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Pat Narduzzi made the decision to pull Max Browne in the second quarter of Pitt’s 59-21 loss to Oklahoma State at Heinz Field on Saturday, and now he’s got another decision to make:
Stick with Ben DiNucci or go back to Browne?
After Saturday’s game, Narduzzi acknowledged that this week will be interesting.
“Yeah, we have a decision to make, for sure,” he said.
The first decision was made on Saturday. After Browne started the game with 60 yards on 7-of-10 passing - which followed a pair of games that saw him throw for a total of 278 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions - Narduzzi sent in DiNucci, a redshirt sophomore from Pine Richland.
It probably didn’t hurt that Oklahoma State had opened up a 35-0 lead at that point; regardless, DiNucci showed signs of life, connecting with Quadree Henderson for a 74-yard screen pass on his first snap and then guiding the team into the end zone three plays later.
“You look at it, Max wasn’t very productive when he was in there,” Narduzzi said. “Misses a long shot to Jester (Weah), which could have given you some life. And then Ben comes in - like I’ve told you, I think we’ve got two pretty good quarterbacks.
“Do we have a great quarterback? No, not right now. Nathan Peterman was a great quarterback walking out of here. You miss guys like that. That’s what happens when you’re a young football team at a lot of different spots, not just the quarterback spot. But Ben came in and gave us a spark that we thought he could.”
DiNucci finished the game with 228 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on 13-of-25 passing. He also rushed six times for 33 yards, and that mobility is the “spark” Narduzzi referred to. Whereas Browne’s lack of mobility kept him in the pocket even as it collapsed, DiNucci is able to get out and keep plays alive or even scramble to extend drives.
“That’s why we made the decision to put him in in the second quarter or whenever it was,” Narduzzi said. “He provided that spark and he did some nice things. And he did some things where, you know, we’ve talked, decision-wise, that he can’t do. He throws a pick-six and throws another one in the red zone - he moves them down the field, but we have to get in the end zone when we get down there, so we’ll continue to evaluate and watch the tape and see where we are.”
Narduzzi wouldn’t say on Saturday whether he’ll name a starter for next week’s game at Georgia Tech prior to the game, but the odds would seem to favor DiNucci.