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Pitt

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi defends his quarterback after 8-yard effort

Jerry DiPaola
| Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, 5:18 a.m.
Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) looks to pass against Clemson in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) looks to pass against Clemson in the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When Kenny Pickett was asked what he learned from his 13 games behind center for Pitt this season, he cracked a little joke.

“How much time you got?” he said. “I learned a bunch.”

He also learned the job is his to keep, and he has coach Pat Narduzzi’s complete confidence. Even after throwing for a single-digit – 8 yards – Saturday in a 42-10 loss to Clemson in the ACC championship game.

Pickett took the experience and confidence he gained while throwing for 316 yards and three touchdowns against Wake Forest on Nov. 17 and totaled just 138 yards in the past two games. Against Clemson, he failed to throw a touchdown pass for the sixth time this season, tossed his first interception since Oct. 6 and lost two fumbles leading directly to Clemson touchdowns.

He took a beating against Clemson and Miami, getting sacked eight times, but continually showed a willingness to run when pass patterns broke down.

“Kenny is one of the best competitors we have on this football team,” Narduzzi said. “There is nobody other than Kenny Pickett I would want to lead our offense.”

Pitt has quarterbacks behind Pickett on the depth chart, but his No. 1 backup is Jeff George Jr., who ascended to that position after missing all of training camp following a transfer from Illinois.

Pickett is listed as a sophomore after playing in four games with one start last season, but Narduzzi said he will petition the NCAA to declare 2017 a redshirt season.

“There is no reason he shouldn’t get that year back,” Narduzzi said.

The failures in the passing game can be traced to several sources, the coach said.

“We obviously didn’t throw it as well as we wanted to. It isn’t all on the quarterback’s shoulders,” Narduzzi said. “It starts with the protection. When he gets time, he can be effective and when he doesn’t, nobody’s going to be effective when you’re running for your life back there at times.

“Kenny Pickett is our starting quarterback. I love that kid. You (reporters) can write what you want to write. He brought this team to the ACC championship game, period.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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