead that team in the huddle and I wanna see him on the sideline with how he interacts with our guys. That’s gonna be the best story. How he leads our football team.”

In 2020, Jurkovec put together his finest performance as an Eagle, completing 19-of-35 pass attempts for 358 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-30 win.

But now, now that he’s a Pitt Panther, it’s all about seeing him lead the team on a game day — how he’s able to lead the team as he paces up and down the sideline — and there’s an expectation to be that leader who pushes Pitt back to the next level. Pitt has been on the receiving end of Jurkovec’s intense pregames, but it’s a whole different level now.

Now Jurkovec will be able to lead Pitt forward that same level of intensity.

“I’ve been thinking about — the last few days — starting this up now, the journey we’re about to go on,” Jurkovec said. “It’s really cool. I think it’s just — there’s a ton of opportunities for this next stretch, so I just want to take it one day at a time and just really enjoy it, making the most of it and appreciating every day because I know this is coming to an end and I only have a limited time here at Pitt.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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1 month ago

I am looking forward to Phil Jurkovec being the difference maker for this years team. Although I hate taking a shot at a young man, Slovis did not have the moxie to lead a Pitt team. Pickett had it and led us to a championship. Jurkovec has that Western Pennsylvania toughness that can will this team to the next champion.

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