Connect with us

Pitt Football

Pat Narduzzi’s History Of Benching Starting Quarterbacks



Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi.

Pitt football head coach Pat Narduzzi is in his ninth season at the helm and has reportedly, benched starting quarterback in redshirt senior Phil Jurkovec.

Jurkovec went 1-4 as starter, the Panthers’ worst start to a season since 2005. This features losses to rivals Cincinnati and West Virginia along with an 0-2 ACC record, with losses to then ranked No. 17 North Carolina in Week 4 and a 38-21 loss to Virginia Tech on the road last weekend.

He only completed 50.9% of his passes, second worst in the FBS, and led a Pitt offense that is  last in the ACC in total yards and passing yards per game, respectively, and second lowest in offensive efficiency.

The change, which comes with the bye week for the Panthers, is not the first time that Narduzzi has changed starting quarterbacks during his time with the program.

Chad Voytik had started the all of 2014, the final season of Paul Chryst’s tenure at Pitt. He faced a battle for the starting position in 2015 as Narduzzi joined the program, and so too did Tennessee transfer Nathan Peterman.

Voytik would start in the 2015 season opener against FCS opponent Youngstown State, completing nine of 14 passes for 72 yards, a touchdown and an interception along with a rushing touchdown in the 45-37 win.

He then started against Akron on the road the following week, where he completed six of eight passes for 32 yards, but Peterman took over for the rest of the game to start the second quarter, leading three touchdown drives en route to a 24-7 victory.

Peterman would start the rest of the season and Voytik threw just three passes the rest of the season before transferring to Arkansas State.

That move benefited the Panthers, as Peterman completed 61.5% of his passes for 2,287 yards and 20 touchdowns to eight interceptions in 2015. His completion percentage and touchdown passes ranked second and third in the ACC, respectively, while his 138.57 passing efficiency finished fourth best in the conference.

He continued that great play into 2016, throwing for 2,855 yards, 27 touchdowns and completing 60.5% of his passes to lead the highest scoring offense in Pitt history at 532 total points, 40.9 points per game.

Following Peterman’s departure for the NFL, Narduzzi once again had a quarterback dilemma in 2017, which ended up much far more complicated than 2015.

Max Browne came in as a transfer from USC and started the first game against Youngstown State, but struggled to get the offense moving, completing 17 of 24 passes for only 140 yards and a touchdown in the 28-21 win in overtime.

No. 4 Penn State on the road the following week continued further problems for Browne, as he completed 19 of 32 passes for 138 yards and two interceptions. Ben DiNucci came in in a goal line situation to score a rushing touchdown and eventually took over Pitt’s last drive in the 33-14 loss.

Browne faced even more criticism against No. 9 Oklahoma State in Week 3, as he completed seven of 10 passes for 60 yards in four drives where the Panthers offense had three punts and a turnover on downs. Oklahoma State also built a 35-0 lead in the second quarter, scoring a touchdown on all of their drives and Narduzzi chose to put DiNucci in the rest of the game.

DiNucci completed 13 of 25 passes for 228 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the 59-21 blowout loss at home.

Pat Narduzzi made a change at signal caller heading into their next game on the road at Georgia Tech, putting DiNucci in at starter.

Pitt kept it close in the first half, but DiNucci didn’t play well, completing 12 of 19 passes for 110 yards and one touchdown, leading to Narduzzi substituting Browne in midway through the fourth quarter. The change didn’t pay off in a win, as Georgia Tech took the 35-17 victory, but Narduzzi liked Browne’s performance, as he completed 10 of 15 passes for 88 yards, making him the starter for the next game.

Browne had the best game in his short Pitt career against a terrible Rice team in Week 5 at home. He completed 28 of 32 passes for 410 yards and four touchdowns in the 42-10 win.

He would start again against rival Syracuse on the road in Week 6, but suffered a shoulder injury after a sack in the third quarter, ending his season.

DiNucci would come back in and start the next five games, but faced competition from true freshman Kenny Pickett. Pickett burned his redshirt at the very end of the Syracuse game, allowing him to play in 2017.

He saw his first real game action against No. 20 NC State the following week at home. Coming in close to the end of the third quarter, Pickett completed five of 13 passes for 61 yards and had four rushes for 18 yards in the 35-17 loss.

DiNucci then played quarterback throughout the next three games entirely, but his performance against Virginia Tech caused Narduzzi to make another quarterback change.

He completed four of his eight passes for 54 yards a touchdown and an interception late in the first quarter that brought Pickett into the game. Pickett would complete 15 of 23 passes for 242 yards and an interception and even got the Panthers to the one-yard late in the game after a 74-yard completion on a slant to wide receiver Jester Weah. The Panthers failed to score on four downs and fell out of the Bowl discussion with their seventh loss.

Pat Narduzzi kept Pickett in for the finale against No. 2 Miami at Heinz Field. The move worked out brilliantly, as Pickett completed 18 of 29 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown, along with two rushing touchdowns, including a boot leg for a 22-yard score that solidified the Pitt upset in a 24-14 victory.

Narduzzi kept faith in Pickett as the starter for the next four seasons, even when he struggled at times. This belief worked out great in 2021, as Pickett would  lead the Panthers to an ACC Championship and also the first 10-win regular season in 40 years. He finished with 4,319 passing yards and 42 passing touchdowns, finishing with a slew of accolades, which included becoming a Heisman finalist.

That faith in the starting quarterback is something that Pat Narduzzi kept into 2022 with Kedon Slovis. Slovis also played poorly at times particularly against Louisville, where he threw two ridiculous first half interceptions, and completing just 14 of 31 passes in a loss to North Carolina. Narduzzi faced criticism for never benching Slovis that season, who finished with just 10 touchdowns, which included three games he didn’t throw one, to nine interceptions, before transferring to BYU.

Jurkovec is now the No. 3 quarterback and it is unlikely he plays again in 2023, aside from major injures to now starter in redshirt sophomore Christian Veilleux and backup in redshirt sophomore Nate Yarnell. Pat Narduzzi finally made a change this season, but with how the season has gone so far, it might not end without another quarterback change again.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
1 Comment
Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Chuck Kosey
Chuck Kosey
1 month ago

Two years to Late

Get PSN in your inbox!

Enter your email and get all of our posts delivered straight to your inbox.

Like Pittsburgh Sports Now on Facebook!
Send this to a friend