Two quarterbacks? After four games, Pitt is still looking for one

Chris Peak, Publisher
Panther-lair

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The adage says that a team with two quarterbacks doesn’t really have one, but that doesn’t seem to apply to Pitt right now.

Because, after four games in 2017, the Panthers are still trying to find out if they even have one quarterback, let alone two.

The quagmire of quarterback play for Pitt continued on the field Saturday in Atlanta and continued off the field Monday in Pittsburgh when Pat Narduzzi’s latest depth chart had an “OR” at the position for the second consecutive week - indicating another week of public uncertainty about whether Ben DiNucci or Max Browne will be the starter when Pitt hosts Rice on Saturday.

Narduzzi went with the “OR” last week, too, after DiNucci replaced Browne in the second quarter of the blowout loss to Oklahoma State. But there were strong indications throughout the week that DiNucci would get the start at Georgia Tech. He did and even led a touchdown drive on the first possession of the game, but after that, things went south, and Browne played the final three series in the fourth quarter.

Now things seem to be more up in the air. Narduzzi apparently told DiNucci “You’re still our guy” during a brief exchange immediately after the Georgia Tech game, but on Monday, the head coach backtracked on that comment, saying he wanted DiNucci to have confidence as he went into the postgame press conference.

“But when you watch the tape, there's a lot of things that we have to work on,” Narduzzi said Monday.

DiNucci finished the game with 110 yards and one touchdown on 12-of-19 passing, while Browne completed 10-of-15 for 88 yards in relief. Combined, DiNucci and Browne have thrown for three touchdowns and four interceptions this season, averaging 203.25 yards per game and 9.8 yards per completion - an average that ranks lower than all but two Power Five quarterbacks (Kyle Bolin of Rutgers and Anthony Brown of Boston College).

DiNucci is better than Browne in the yards per completion stat (Browne ranks No. 122 nationally; DiNucci is No. 50) but Pitt’s offense has more or less produced about the same with each quarterback on the field. With DiNucci, the Panthers have averaged 1.6 points per possession; when Browne has played, the average is 1.56 points per possession (note: this stat gives an eight-point possession to each quarterback, since they both played on the drive that led to a touchdown and two-point conversion at Penn State).

Physically, the biggest difference between DiNucci and Browne is that DiNucci can run better than Browne, while Browne has a bigger arm. That mobility

“Obviously Ben can make plays with his feet and he scrambles around and does a lot of things, but he's still got a lot of room for improvement, as does Max,” Narduzzi said. “We're still searching. It'll be a work in progress this week, and we'll see what happens.”

Seeing what happens at quarterback is an approach most coaches don’t mind taking - in spring camp, or maybe the first two weeks of training camp. But in the fifth week of the season?

“You don't want to go through the two-quarterback system,” Narduzzi said. “It's kind of like we did my first year with Chad (Voytik) and Nathan (Peterman) until it kind of washed out. But we tried not to do that, but we're still to the same point right now, who's that guy going to be, and that's just kind of the situation we're in right now, unfortunately.”

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