Deeper roster helps Pitt withstand injuries
The last thing Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi wants to discuss is the number of important players struck down by injuries this season.
Whether it’s trying not to sound like he’s making excuses or simply hoping to avoid giving the opponent a competitive advantage, he’s reluctant to get into specifics.
But there was no denying the number of players — at least eight starters or key backups — who left the field or never played at all Saturday in the victory against then-No. 15 Central Florida.
“You’re like, ‘Oh, boy,’ ” Narduzzi said. “You look upstairs and say a prayer.”
Wide receiver Tre Tipton (leg) and defensive linemen Rashad Weaver and Keyshon Camp (knee) won’t play this season. Linebacker Elias Reynolds didn’t play but should return at some point. Those four absences impaired Narduzzi’s ability to keep everyone fresh on a hot day when UCF was snapping the ball about 10 seconds after the previous play.
Then, quarterback Kenny Pickett, linebacker Kylan Johnson and cornerbacks Damarri Mathis and Jason Pinnock were hurt during the game. Pickett and Johnson returned, but Mathis and Pinnock did not. Narduzzi said he expects them to play Saturday against Delaware.
Pitt used 27 players on defense.
“Therran Coleman, my hat goes off to that guy, and Marquis Williams,” he said of two backup cornerbacks, who were joined by backup safety Erick Hallett. “They’re waiting, begging, whining, complaining, which they should. ‘When do I get my chance?’
“They came in and did some stuff that you go, ‘Okay, good, we can trust you.’ It’s hard to trust someone until you give them a chance to go. And that’s the hardest thing as coaches. You want to play your best players to win football games. So that was a good thing those guys came in there. Now, makes us even that much stronger.”
Narduzzi wished he could get Weaver and Camp back, but he was pleased the injury-plagued defensive front four helped hold UCF to an average of 2.5 yards per rush, including six sacks.
“I look at it all the time, man. What if we had those two guys? Because they’re difference-makers,” Narduzzi said.
QB of the future?
Backup quarterback Nick Patti replaced Pickett long enough to throw a touchdown pass and rush twice for 18 yards during the second-half comeback.
“He got out of trouble, made some plays with his feet,” the coach said, pointing out Patti also played a snap while Pickett was in the game as a decoy.
“We will continue to maybe expand that package every week about what we can do with him because he can run,” Narduzzi said. “And he’s tough. He was our scout-team quarterback a year ago, so I know what he’s got. He’s got his tail beat in, and he keeps coming back for more.”
By the numbers
Kicker Alex Kessman has missed five of eight field goal attempts, but Narduzzi gave him a vote of confidence. “I’m going to go on record saying we probably won’t miss another field goal the rest of the year,” he said. … Pickett (quarterback), Bryce Hargrove (offensive line) and Aaron Mathews (specialist) were named ACC players of the week at their positions. … Pickett has the second-longest active streak in the nation without an interception (139). … Defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman is fourth in the nation with an average of 1.38 sacks per game (5½ total). … Kickoff for the game at Duke on Oct. 5 is 8 p.m. on the ACC Network. … Pitt received six voting points in the Associated Press poll this week.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected]bweb.com or via Twitter .