PITTSBURGH — Nate Yarnell didn’t reinvent the wheel or anything against Boston College. He didn’t throw for 300 yards or three touchdowns. But he was definitely good enough to lead Pitt to a win.
He was cool and composed in the pocket, he threw with touch and anticipation, and most importantly, his sound decision-making didn’t lead to any turnovers against the Eagles’ defense. He completed 11-of-19 pass attempts for 207 yards and a touchdown — adding another touchdown on the ground.
And he’s “probably” done enough to be the Pitt starter when the Panthers travel to Durham, N.C. to close the 2023 season out against Duke.
“I guess we’ll see, right?” Pat Narduzzi said following the game. “I would say probably, right? It’s pretty simple. Protect the ball, and you have a chance to win.”
Narduzzi said that it was a team decision to make the switch from Christian Veilleux to Yarnell this week, a decision that Frank Cignetti Jr. relayed to Yarnell Sunday after arriving back in Pittsburgh from New York City, and it came largely because of Veilleux’s turnover struggles over the last couple of weeks.
“We still have a lot of confidence in Christian,” Narduzzi said. “He will be ready to go, and he is going to learn from his mistakes. Sunday, we said we were going with Nate, and Nate took all the snaps with the 1s all week. We just felt like he would go in and make really good decisions, which he did today. He protected the ball and gives you a chance to win a football game.”
Veilleux has completed 94-of-184 pass attempts (51.1%) for 1,179 yards with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions this season. And after two good starts, the first of his collegiate career, he’s slogged through three rough performances in a row — turning the football over increasingly often.
Yarnell has only played in three games this season, making his first start against Boston College, and he’s now completed 16-of-27 pass attempts (59.2%) for 330 yards with two touchdowns — and another rushing touchdown.
Yarnell looked comfortable as the starter against Boston College, and while it wasn’t the toughest of opponents, he looked as good — if not better — than Veilleux or Phil Jurkovec at their peaks this season. But there is no regret when it comes to inserting Yarnell into the lineup in the 11th game.
“We can regret and look back and all that,” Narduzzi said. “There’s no regrets. We all can look backward. It’s part of the game. It is what it is. Nate is a good football player, as we know, and he is 2-0 as a starter. I’ve told you all along since August that we had faith in all three quarterbacks, but the guys have to protect the ball and give us a chance to win. It was Nate tonight.”
Yarnell, it very likely appears, will have one more chance to prove that he’s the starting quarterback of the future for Pitt. And it will come on the road against Duke next weekend.