Browne or DiNucci? Pitt coaches will have to de­cide

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - College Football - By Sarah K. Spencerr

Pitts­burgh Post-Gazette

Six fans in Pitt’s stu­dent section had painted navy let­ters on their chests spell­ing out “B-R-O-W-N-E.”

By Pitt’s se­cond drive of the se­cond quar­ter, trail­ing Ok­la­homa State by 35 points, three let­ters re­mained – “B-E-N.”

Red­shirt sopho­more quar­ter­back Ben DiNucci re­placed starter Max Browne, and his first pass of the game went to Quadree Hen­der­son for 74 yards, set­ting up Pitt’s first touch­down of the day in the 59-21 loss. Min­utes later, DiNucci led the Panthers on a 13-play, 80-yard drive cul­mi­nat­ing in a 14-yard touch­down pass to Rafael Arau­joLopes.

“When you’re the backup, you’re al­ways one play away from get­ting in the game. So the Pin­stripe Bowl was one play, last week was one play and this week, I didn’t know I was go­ing in but I had to stay ready to get in the game and I was ready to roll,” DiNucci said, ref­er­enc­ing a bowl loss last year to North­west­ern and a loss last week to Penn State.

DiNucci com­pleted 13 of 25 passes for 228 yards, one touch­down and two in­ter­cep­tions. For the se­cond week in a row, DiNucci was the only Pitt quar­ter­back to di­rectly ac­count for a score, taken off the bench to pro­vide a “spark.”

With Pitt drop­ping its se­cond con­sec­u­tive game and open­ing ACC play at Georgia Tech next week, coach Pat Nar­duzzi ad­mit­ted the Panthers have a de­ci­sion to make at quar­ter­back. Whether that de­ci­sion comes at the be­gin­ning of prac­tice this week or closer to kick­off, Nar­duzzi wouldn’tsay.

“I prob­a­bly won’t tell you, but we’ll con­tinue to eval­u­ate,”Nar­duzzi said.

DiNucci’s day wasn’t per­fect, as one might ex­pect in a blowout loss. On Pitt’s 5 and un­der pres­sure, the PineRich­land grad­u­ate threw the ball into traf­fic and Ok­la­homa State’s Justin Phillips re­turned it the few yards he needed for a touch­down to make it 56-14 in the third quar­ter. DiNucci threw an­other in­ter­cep­tion on the nextpos­ses­sion.

“Ben came in and he gave us a spark that we thought he could,” Nar­duzzi said. “That’s why we made the de­ci­sion to put him in the se­cond quar­ter, when­ever it was. He pro­vided that spark. He did some nice things. And then he did some things where we’ve talked, de­ci­sion­wise, he can’t do.”

Browne com­pleted 7 of 10 passes for 60 yards be­fore get­ting pulled. Nar­duzzi was quick to point out that lack of pro­duc­tiv­ity falls on the en­tire of­fense and coach­ing staff, not just Browne, who has faced top-10 teams in four of his six col­le­giate starts, dat­ing to his time at South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

The spark DiNucci gen­er­ates on of­fense might be valu­able, but the sole re­ceiver to catch a touch­down pass, Araujo-Lopes, said nab­bing wins is more im­por­tant than who’s un­der cen­ter.

“You try not to get caught up in the hype of this and that … We have to win the game,” Araujo-Lopes said. “So I know the coaches are go­ing to do what­ever we can to win mov­ing for­ward, so all that spark stuff, that doesn’t mat­ter. We’ve just got to put points on the board and we’ve got to win.”

Whether or not it’s his name spelled out by the stu­dent section in com­ing weeks, DiNucci won’t change any­thing about his prepa­ra­tion mov­ing into ACC play.

“I’m go­ing to take the same ap­proach ev­ery week,” DiNucci said. “I’m go­ing to ap­proach this week like I’m the starter and I’m just go­ing to con­trol what I can con­trol and leave the rest up to Coach Nar­duzzi and [of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Shawn] Wat­son.”

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