Pitt Wins, But Offense Again Stumbles

Pickett avoids injury scare as Panthers take ACC opener

Josh Rowntree
September 15, 2018 - 5:45 pm
Pittsburgh Panthers trainers look at quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) after a apparent injury against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the second quarter at Heinz Field.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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Despite another mundane second half from its offense, Pitt was able to bounce back from the 51-6 hammering by Penn State a week earlier, topping Georgia Tech 24-19 in its ACC opener. 

“It’s important,” Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi said. “It’s important how we respond. Even at halftime, I talked about maturity and what we are all about as a football team. Who are we? Are we going to be able to handle the success?”

Pitt did handle it, though not without some adversity. 

After springing out to a 21-0 lead, the Panthers managed just three points in the second half. It is the only time the team has scored after halftime in Pitt’s three games this season. 

“I can’t explain why we’ve had [the struggles]” offensive tackle Alex Bookser said. “If I knew how to fix them, I’d let everybody know and we’d probably score more points. That’s really what we’ve got to figure out.

“I don’t think it’s the mindset. Without looking at the tape, I’d say it just comes down to execution.”

Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett had more insight. 

“Penalties,” he said. “When you’re playing Georgia Tech, you’re not going to get as many drives. And then we had bad penalties when we could’ve got it on third and short of fourth and short.

“It kills you. You don’t get as many drives as you’d like. So that was the struggle today.”

But the issue clearly goes beyond one game. Pitt led Albany 33-7 at half in week one, only to not get a point the rest of the way. It trailed Penn State, 14-6, and was then outscored 37-0 after the break.

“I think it’s just details of a call, details of an execution,” Narduzzi added. “It’s those things, drive stoppers, that we’ve got to continue to clean up. But there’s always something.”

Ultimately though, the Panthers went to 1-0 in the ACC and have a winnable game up next as they travel to 0-2 North Carolina. 

“It felt, really, really good to get a win,” Bookser said. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

No Brace for Pickett

On Pitt’s final drive of the second quarter, Pickett went down awkwardly on a tackle during a passing play. 

Pickett laid on the ground, grabbing his left knee, and was removed from the game. In practice, he normally wears a knee brace on his left leg, a requirement of Narduzzi. But he was not wearing the brace in the game. 

“We dodged a bullet really,” Narduzzi said. “He’s healthy, but he like to go run, and he wants to feel clean, but that ain’t going to happen. I’ll tape that thing to his leg.”

Narduzzi seemed surprised that Pickett, who only missed one offensive snap before halftime hit, was not wearing the brace. 

“I never wear it in a game,”  Pickett said. “I wear it all the time in practice, every practice I wear it. But now it’s mandatory in the games too.”

“I think coach is going to make me wear that to class now.”

Hear all of what Narduzzi had to say below.