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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Senior forward Blake Hinson (2) drives to the basket during Saturday evening’s game against Virginia Tech in the Petersen Events Center.
Column | Blake Hinson has pro potential
By Aidan Kasner, Staff Writer • February 29, 2024
Women’s History Month event roundup
By Ryleigh Lord, News Editor • February 29, 2024

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Senior forward Blake Hinson (2) drives to the basket during Saturday evening’s game against Virginia Tech in the Petersen Events Center.
Column | Blake Hinson has pro potential
By Aidan Kasner, Staff Writer • February 29, 2024
Women’s History Month event roundup
By Ryleigh Lord, News Editor • February 29, 2024

Takeaways | Pitt football found its quarterback, inconsistent rules sided against the Panthers

Wake+Forest+wide+receiver+Jahmal+Banks+%2880%29+catches+a+pass+against+Pittsburgh+defensive+back+M.J.+Devonshire+%2812%29+during+the+second+half+of+an+NCAA+college+football+game+in+Winston-Salem%2C+N.C.%2C+Saturday%2C+Oct.+21%2C+2023.
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
Wake Forest wide receiver Jahmal Banks (80) catches a pass against Pittsburgh defensive back M.J. Devonshire (12) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023.

After a tremendous upset by the Panthers against conference foe Louisville, they traveled down to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest. This became the first game since Cincinnati where Pitt entered the game as the favored team. However, a stagnant offense and a couple mistakes cost Pitt the win, as Wake Forest scored the game-winning touchdown with seven seconds remaining. 

Here are my takeaways.

Christian Veilleux is the answer

When redshirt senior quarterback Phil Jurkovec took the field for Pitt against West Virginia, he completed eight of his 20 passes for just 80 yards and three interceptions. What redshirt sophomore quarterback Christian Veilleux showed was different. 

Against Wake Forest, Veilleux completed 28 of his 45 passes for 300 passing yards and two touchdowns. The stagnant offense seen in the Panthers first few games is vastly different from what they displayed on Saturday.

As Veilleux has multiple years of eligibility left, Pitt should capitalize on the opportunity and use the remainder of the season to build up Veilleux’s confidence. There are tough opponents on the schedule ahead, which provides Veilleux an opportunity to show his talent against great defenses. 

Third Down offense left much on the table

While the overall performance of the offense wasn’t bad, the third down offense could not get anything going. In 20 third-down chances, Veilleux was only able to convert nine of them.

Interestingly, Veilleux was 10 of 14 for 134 yards on third down plays. Eight of the 10 were caught for first downs. Pitt was simply unable to run the ball for third downs and some of the passes were dropped, leading to the ghastly conversion number. 

On fourth down conversion attempts, the Pitt offense went 0-for-2.

Special teams were not great

Following a 2022 campaign marred by issues with punting and missed field goals — such as the blocked punt in last year’s Backyard Brawl — the team looked to turn that around this year. While it has been mostly successful, this week special teams lacked. Redshirt sophomore punter Caleb Junko, usually known for his consistency, had two bad punts that led to favorable field position for Wake Forest. Additionally, the return team, often one of the better aspects of the squad, could not create much separation to provide good field position for the offense.

Pickett rule ambiguity comes back to bite Pitt

When Kenny Pickett performed his infamous “Fake Slide” against Wake Forest in the 2021 ACC Championship, the NCAA immediately responded with a rule against it under the guise of player safety. The rule states that a player is down at the spot where they begin their slide. 

With just over 40 seconds remaining in this week’s game, Veilleux slid right around the line to gain. If he was granted the first down, Pitt would have won.

However, the possible ambiguity of when the slide started led to the referees calling Veilleux just short of the line on fourth down. This allowed Wake Forest to march downfield and score the game winning touchdown, which was also controversial. The camera angle showed redshirt junior tight end Cameron Hite down just short of the end zone, but it was eventually ruled a touchdown.  

To rub more salt in the wound, redshirt senior quarterback Jordan Travis of Florida State performed a slide that began well before the line to gain that ultimately was ruled a first down. If two games from the same conference cannot use a rule in the same way, it proves to be very confusing for all those watching. While the confounding rule once benefitted the Pitt offense, it seems like it came back to bite them here. 

Overall, Pitt’s offense showed many promising glimpses of what is possible in the future, but mistakes added up too high and led to their demise to another ACC opponent. The Panthers will take on a ranked Notre Dame team in an away game this coming week, and they must work on these issues if they want to put up a fight.

About the Contributor
Ari Meyer, Staff Writer