PITTSBURGH – Pat Narduzzi’s weekly press conference yielded few answers about the numerous injuries to his players.
“We’ll find out where we are this week,” Narduzzi said on Monday. “As you guys know, I won’t talk about it, but we were shorthanded, and we’ll find out how shorthanded we’ll be this week.”
The biggest question mark surrounds quarterback Kenny Pickett, who missed Saturday’s game against Delaware which wound up being a narrow 17-14 win for the Panthers.
According to both Narduzzi and backup quarterback Nick Patti, who got the start against the Blue Hens, Pickett was expected to play on Saturday.
Patti said he didn’t know he’d be starting until 45 minutes before kickoff. Narduzzi said after the game that Pickett was not 100 percent.
In the previous week’s game against Central Florida, Pickett faced pressure all day. Late in the third quarter, Pickett tucked the ball and scrambled for an 11-yard gain. As Pickett was going to the ground, Central Florida defensive tackle Cam Goode grabbed Pickett and threw him to the ground.
Pickett landed hard on his right side and clutched his right shoulder as he laid on the ground. Pickett went to the locker room following the play, but was able to return on Pitt’s next offensive series.
“I don’t know,” Narduzzi said when asked whether or not Pickett will start against Duke this weekend. “I wish I could tell you everything, but I can’t tell you. I don’t know. He felt good on Saturday. I thought he was going.”
Despite Pickett returning to the Central Florida game, he never looked right following the hit from Goode. He completed just five of 14 passes the rest of the game. Narduzzi said following the Delaware game that Pickett hadn’t taken many reps during practice throughout the week but he was still expected to play.
Narduzzi also provided no clarity when it comes to who the starting tailback will be against Duke on Saturday night, saying health has factored into four running backs being listed as possible starters against Duke on this week’s depth chart. Pitt’s two leading rushers going into the Delaware game, A.J. Davis and Vincent Davis, both sat against the Blue Hens. V’Lique Carter got the starting nod, but Todd Sibley Jr. led the team in both rushing yards and carries against Delaware with 106 yards on 22 totes.
There was no indication several of the players who missed the Delaware game would sit out, leading to speculation that perhaps Narduzzi rested some players against an FCS opponent ahead of seven straight conference games to finish the season. Narduzzi said after the game that his team was simply banged up following a physical game against Central Florida the previous week.
On Monday, Narduzzi said the Panthers were lucky to escape with a win over Delaware.
“The positive out of the whole thing is we were still able to get a win, and that’s all that matters is a win. Call it ugly, call it what you want, it’s a win and it’s nice when you don’t play very good and you still win,” Narduzzi said. “That’s the beautiful thing about it.”
He may not have shone any light on the injuries to his players, but one thing Narduzzi did provide clarity about was his interest – or lack thereof – in the Rutgers job. Rutgers fired coach Chris Ash on Sunday, following a 52-0 loss to Michigan on Saturday. Narduzzi’s name surfaced as a potential replacement for Ash. Narduzzi was quick to shut down those rumors.
“I signed a long-term contract a few years ago,” Narduzzi said. “My daughter’s a senior in high school right now. She’ll be a freshman next year in college.
“I’m here at Pitt, I’m staying here at Pitt. Real simple.”