New Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi certainly has plenty of reasons to be feeling boastful right about now. His Panthers are fresh off a road win at Georgia Tech, sitting in first place in the ACC Coastal Diviosjn with a 5-1 overall record. Pitt is ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2010, and now Narduzzi is dropping some mild shots at Penn State. Narduzzi was asked about the play of his quarterback, Nathan Peterman, during Pitt’s recent run and Narduzzi dropped a not-so-subtle reference to the ongoing struggles at quarterback and playcalling at another school in the state of Pennsylvania; Penn State.
“You could have a talented quarterback with a bad play caller and make him look bad,” Narduzzi said. “You can see that around the country, some closer than others.”
One can only assume Narduzzi was referencing Penn State with quarterback Christian Hackenberg and offensive coordinator John Donovan. Donavan has come under fire his playcalling this season and a year and a half of disappointing results with Hackenberg at quarterback. Hackenberg shined as a freshman under former Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien, but has been average at best for much of the early goings in the James Franklin era in State College. While there is room for some excuses for Hackenberg’s lack of development (Penn State’s continued rebuilding on offensive line being the biggest culprit), there is still blame to direct toward Hackenberg for some decision-making errors along the way. That said, the bulk of the blame continues to fall on Donovan. It is Donovan’s job to put the offense in its best position to advance the football and that simply has not seemingly been the case since the start of the 2014 season for Penn State.
It is also worth noting Narduzzi is not simply spouting off as a head coach of another program in the state of Pennsylvania in an attempt to take a shot at a recruiting rival. He also speaks from firsthand experience. As defensive coordinator at Michigan State last season, Narduzzi coached the Spartans’ defense against Hackenberg, hodling him to just 21-of-45 for 195 yards and an interception. Michigan State beat Penn State 34-10 in the regular season finale.
Hackenberg was a five-star pro-style quarterback out of high school in Penn State’s Class of 2013.
With both Pittsburgh and Temple being ranked in the AP Top 25 this week, it marks the first time since November 12, 1979 that two schools from Pennsylvania were ranked in the AP poll and neither was Penn State. Penn State and Pitt have not played each other since 2000, but the two long-time instate rivals will revive their rivalry starting next season with the first in a four-game series. Whether Hackenberg will still be around remains unknown. His draft stock has dropped some, but a strong second half could ease some concerns about his NFL future.