Many opinions have been aired since Pitt’s 27-21 loss on Saturday night.
A majority of the talk has centered on quarterback Phil Jurkovec, which isn’t a surprise. Many expected him to come in and solidify a position that was very much a question mark all of last season.
Only two games have been played and it’s still way too early to come to any conclusions, but if the quarterback play doesn’t improve, it could be a real long season for Pitt.
One way that Jurkovec can improve is by getting some help from his offensive coordinator, Frank Cignetti Jr.
If Jurkovec was the main problem against Cincinnati (and I don’t necessarily believe he was) then his offensive coordinator and offensive line were a close second. A VERY CLOSE SECOND.
At today’s press conference, Pat Narduzzi said that Cignetti regretted starting the game with three straight passes. Looking back at his play calling for the entire game and personnel usage, Cignetti should have a lot more to regret and question himself about.
Here are just a few of his head-scratching decisions that didn’t help Jurkovec and the offense.
Usage of Rodney Hammond:
Barring an undisclosed injury, I have no idea what’s going on with the Pitt running back room. Despite being the best back on their roster, Hammond has only 11 carries this season, getting only six against Cincinnati.
That’s a big mistake. Jurkovec didn’t need to throw 32 passes against Cincinnati and until he gets into more of a grove, the game plan should include more Hammond. In general, Daniel Carter or C’Bo Flemister can’t be receiving more touches than Hammonds.
The ignoring of tight end Gavin Bartholomew continues to be a mystery and the biggest downside of Cignetti’s tenure at Pitt. Why he hasn’t been the top target in Pitt’s pass offense the last two years, I’ll never know. Bartholomew is a complete mismatch for anyone who tries to cover him and he has NFL-type hands and speed. Yet, he’s rarely targeted and when he is, all he does is make catches. If you wanna make Jurkovec a better quarterback, how about targeting him 11 times in a game instead of Bub Means?
Wide Receiver Snaps:
Ultimately, I’m not sure who makes the call on the snaps that the wide receivers get, whether that’s Cignetti or Tiquan Underwood, but whoever it is, Means needs to be on the field a lot less.
Against Cincinnati, Means took 62 snaps and was thrown to, 11 times, which resulted in zero receptions. I was at the game. Passes were thrown his way that should’ve been caught. If he comes down with a few of them, maybe the game changes, or at the very least, Jurkovec starts to get in a rhythm and feels better about himself.
For two years, we’ve been hearing about the athleticism and playmaking ability of Means. That’s yet to show up on the field and until it does, some of the younger receivers should be given an opportunity to turn into a playmaker. Something Means has failed to do.
I’ll start by saying that Cignetti has forgotten more about play-calling than I’ll ever know, BUT that doesn’t mean that I don’t know anything.
First of all, when Pitt trailed in the 4th Quarter, 27-21, and with 5:44 left, it was completely unnecessary to abandon the run and go into a full-blown air raid. Pitt would’ve actually caught Cincinnati off guard. This goes back to forgetting about Hammond.
The other mistake with the play-calling was, why did it seem like the only pass play called, especially in the second half was the go-route (vertical route). I’m not sure if it was because they had zero confidence in the line protecting Jurkovec for more than two or three seconds or they were just hoping to draw a pass interference call. Whatever the case, it didn’t work all game, and aside from a near catch by Daequan Reynolds, they didn’t come close to working.
How about a curl, slant, or an out? Why did nearly everything have to be thrown deep? Made zero sense with a quarterback that wasn’t accurate.
Hey, I get it, the quarterback gets the blame when a team loses, especially when the offense struggles, but Jurkovec was far from the only problem.
The offensive coordinator needs to get a lot better or this season could go south.