It’s pretty clear — statistically or otherwise — that Phil Jurkovec is the worst ACC quarterback through the first one-fourth of the 2023 season.
So, it isn’t surprising that the rest of Pitt’s offensive statistics also lag well behind its ACC peers — or languish in the conference’s basement with Virginia and Virginia Tech. Pitt is better defensively, on a brighter note.
There have already been three ACC games played this season, with Duke, Florida State and Louisville sitting atop the standings, but conference play really kicks off this weekend. And over the next two months, the ACC will be decided on the field.
Pitt has a tough ACC schedule, with four ranked opponents (if you count Notre Dame…) on deck, and the first to arrive is No. 17 North Carolina this weekend. It’s another primetime game for Pitt and UNC, with a start time set for 8 p.m. under the lights at Acrisure Stadium. It will be a very, very tough test against a Tar Heels offense that ranks considerably better than Pitt.
So, with three games down and nine to go this season, let’s take a look at where Pitt sits in the conference. There are 14 ACC schools, for reference.
Points/Game: 24.0 points (12th)
Touchdowns: 9 (12th)
Total Yards/Game: 321.3 yards (13th)
Passing Yards/Game: 178.0 yards (14th)
Rushing Yards/Game: 143.3 yards (12th)
3rd Down Conversions: 41.5% (10th)
QB Phil Jurkovec: 35-of-75 (46.7%) for 474 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions
RB Daniel Carter: 21 carries for 103 yards (4.9 yards per attempt) and a touchdown
TE Gavin Bartholomew: 7 receptions for 157 yards (22.4 yards per catch) and a touchdown
Pretty damning stuff here. The Pitt offense is certifiably bad, and that largely stems from poor quarterbacking and poor play-calling.
After 45 points against Wofford in the season opener, Pitt managed just 21 points against Cincinnati two weekends ago and six against West Virginia last weekend. Somehow, the offense has looked worse and worse over the first three games, too.
It starts with Phil Jurkovec. He’s the most inaccurate and least efficient quarterback in the ACC, with the fewest passing yards to match, and it’s limited any sort of offensive rhythm and production.
But the offensive line has taken some time to get into shape, the wide receivers have dropped a ball here and there and Frank Cignetti Jr.’s play-calling hasn’t exactly caused problems for opposing defenses. If Pitt is to climb out of the current hole though, it simply has to start with competent quarterback play.
Pitt is 12th in points per game, 13th in total yards per game, 14th in passing yards per game and 12th in rushing yards per game. That’s the formula for a conference-worst offense.
And the schedule will only get harder as conference play begins this week.
Points/Game: 17.0 points per game (5th)
Touchdowns: 6 (5th)
Total Yards: 236.0 yards (1st)
Passing Yards/Game: 114.0 (1st)
Rushing Yards/Game: 122.0 (11th)
3rd Down Conversions: 29.7% (3rd)
S Donovan McMillon: 26 tackles (12 solo) and a pass breakup
DE Dayon Hayes: 7 tackles (4 solo), two tackles for loss, two sacks and a pass breakup
CB Marquis Williams: 5 tackles (2 solo), a half tackle for loss and one interception
The defense, even though the numbers are slightly misleading, is certainly in a better place than the offense.
Pitt has Wofford and two Big 12 teams that ran heavily against Pitt. So, the total yards per game allowed and total passing yards per game allowed will certainly not hold, but that doesn’t mean the defense cannot — and will not — hold amongst the better in the conference.
Pitt is allowing 17 points per game, and a touchdown came courtesy the refs against Wofford, 10 points came before anyone could blink against Cincinnati and offensive turnovers gifted WVU 10 points, and that number could look even better.
But Wofford, Cincinnati and WVU aren’t exactly murders’ row either. Competition will pick up in a major way this weekend against Drake Maye and UNC. Pitt’s defense will be tested.
Through the one-fourth mark of the season, I’d say the Pitt defense has done its job. It’s given Pitt chances to win games, and the offense hasn’t capitalized.
The run defense still needs to be fine-tuned, and the elite levels of pressure on opposing quarterbacks haven’t arrived yet, but Pitt has shown promising progression through three weeks. It will need even more as ACC play starts.