Pitt football notebook: Week four


Qadree Ollison, Darrin Hall, and Chris James are all battling for the starting spot this year. Photos by Jeff Ahearn and Meghan Sunners | Pitt News Photo Staff

By Jeremy Tepper / Senior Staff Writer

After Week 2’s last-second loss to Iowa, Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi and his team had a bye week to lick their wounds and prepare to face Virginia Tech.

Now heading into this weekend’s contest against the Hokies, Narduzzi addressed his team’s running offense, starting quarterback and defense at his weekly press conference Monday.

Running Back Competition

Pitt has rotated Qadree Ollison, Chris James and Darrin Hall at running back this season, setting a trend that won’t fall off anytime soon.

The two-deep depth chart lists the three running backs as co-starters, with an ‘OR’ separating their names. Narduzzi said their effectiveness in practice each week will determine their playing time.

“I wish there were no ‘ors,’” Narduzzi said. “It’s a work in progress. It’s going to go with the hot guy, and they’re going to compete during the week to see who it is.”

Against Akron, Ollison got the start and majority of carries, while versus Iowa, Hall started and played most. Hall rushed for 38 yards on 14 carries against Iowa.

“I think he did a good job,” Narduzzi said. “Obviously we didn’t run the ball like we wanted, but it’s a good front at Iowa, and we knew it wouldn’t be easy to run the ball against them.”

A good running game will depend on the offensive line, which Narduzzi said will need to exert more physicality in the trenches.

“We’ve got to get movement up front. Alex Officer and Artie Rowell have got to get movement on the three techniques and nose tackles up front,” Narduzzi said. “That’s going to be key.”

Narduzzi also pointed to right tackle Brian O’Neill as needing to improve in run blocking. O’Neill, who moved from tight end to offensive line in training camp, has executed better with pass blocking, something that hasn’t surprised Narduzzi given the quick transition to a new position.

“He’s very athletic and light in the feet, but he doesn’t have that power behind him yet. He’s still got that tight end power,” Narduzzi said.

Definite Starter at Quarterback

Narduzzi announced that Nate Peterman would be the starting quarterback going forward during the ACC coaches teleconference last Wednesday.

Peterman had been competing with Chad Voytik, as they split time in the first three games, with the coaching staff hoping to separate themselves from the other. Peterman eventually did so and received the large majority of playing time against Iowa, completing 20 of 29 passes for 219 yards.

Peterman, who led Pitt to a game-tying drive late in the 4th quarter, impressed Narduzzi and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney with his accuracy.

“He’s been throwing the ball well. He’s been very accurate. I think Coach Chaney said he was like 90 percent accurate [against Iowa], as far as where he’s putting the ball,” Narduzzi said.

So the starting quarterback position doesn’t figure to be in question, a change from the first three games, when Narduzzi brought in Peterman — then the backup — in the third series and rotated from there.

“We’re going to stick and try to stay with one guy,” Narduzzi said.

Though Peterman is the definite starter, Voytik will see the field occasionally in a package to utilize his running ability.

“It just might be for a play to sprinkle it in here and there,” Narduzzi said. “It might just be a package where it’s a play or two or three in a row then get him out.”

Improvement on Defense

Despite a national standing as 18th in yards per game and 23rd in sacks, Narduzzi said his defense still hasn’t reached his lofty expectations.

“I don’t know if that will ever happen. They’ve played OK,” Narduzzi said.

Narduzzi would like to see them generate more of a pass rush on the quarterback without blitzing.

“We still need to get more four-man pressure on the quarterback, which we haven’t done,” Narduzzi said. “They’ve been solid, and we just need to keep getting better.”

He’d also like to see Pitt’s defense finish games stronger, something it didn’t do when it allowed Iowa to drive down the field in the last minute to set up a game-winning field goal.

“When you’re on the field with 44 seconds left to go, you expect them to step up and be tough enough and resilient enough to stop them,” Narduzzi said. “As a defense, you embrace the opportunity to go on the field and win the game at the end when you’re out there, and we didn’t do that.”

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