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Pitt notebook: Max Browne 'in rhythm all day' against Rice

Jerry DiPaola
| Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, 7:51 p.m.

Max Browne hasn't played a high school football game since 2012, but he agreed when it was suggested his effort Saturday might have been his best since before the start of his collegiate career.

“That's a fair assessment,” he said.

Browne is suddenly eighth on Pitt's list of single-game passing yardage with 410 against Rice in Saturday's 42-10 win at Heinz Field. It's the best since Tom Savage threw for 424 against Duke in 2013 and only nine short of the 419 that Tino Sunseri recorded against Connecticut in 2011, a performance then-coach Todd Graham labeled “average.”

“I feel like I was in rhythm all day,” Browne said.

It's been a strange start to Browne's final season in college. He won the job in training camp, started the first three games, but did not finish the last two of those as Pitt started 1-2.

Then, he was benched in favor of sophomore Ben DiNucci at Georgia Tech, but he finished that game by completing 10 of 15 passes.

He has completed 71.6 percent of his throws this season after recording nearly as many yards in one game as he totaled in four (426).

“A roller coaster, that's for sure,” he said. “I tried to stay even throughout the whole thing.”

He said when coach Pat Narduzzi gave him the word last week that he would start Saturday, he said it was “business as usual.”

Browne was benched before — after three games last season at USC.

“It helped me a lot,” he said. “You never know what to expect.”

Browne said he wasn't surprised by the resurgence Saturday.

“Everyone sees what we do in practice and what we showed out (Saturday) is nothing new to us. We're not walking off the field like we unlocked some code.”

Forget the run game

Narduzzi said Rice guarded against the run throughout the game, prompting Pitt to attempt 35 passes (including three sacks).

“Even in that third quarter when we went three and out, coach (Shawn) Watson (offensive coordinator) called two runs in a row and we took a sack on third down,” Narduzzi said.

“I said, ‘Forget it. Just throw it. We're not getting conservative here.' If they wanted to continue packing the box, then we'll beat them with the pass.”

Help from Pitt

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke presented a check for $4,000 to Rice AD Joe Karlgaard for the Conference USA Care Fund. The fund was created to help Rice student-athletes who suffered losses in Hurricane Harvey.

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

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi with a slap on the back after throwing a touchdown pass against Rice in the first quarter Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi with a slap on the back after throwing a touchdown pass against Rice in the first quarter Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Darrin Hall pulls in a touchdown pass against  Rice in the fourth quarter Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Darrin Hall pulls in a touchdown pass against Rice in the fourth quarter Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Jester Weah pulls in a pass over Rice's Justin Bickham in the fourth quarter Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Jester Weah pulls in a pass over Rice's Justin Bickham in the fourth quarter Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Dane Jackson intercepts a Rice pass in the fourth quarter Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Dane Jackson intercepts a Rice pass in the fourth quarter Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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