MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Christian Veilleux stood rooted to the sideline throughout the second half, helmet in hand, watching as Phil Jurkovec trotted back onto the field with the offense.
It’s only guesswork at this point, but it’s hard to believe he’d have been any worse running Pitt’s offense into the ground in an embarrassing 17-6 loss to West Virginia Saturday night at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va.
Jurkovec completed just 40% of his pass attempts for 81 yards and three interceptions, one in the first and two in the second, and he somehow managed to look worse than he did against Cincinnati in the process. Pitt managed just 211 total yards. The defense, despite allowing a big night from WVU’s CJ Donaldson, had a strong performance wasted in the process.
And, just to be fair, it was a brutal night for the entire offense. Not just Jurkovec. But he is the No. 1 culprit.
It was a brutal night for Pitt in general at Mountaineer Field, a poor return to Morgantown for the first time in 11 years. And what makes it even worse is that Pitt opened the game by operating an offense that looked like it could, maybe, score some points.
It took Pitt three drives to hit the 10-play mark against Cincinnati. It took just the opening drive against WVU, running — only running actually — 11 plays to set up Ben Sauls for a 21-yard field goal to open the scoring.
Rodney Hammond Jr., who carried the ball just six times against Cincy, racked up seven carries for 41 yards on the opener. But any sort of offensive rhythm disappeared rather quickly.
When Pat Narduzzi said Thursday that he wanted to run the ball 50 times, he actually meant it. Pitt’s first 17 plays consisted of 16 runs and one Phil Jurkovec play-action bootleg. Whether it was penalties or poor field position or a lack of trust (hint, hint), Pitt didn’t even attempt a pass.
WVU, with backup quarterback Nicco Marchiol subbed in for an injured Garrett Greene, completed the same number of passes (3) for more yards (35) in the first half. And Marchiol didn’t throw the back interception that Jurkovec did either.
Pitt killed a WVU scoring chance midway through the second quarter, with Bam Brima leaping on top of a botched handoff between Marchiol and CJ Donaldson, and Pitt looked poised to run the ball some more. But on the first snap of the drive, Jurkovec was flushed out of the pocket, scrambled toward the sideline and fired an ill-advised ball into triple coverage that was picked off by WVU’s Aubrey Burks.
Marchiol found jumbo tight end Kole Taylor for a 7-yard touchdown on the next WVU snap, giving the Mountaineers an early 7-3 lead. Pitt added a field goal just before the halftime break, a 36-yarder from Sauls, but the entire 12-play drive felt like pulling teeth.
And after another Pitt three and out to open the second half, WVU executed a perfect 13-play, 61-yard drive that chewed up nearly eight minutes and resulted in a Donaldson touchdown. An 8-point deficit felt like an insurmountable hurdle.
Another horrific Jurkovec interception, firing another ill-advised ball into triple coverage that WVU’s Beanie Bishop picked off with ease, continued a nightmare evening for Pitt fans. A 42-yard field goal on the ensuing drive just stretched WVU’s further.
A couple of true freshmen combining on a blocked punt (Rasheem Biles blocking it, and Braylan Lovelace recovering it) set up Pitt with good field position and a chance to make a late push. But the WVU defensive line stuffed Jurkovec on 4th-and-1 inside the Mountaineers’ 30. And that just about wrapped it up.
Aside from a third interception from WVU’s Malachi Ruffin late in the fourth quarter as Pitt tried to score before the buzzer.
Pitt’s non-conference schedule will now be on the back burner until Halloween weekend as Pitt welcomed No. 20 North Carolina to Acrisure Stadium. It will be the first ACC game of the season.