Pickett, Pitt Getting Over PSU Debacle

Panthers turning focus to ACC opener

Josh Rowntree
September 12, 2018 - 2:48 pm
Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) scrambles with the ball against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the first quarter at Heinz Field.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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While 51-6 will surely be a score long remembered in the history of the Pitt-Penn State rivalry, Panthers players are quickly trying to erase it from their short-term memories. 

Pitt was outscored 37-0 in the second half Saturday night, seemingly failing in every aspect of the game, on the way to the third-most lopsided loss in the 99-game head-to-head history of the two schools. 

“The score, it is what it is,” Pitt wideout Rafael Araujo-Lopes said Wednesday. “We lost, but we’re not down on it anymore. We’re moving on to Georgia Tech. That was the big rivalry, but we’re worried about the ACC now. We haven’t lost confidence in anything. We’re confident in what we can do.”

Georgia Tech will travel to Pittsburgh for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff in both teams’ ACC opener. But the mistakes Saturday certainly have raised doubts, which Pitt players are trying to prove wrong. 

“The whole game was a complete loss or lack of attentional to detail,” center Jimmy Morrissey said. “It was bad, but it was a learning experience and I’m ready for Georgia Tech now.”

“I treat a loss the same as a win,” quarterback Kenny Pickett added. “The 24-hour rule. Watch the film, correct the mistakes you need to correct and then move onto the next opponent. 

“If you hang onto something too long, it’s going to get in your head. Same with a win. If you’re too high in a win and you carry that into next week and you’re not focused on the next opponent, it can hurt you.”

Pickett is coming off the worst showing in his brief time as a starter, throwing for just 55 yards and an interception. But how he’s handled the loss is impressing his teammates. 

“Like a professional,” Araujo-Lopes said. “He’s taken every rep, every day and just been locked into everything. He’s taking every coaching point from [offensive coordinator Shawn Watson], so I feel like he’s handled well and I feel like he’s a professional.”

“A leader,” Morrissey added of Pickett. “He’s come back. Our whole leadership group has done a great job, starting at practice yesterday, making sure everybody’s spirits are high. 

“It’s in the past, we’ve learned from it, the tape’s done with and now we’re onto Georgia Tech. Kenny’s done a great job keeping everybody’s head high and making sure we stay focused on Georgia Tech. It’s a new week.”

While Pitt’s defense will have to deal with the uniqueness of Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense, Pickett and the offense will be in for a test against the Yellowjackets’ 3-4 defensive front, something the sophomore has never seen in a live college game.

“It’s definitely just a different look. It’s something that, throughout the week of preparation, we’ve kind of gotten a feel for it. We have one more day (Thursday) to work against it and then another film day, a walkthrough and we should be good Saturday.”

Pitt will enter Saturday’s game as an underdog to a Georgia Tech team that gave up 49 points in a loss to South Florida last week. Pitt’s resounding loss Saturday in front of a national audience may be playing a role in that.

But there is a renewed commitment to preparation, according to Panthers players, something they hope will show when it matters most. 

“There was a lot of enthusiasm for yesterday’s practice,” Morrissey added. “You wouldn’t be able to tell that we got embarrassed Saturday.”

Hear more from Kenny Pickett below.