Mason Rudolph and the Oklahoma State Cowboys scored a touchdown on their first seven possessions, during which he threw for 423 yards and five touchdowns, as the Panthers never really got off the blocks in their 59-21 drubbing on Saturday afternoon at Heinz Field. All this occurred while Coach Narduzzi pulled Max Browne in the second quarter in favor of sophomore Ben DiNucci.
Here are some observations and takeaways from Saturday’s ugly loss.
Question: Is there a quarterback controversy?
The Answer: Yes
Although Browne did not have a terrible game, Coach Narduzzi knew that Browne was not the man to lead the Panthers on this particular day in a game where the Panthers were already down 35-0. At that point, the team needed a spark. Ben DiNucci did provide a brief spark when he connected with Quadree Henderson on a 74 yard pass on his first play of the game to set up their first score of the game. DiNucci finished the game going 13 for 25 for 288 yards for one touchdown and two interceptions in mostly garbage time.
With all that being said, Narduzzi knows that he has a decision to make at quarterback. Browne struggled through the first two and a half games and DiNucci did not exactly impress in the second half throwing interceptions on back to back drives including a pick six to Oklahoma State linebacker Justin Phillips. Narduzzi was non-committal on who will start against Georgia Tech on Saturday.
“We got a decision to make, for sure,” Narduzzi said. “You look at it, Max Browne wasn’t very productive when he was in there. … I think we got two pretty good quarterbacks. Do we have a great quarterback? No, not right now, okay?”
Narduzzi knows the old saying: If you have two quarterbacks you don’t have one.
Narduzzi may have an even bigger problem than the quarterback quandary: His abysmal defense. Mason Rudolph went through his defense like butter in the first half. He tried to play his usual man coverage scheme. Didn’t work. He tried to blitz. Didn’t work. He even used zone. No Mas. Not one of the scoring drives for OSU in the first half took longer than 3:16 off the clock and Oklahoma had four receivers — Jalen McCleskey, Dillon Stoner, Marcell Ateman and James Washington — total 100 or more yards in receptions.
And if you thought it was just the Cowboys playing pitch and catch you are wrong. Justice Hill averaged 8.3 yards a rush and scored two rushing touchdowns to further keep the Panthers on their heels. The Panthers took five steps back on Saturday after taking a step forward last week at Penn State. The only shining light is that Jordan Whitehead will come back from his suspension this week and will add something that this defense needs: A playmaker.
Pitt will try to bounce back in their conference opener when they travel to Atlanta to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Saturday afternoon.