Injuries create cloud of uncertainty as Pitt prepares for Duke
Pat Narduzzi appeared irritated Monday during his weekly news conference, and that was to be expected.
Not that Pitt’s coach usually shows up in a bad mood for his weekly give-and-take with reporters, but there are circumstances that surround his team that might have him on edge.
The Panthers (3-2, 0-1) may not be able to afford another conference loss and Duke (3-1, 1-0) is coming off a surprisingly easy victory at Virginia Tech, 45-10.
Pitt is coming off a surprisingly difficult 17-14 victory against Delaware at Heinz Field.
The game shows up as a victory in the standings, but when coaches look at the two turnovers and five defensive penalties that gave Delaware first downs, it’s a loss in the meeting rooms.
“I think when I watch the tape, I see exactly what I kind of saw on the sideline there,” Narduzzi said. “We didn’t play our best game.
“When you look at getting better from Game 4 to Game 5, I didn’t really see it out there. Why?”
Narduzzi blamed it on emotions, something he can control as a coach.
“I think our guys didn’t play the best game they could have,” he said. “I think you’d better have your mind right. I don’t think our guys really did.”
Pitt was on the cusp of making a national splash after the upset of Central Florida. It received six voting points in the Associated Press Top 25 poll last week — none this week.
Now, the team has regressed only days before the start of a season-defining seven-game stretch of ACC games.
The other bothersome item is Pitt’s injury-depleted roster. Starters and key contributors Kenny Pickett, A.J. Davis, Vincent Davis, Jason Pinnock, Elias Reynolds and Chase Pine did not play. Add them to a list of regulars lost for the season — Rashad Weaver, Keyshon Camp and Tre Tipton — and you get one explanation for allowing a smaller, slower Delaware team to hold a fourth-quarter lead.
But Narduzzi doesn’t show his concern about injuries as much as he does his disdain for talking about them.
Early in the proceedings, he was asked about Pickett, his starting quarterback, who has been nursing a shoulder injury:
Q: “Will Kenny play this week?”
A: “Again, I thought he’d play last week, so I don’t know. In my opening statement, I talked about we’re going to find out. I don’t know. I wish I could tell you everything, but I can’t tell you.”
When asked if Pickett is feeling better, he smiled and said, “Next question. Here we go. I don’t know. He felt good Saturday. I thought he was going. So done.”
Narduzzi’s nervousness when discussing his quarterback’s health is understandable, considering Pickett has one of the most important right arms on campus.
It’s the staple of Pitt’s offense, no matter how well redshirt freshman Nick Patti played in his stead. After all, Pitt’s offense, which ranks second in the nation in pass attempts (217 to Washington State’s 249), has been living above ground.
Know this, however: There is plenty of uncertainty about Pitt’s running backs. Which is just the way Narduzzi likes it, especially since the ACC no longer requires coaches to provide an injury list before conference games.
On Pitt’s weekly depth chart, there are injury-related ‘ors’ after A.J. Davis, Vincent Davis and even a healthy V’Lique Carter, leading to fourth-stringer Todd Sibley Jr., who ran for 106 yards against Delaware.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .