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Pitt quarterback Peterman keeps focus solely on Virginia

| Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, 7:42 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt quarterback Nate Peterman avoids Marshall's Davon Durrant in the third quarter Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, at Heinz Field.

Nathan Peterman's eyes and mind were rigidly focused this week on Virginia's defense, but he nonetheless managed more than a fleeting glance toward his classes at the Pitt Katz Graduate School of Business.

When asked whether he watched any of the baseball playoffs in his limited spare time, Peterman said, no, he's not really a baseball fan.

Yet, when he told he has completed 74 percent of his passes, with no interceptions and only one sack over the past three games, he was equally clueless.

“Oh, wow,” he said. “I try not to be in the stats too much because at the end of the day, you either won, or you didn't.”

Thanks in part to the offense finding better balance between run and pass, Pitt (4-2, 1-1 ACC) has won consecutive games and moved into the conversation in the Coastal Division title chase.

But with only six games remaining, the margin for error is reduced to almost nothing. Even if Pitt wins them all — starting Saturday at Virginia's Scott Stadium — North Carolina still must lose for the Panthers to reach the ACC championship game.

None of that means much to Peterman. Virginia (2-3, 1-0) is all that matters — until the end of the game.

“We just have to stay focused on that game in front of you,” he said. “Anytime you get outside of that, it's disastrous for you.”

Coach Pat Narduzzi has been most impressed by the lack of sacks on Peterman, only one in the past 86 pass attempts. That has vaulted Pitt to eighth nationally in average sacks allowed and first in the ACC (0.67).

“Our offense has a done a great job of protecting him, but he's done a good job of getting rid of the ball, putting it where he can and rushing it at times so we don't give up a sack,” Narduzzi said. “Maybe he takes a hit at times to give the receivers time to get open. I don't know what his quarterback rating is, but he's got to be pretty strong.”

For the record, it's 152.1, sixth among a strong crop of ACC quarterbacks, 33rd in the FBS and 5.2 points better than Heisman candidate Deshaun Watson of Clemson.

Peterman's accuracy has improved from 61.5 percent last season to 65 percent through the first six games of 2016.

“He's a guy who's in the film room a lot,” Narduzzi said. “Sometimes we have to cater dinners just for him, with this (NCAA) unlimited meal policy.”

But when it's too late to get food delivered, Peterman still doesn't miss a meal while watching video.

“He's here as long as the coaches are,” Narduzzi said. “We just give him the coaches' meals.”

The first quarterback to hold the position at Pitt for more than one year since Tino Sunseri left after the 2012 season, Peterman doesn't take his standing on the team lightly.

“All of us in the room, we all want to be that guy,” he said. “It's an extreme honor and privilege to be the quarterback and something I definitely treat with a lot of respect.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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