Narduzzi embarrassed by Pitt’s performance

PITTSBURGH — When Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi got hit with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for complaining about a substitution, it put the exclamation point on how the Panthers lost their composure in Saturday night’s 51-6 loss to Penn State at Heinz Field.

The meltdown was apparent in all phases of the game, but it was especially glaring on special teams.

“I want to apologize to Pitt nation. That was embarrassing,” Narduzzi said. “I don’t think I ever saw so many penalties, beginning with my penalty. We tried to get a sub in and weren’t allowed.”

The Panthers missed an extra point and a 35-yard field goal attempt in the first half due to bad snaps. Narduzzi may have lost confidence in his kicking game as a result and did not attempt a field goal on fourth down from the Penn State 4-yard line.

“We didn’t do anything right — missed field goal, missed extra point,” Narduzzi said. “We weren’t ready on any phase of the game — offense, defense or special teams. It snowballed on us.”

Starting holder Jake Scarton was injured during the week, so backup holder (and punter) Kirk Christodoulou was pressed into action. Narduzzi felt like it may have been overwhelming for the redshirt freshman.

“That was a lot to ask Kirk (Christodoulou). Jake (Scarton) was hurt, and (Christodoulou) is not the regular holder,” Narduzzi said. “We’ll need to keep digging and work on that.”

The Panthers trailed 7-6 at the time. Instead of attempting the short field goal try, they opted for a run play, which lost 3 yards and gave the ball back to Penn State. Instead of taking the lead for the first time in the game, Pitt did not score again.

Narduzzi decided to go for it because he felt it was a combination of wanting to score a touchdown and the shaky kicking game up to that point.

“We needed to score touchdowns. Plus we missed an extra point and muffed a field goal try,” Narduzzi said. “We couldn’t even gain a yard on that play.”

Christodoulou dropped a snap on a punt which Penn State pounced on at the Pitt 42-yard line with 1 minute left in the first half. Three plays later, the Lions scored a touchdown to take a 14-6 lead at the half.

The punt coverage team gave up a 39-yard touchdown return by DeAndre Thompkins late in the third quarter after a short punt with no hang time. It gave Penn State a 30-6 lead, and the rout was on.

Christodoulou averaged only 33 yards per punt. His 32-yard punt gave Penn State a short field early in the game. The Lions took advantage of the field position and tore off a 67-yard drive to strike first and take a 7-0 lead. The Panthers were backed up deep in their own zone through most of the second half. On one play, it resulted in a Penn State safety.

“I bet we lost the field position war by 400 yards today,” Narduzzi said,” That’s because (Penn State) had a short field the entire game.”

Rafael Araujo-Lopes muffed a punt late in the third quarter. He recovered the fumble, but it backed the Panthers up to their 4-yard line.

The Panthers had twice as many penalty yards as passing yards. They committed 14 penalties for 116 yards, including a facemask while covering a kickoff and a block in the back when returning a punt. Kenny Pickett only threw for 55 yards.

“We made too many mistakes. It was one thing after another,” Narduzzi said. “This was frustrating. The key will be how we rebound from this.”