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Pitt Offensive Coordinator Frank Cignetti Stays Firm in Phil Jurkovec as the Starting QB

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Pitt football quarterback Phil Jurkovec

PITTSBURGH —Pitt offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. has had a close relationship with redshirt senior quarterback Phil Jurkovec for a few years at the collegiate level.

Cignetti served as the offensive coordinator at Boston College for two seasons in 2020 and 2021, with Jurkovec serving as his signal caller. The two had great success in the COVID-19 impacted 2020 season, with Jurkovec throwing for 2,558 yards, 17 touchdowns to just five interceptions, a 149.9 passer rating and a 61.0% pass completion. He also showed his ability as a duel threat quarterback running for 322 yards and five touchdowns.

The 2021 seasons didn’t end up as good, with Jurkovec only playing six games due to injury. Cignetti would leave for the same position at Pitt for the 2022 season and worked with Kedon Slovis as his quarterback.

Slovis’ time with the Panthers saw many poor moments, such as a streak of three games without a touchdown pass and only 10 touchdown throws to nine interceptions in 2022.

When Slovis chose to leave Pitt and Jurkovec also put his name in the transfer portal after last season, it wasn’t long before Cignetti reached out to him and convinced him to come back home.

The former WPIAL star out of Pine-Richland should be in the best position to finish out his collegiate career on top and go on to the NFL. His performance so far in two games this season, might show why this isn’t the case.

Jurkovec had a solid home opener against FCS opponent Wofford, throwing for 214 yards and touchdown, completing 17 of 23 passes, while also rushing for 41 yards and a touchdown in the 45-7 win.

This play did not translate into Week 2 against Cincinnati last Saturday, as he completed just 10 of his 32 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns. His 31.2% passes completed is the lowest of his career with that many throws. The only game that he had a lower percentage for completed passes was the 2021 regular season finale against Wake Forest, where he made just three of his 11 throws.

Many of those passes did not go anywhere near their intended target either. This resulted in horrendous throws and a lack of rhythm offensively between Jurkovec and his wide receivers. Redshirt senior Bub Means, the No. 1 wide receiver on the Panthers, had 11 targets in the game and had no catches at all.

Despite the poor performance, Cignetti still has great faith in his signal caller going forward and knows he’ll get it right soon.

“It’s not the first rough game that Phil and I have been through together,” Cignetti said. “So I know how he responds. He loves football, he loves his teammates, he is an unbelievable competitor. He always looks at himself first and I know he’s really looking forward to getting back out there and playing again. The guy loves to compete, loves to play.”

Jurkovec also didn’t endear himself to fans following the River City Rivalry loss, with his post game comments. It took Pitt fans some time to turn on Slovis, but many have voiced their displeasure, either last Saturday or on social media, or both, on Jurkovec.

Cignetti worked with Jurkovec Sunday morning in the film room to figure out what went wrong. Cignetti didn’t specify what exactly they discussed, but that Jurkovec took responsibility and is ready to lead the Panthers going forward.

“Phil is the ultimate competitor and he puts himself first,” Cignetti said. “First thing he said to me was, ‘Hey, I’m going to play better.’ And we know he will. Every quarterback has gone through that. But when I saw him the next morning, I could tell that after watching the tape, he was like, “Hey. We’re going to be good to go.” 

The Pitt offensive line didn’t have a great showing either in the loss, which hurt Jurkovec’s performance, to some extent. Cincinnati made five sacks on Jurkovec, some of which saw Pitt fail to block pass rushers on their way to demolishing their quarterback.

“When quarterbacks get hit early and often, it’s hard and it multiplies,” Cignetti said. “You put them in a tough situation. Our [pass-protection] must improve.”

Cignetti, like Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi, never had any thought of benching Jurkovec throughout his disappointing performance last weekend. There are many Panthers fans that want to see Penn State transfer redshirt sophomore Christian Veilleux, or even redshirt sophomore Nate Yarnell take charge of games if Jurkovec can’t be effective as a passer.

During that film session Sunday morning, Cignetti liked what he saw from Jurkovec against Cincinnati and said that people weren’t talking about the “great plays” that were made by Jurkovec throughout the game.

“Not one time did I think about changing quarterbacks,” Cignetti said. “We have a starting quarterback, a backup and a third and I treat them all the same. I love all three guys and as the course of the game went, there was no reason to change.”

Pitt takes on rival West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl this Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in Morgantown, with the game also televised on ABC in front of the entire nation. Jurkovec will need to play much better in this game if Pitt are to get an important victory and get their season back on track.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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On Campus Stadium Please
On Campus Stadium Please
9 months ago

Phil puts himself first….we sure could tell that at the podium the other day. Stubbornness is a Duzz and Cig trait. He’s not the best QB on the roster but good luck

MDtkd
MDtkd
9 months ago

we will stick with him through thick and thin. Great? Cigs has mentioned several times that Phil sometimes has bad games and is inconsistent, why does that make him the starting QB at Pitt?

kevin
kevin
9 months ago

Is it me or does his mechanics just look like a HS QB? WE ALL WANT TO LIKE HIM. He’s a home town hero! But he looks terrible throwing the ball!!! He’s inaccurate, no zip on the ball, and can’t look off the primary receiver. PLUS… doesn’t run when 10+ yds are in front of him.
H2P!

Hudie Evans
Hudie Evans
9 months ago

If the fans can’t boo a sorry ass QB then please lower the price of the tickets.This is a high price f High School Football team faking to be an NCAA team

Giovanni
Giovanni
9 months ago

Nick Patti, PLEASE come back. The Pitt team needs you! Oh, wait, forget about it since the coaches will only play past ‘promising’ transfer QB’s who performed way below expectations before even enrolling at Pitt. One would think that the coaches would have learned their lesson/overcome their insistent stubbornness, after Patti fully proved that a non-transfer can pull-off a miracle-like comeback victory (i.e. last year’s Bowl game against UCLA) via pure grit and real leadership. ‘Acres of Diamonds’…

Sharon
Sharon
9 months ago
Reply to  Giovanni

Patti does not want anything to do with Cignetti. He would have played another year if we had any OC other than Cignetti.

srs28704
srs28704
9 months ago
Reply to  Sharon

How about Chad Powers the walk-on at PSU or Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite? Does Paul Blake from Texas State have any eligibility left?

Give him a 2nd Act and if it is another flop get the shepherd hook ready.

Tony
Tony
9 months ago

What a joke. There was no response last year when Slovus fell off a cliff and we are going to repeat that mistake, one of the problems is that Cignetti is overmatched also. Disappointing.

Clark Martineau
Clark Martineau
9 months ago

Give Jurkovec one half. If he can’t get it together, bring on Veilleux or Yarnell.
Benching will make him try harder. Enough with the excuses, enough with the you’ll break his confidence by benching him. This is college football in the ACC, you either produce or you sit. I saw Majors change QBs in games. It worked for Pitt then, why not now.

srs28704
srs28704
9 months ago

Lee Majors or Johnny?

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