First Call: Can Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi fix fallout from Penn State loss?; Le’Veon Bell faces the Browns |
Breakfast With Benz

First Call: Can Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi fix fallout from Penn State loss?; Le’Veon Bell faces the Browns

Tim Benz
Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi reacts in an NCAA college football game against Penn State in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019.

In Monday’s “First Call,” we try to figure out how Pat Narduzzi will scrub Pitt’s defeat against Penn State. You’ll get a look at the next opponent for the Panthers. Phil Jurkovec makes his season debut at Notre Dame. And why Steelers fans will have an interest in “Monday Night Football.”

Come again?

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi will meet with the media Monday. Let’s see if he has a better explanation for that atrocious decision of his at Penn State.

Narduzzi decided to kick a field goal down 17-10 on a fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line with 4:59 remaining in the fourth quarter. The kick missed.

Narduzzi defended the decision by saying, “I wanted to play to win the football game. It’s a two-possession game, as far as we’ve got to score twice to win the football game.

“I don’t question that decision at all, really.”

Um, I do. And so did most of the college football world.

What I question is, why not go for the touchdown from just a few yards away? Get the stop. Then try to make the field goal to win it.

Because even if Pitt made the field goal, the Panthers still would’ve needed to get a touchdown to win the game.

Or you can just play for overtime at 17-17. Or you can attempt to avoid overtime by going for two.

As it turned out, if the Panthers had scored the touchdown, they would’ve been lining up for a 43-yard field goal to win it. Placekicker Alex Kessman’s career long is 56 yards. He is 11 of 16 between 40 and 49 yards in his Panthers career.

But, hey, as Narduzzi said, that’s just “armchair quarterbacking.”

Up next

It doesn’t get much easier for the Panthers next week.

At least they are at home. But they get Central Florida. The Knights climbed to 15th in the country after they smoked Stanford, 45-27, Saturday.

UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel was 22 for 30 for 347 yards and four touchdowns. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is 9-0 on the year. The freshman has only been sacked once in three games.

Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush started the opener, but sat out last week with an undisclosed injury. On Saturday, Wimbush played one snap in the second quarter, losing 2 yards on a run.

Last year, quarterback McKenzie Milton threw for 328 yards and accounted for six touchdowns as the Knights blew out the Panthers in Orlando 45-14.

Spin cycle

Sorry Nat Moore. Apologies to John Elway. But we have a new helicopter spin champion.

And it’s Mississippi quarterback Garrett Shrader.

He was up in the air so high I was expecting someone to call a fair catch.

Shrader and the Bulldogs ended up losing to Kansas State 31-24. Shrader did wind up with 82 yards rushing, though.

Which is approximately as high as he went in the air on that hit.

Nice start

Former WPIAL star Phil Jurkovec completed his first pass as a Notre Dame quarterback Saturday.

It went pretty well.

That was 52 yards to Braden Lenzy. It was the only pass Jurkovec threw. The former Pine-Richland Ram also ran for 17 yards on three carries. Notre Dame hammered New Mexico 66-14.

Leaning on Le’V?

The Jets and Browns play in the “Monday Night Football” game.

Cleveland comes in as a 6.5-point favorite on the road.

That’s in large part because starting quarterback Sam Darnold is out with mononucleosis. Trevor Siemian is starting.

So expect a heavy dose of Le’Veon Bell for New York. He had 23 touches last week against the Buffalo Bills, to the tune of 92 total yards from scrimmage.

In six career games against Cleveland as a Steeler, Bell averaged 89.8 yards per game rushing, on 4.49 yards per carry. He has 24 catches and 205 yards receiving in those games. He’s totaled three touchdowns in those contests.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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