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Pitt notebook: Pat Narduzzi flagged for arguing

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi cheers on his team against Albany in the first half Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018 at Heinz Field.

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi was penalized 15 yards for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty Saturday night in the first quarter of the Penn State game.

Pitt was called for an illegal substitution on the last play of the first quarter, and when Narduzzi continued to argue with officials, line judge Jeff Meslow threw his flag.

The result gave Penn State, which was ahead 7-6 at the time, 20 extra yards on the two penalties and a first down at the Pitt 41.

The chain of events occurred after Penn State running back Miles Sanders ran 41 yards from the Penn State 1. The Nittany Lions still were forced to punt, but Penn State punter Blake Gillikin pinned Pitt back to its 4.

Running back Qadree Ollison flipped the field position in Pitt’s favor on the next play, when he ran 63 yards to the Penn State 33. Pitt couldn’t take advantage, however, as Alex Kessman missed a 35-yard field-goal attempt.

Starters return

It didn’t take long for Pitt to receive a big boost in its attempt to upset Penn State on Saturday night at Heinz Field.

Offensive right tackle Alex Bookser and cornerback Dane Jackson were in the starting lineup after missing the Albany game for undisclosed (probably injury) reasons.

The return of Bookser, a senior co-captain, is important for Pitt because Narduzzi wanted to control the clock and the game’s tempo with the running game. That had little chance of happening if Pitt’s offensive line was at less than full strength.

Coming into the game, Pitt was 13-3 under Narduzzi when it rushed for more than 200 yards.

Plus, Bookser was key to Pitt’s hope of protecting sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett, who was not sacked last week when he made the second start of his career.

Jackson, who started every game last season, was counted on to help keep the Penn State passing attack from taking over the game. Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 229 yards and the touchdown that forced overtime in the Nittany Lions’ 45-38 victory against Appalachian State last week.

Without Jackson, Pitt gave up 263 yards through the air against Albany quarterback Vincent Testaverde, who was making his first start since 2014.

Beware the PSU hangover

No matter the outcome of the Pitt/Penn State games in 2016 and ‘17, Pitt was 0-2 in its next two games. A repeat of that losing trend immediately would doom Pitt’s hopes of winning the ACC Coastal Division. Pitt plays ACC foes Georgia Tech at home next Saturday before visiting North Carolina on Sept. 22.

Pitt is 2-8 against the those teams since joining the ACC in 2013.

Jerrry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review
staff writer. You can contact him at [email protected]

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