If not for Gavin Bartholomew, and Rodney Hammond Jr. at times, the Pitt offense would be a black hole this season. 88th in scoring offense, 114th in total offense, 107th in passing offense, 89th in rushing offense.
And that’s bolstered by 45 points and 491 yards of offense against Wofford. Pitt is averaging 17 points and 259 total yards per game against Power Five opponents this season, which would be 122nd and 128th, respectively, in the NCAA.
Frank Cignetti Jr. has been uninspiring in his play-calling, offensive scheme and personnel decisions, Phil Jurkovec has been a detriment to his team and the offensive line has taken far too long to get rolling. And maybe the biggest breakout candidate of the summer has been a complete no-show through four games.
Bub Means — who the coaching staff pointed to as a dynamic playmaker in the summer — has just six receptions for 71 yards this season. He hasn’t stretched the field, he hasn’t scored a touchdown and he’s been struggling to make any sort of impact this season.
“I think we have to find more ways to get it to Bub and Konata and Gavin and Karter and all of those guys, but it ends up being, who are they covering? It’s a bad decision by the quarterback if he throws it to a guy because he likes him or thinks he’s gonna be open,” Narduzzi said Thursday at his weekly press conference. “You can’t think he’s going to be open, he’s either open or he’s not, and you have to go through your progressions as a quarterback.”
It would be unfair to pin Means’ struggles solely on his own play, the quarterback play between Jurkovec and Christian Veilleux has left little be desired, but Means hasn’t been able to be the difference-maker that Pitt needed.
Means has played just about every offensive snap this season, logging 235 offensive snaps (128 passing snaps), according to PFF. That’s 88% of offensive snaps this season.
And he’s turned all those snaps into just six receptions on 22 targets — 71 yards and no touchdowns. It’s a small sample size, but that 27.3 reception percentage is easily the lowest amongst Pitt receivers with at least 20 targets over the last decade.
Pitt has used Means almost solely as a deep option this season, with an average depth of target sitting at 20.6 yards, but it’s resulted in just one catch in 12 targets 20 yards or more downfield. He has just 20 yards after the catch, and he hasn’t hauled in any of his seven contested catch opportunities.
Narduzzi said it’s a little bit of everything when it comes to Means’ struggles this season.
“He starts off against Cincinnati and has a great catch on the sideline,” Narduzzi said. “Unfortunately, he’s out of bounds. That’s where it started.”
Means was targeted 11 times in a loss to Cincinnati earlier this month, and he wasn’t able to haul in a single catch. There were some passes behind him, sailed out of bounds or otherwise in a tough position, but Means couldn’t come up with anything. He wasn’t credited with a drop, but he didn’t make life easier for his quarterback.
“But Bub is such a great kid,” Narduzzi said. “He’s so enthusiastic. He’s positive all the time. He loses 10 pounds a day. I looked at him yesterday and he just had sweat rolling down his legs. He’s the only one like that. This guy works his tail off and I want to see better results for him.
“But sometimes he rushes his work. He’ll just, ‘I’m fast, so I’m going to get there,’ instead of doing it with technique, so that will help him. It’s also some of the coverages they run have taken him out of it as well. So, it depends on what they’re doing back there, but we have to get Bub going because he’s a big-play threat.”
Means has all the tools in the world. He’s big, fast and by all account, he’s someone who cares. But it just hasn’t translated to success on the field. It would be easy to point to the lack of synergy across the entire offense as to why he’s struggled, but Bartholomew and Konata Mumpfield have both been solid — if not great — at times.
Means had three targets against West Virginia, hauling in two passes for 25 yards. He had four targets against North Carolina, hauling in two passes for seven yards. If the albatross against Cincy is removed, he’s caught six passes on 11 targets for 71 yards. Not good but not nearly as bad.
It’s time to accept that Means is what he is. A big, fast wide receiver who — should — be good for a deep ball every game or so. No more, no less.