PITTSBURGH — Pitt probably didn’t play well enough — offensively — to have the right to be mad about a penalty call changing the course of a football game.
But when Gavin Bartholomew was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty call well after the conclusion of a play in the third quarter, as Bartholomew walked on the Pitt sideline, it certainly was a major turning point in the course of the contest.
Pitt went from a 4th-and-4 at the 26-yard line, well within Ben Sauls’ field goal range, to a 4th-and-19 at the 41, which ultimately resulted in a 21-yard punt from Caleb Junko. And the ‘Noles wound up driving 80 yards in 11 plays to turn a 3-point lead into a 10-point lead.
The 10-point swing was costly for Pitt at the end of the day. Pat Narduzzi said he wasn’t given an explanation for the call, but Christian Veilleux didn’t need one. He was adamant Bartholomew did nothing wrong.
“I thought it was b*******, honestly,” Veilleux said following the loss. “I mean, like, he’s just on the sideline. They played the replay, circled him and he’s literally just there. Just like everybody else is right there, so I don’t get that call. I think there were a lot of calls today that didn’t make sense. But nothing wrong on Gavin’s part.”
Narduzzi said that he’s never seen a penalty called on the actual sideline when there’s a mass of players huddled around.
“Gavin didn’t say anything to the officials,” Narduzzi said. “So, they were talking about happy birthday or something. I don’t know what, but it wasn’t one person. It wasn’t Gavin. I think maybe that’s who they called it on, but just chippy like on any sideline. I’ve never seen it called before. I don’t get it. I’ve seen a lot of things.”
Pitt ultimately lost to Florida State 24-7, a game in which the offense failed to convert a single third down and turned the ball over three times, and Veilleux didn’t have a strong performance himself — completing just 43% of his pass attempts. So, it’s not as if the unsportsmanlike cost Pitt the game, but it was a play that altered the outcome nonetheless.
And courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Noah Hiles, ACC supervisor of officiating Al Riveron said, “That’s an unsportsmanlike conduct, which is a judgment call by an official, so we’re gonna leave it at that.”
Pitt has to rebound now, sitting at 2-7 (1-5 ACC), with three games left to play this season. The first chance comes next week at Yankee Stadium against Syracuse.