Quarterback controversy brewing for Pitt after win in Akron


Backup quarterback Nate Peterman finished Pitt's 24-7 win in Akron after leading a touchdown drive to end the second half. | Jeff Ahearn / Assistant Visual Editor

By Stephen Caruso / Assistant Sports Editor

Doug Flutie or Rob Johnson? Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett? Nate Peterman or Chad Voytik?

Because of a touchdown drive from the backup quarterback to end the first half against Akron on Saturday, Pitt may have the next big quarterback controversy.

Pitt’s coaching staff pulled Voytik, the junior starter from last season, near the end of the second quarter of Pitt’s 24-7 win in Akron and replaced him with redshirt junior and Tennessee transfer Nate Peterman.

Peterman would go on to finish the game.

“[Peterman] seemed like he was in a better rhythm … Maybe he ate Wheaties for breakfast, we don’t know.”

Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi, however, is trying not to overthink things.

“[Peterman] seemed like he was in a better rhythm … Maybe he ate Wheaties for breakfast, we don’t know,” Narduzzi said after the game.

After trading punts, Voytik, who started the game, led the Panthers on a drive to set up a Chris Blewitt 25-yard field goal.

The drive ended underwhelmingly. It took Voytik 13 plays to go 59 yards in seven minutes, 31 seconds, and Akron extended the drive with a third down roughing-the-passer penalty. Voytik also fumbled once, but it was recovered by Pitt.

In total, the incumbent was 6-8 but with only 32 yards passing and no touchdowns in an accurate, but unexplosive performance.

Bad weather could easily be blamed for  Voytik’s mediocrity — or the lack of time to get into a rhythm. But the same things could be said of Peterman, and he found success under the conditions.

After the field goal, Peterman got the ball on Pitt’s next possession and led a drive of the same length. It took three fewer plays, required no penalties to extend and took four fewer minutes.

Narduzzi certainly noticed the backup’s success.

“[Peterman] seemed to run the huddle better and move the ball down the field,” Narduzzi said.

Pitt still came away empty-handed on Peterman’s first drive because of a missed field goal by Blewitt.

Akron fumbled on the next drive, giving Pitt the ball on Akron’s 35. Peterman came out for his second drive of the game — and was sacked on a fourth down conversion attempt.

At this point, Pitt fans could have expected Peterman out of the game, following two fruitless drives.

In Peterman’s playing time last game, the leash seemed short.

Against Youngstown State, Pitt’s coaching staff gave Peterman two drives. He first led the team to a touchdown, but he promptly threw an interception on the very first play of his next drive.

Peterman then rode the pine for the rest of the game.

But Peterman trotted out to lead the Panthers’ offense with a little over two minutes left in the first half. An Akron touchdown had put Pitt down 7-3.

Everyone was surprised, except Peterman.

“It was a series by series kind of thing,” Peterman said.

The opportunity was one the recent transfer could not waste. A score there would be “huge,” according to Narduzzi.

And Peterman did not waste the opportunity. He led an eight-play, 73-yard drive, with all but four yards coming via his arm or legs. An 18-yard strike to J.P. Holtz finished the drive with a touchdown, the first passing touchdown of Peterman’s collegiate career.

The relieving quarterback did not understate the score’s importance.

“It was huge, we really needed some points, we had gotten in the red zones a couple of times and we needed to capitalize,” Peterman said.

“We have two damn good quarterbacks.”

He would go on to complete the game as quarterback, closing out the 24-7 victory.

Regardless of the win, Narduzzi wouldn’t predict who will start next week.

“There’s competition every week,” Narduzzi said. “Every week we are going to compete to get better, so you better show up to practice.”

Voytik has the history to back up his status as starter. Last season, he threw for 16 touchdowns, seven interceptions and 2,233 yards, with a 61 percent completion percentage. Even more notable, through the final six games last year, he threw only one interception.

Peterman never got a lot of playing time at Tennessee, but was ranked the No. 10 quarterback prospect in the country by Rivals, a college athlete scouting site, in 2011.

Regardless,don’t expect Narduzzi to play favorites.

“We have two damn good quarterbacks,” Narduzzi said.

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