Rest vs Rust: How Have Narduzzi's Pitt Teams Performed Out of their Bye Week?

Matt Freed/Post Gazette

The Pitt Panthers momentum could not be higher with both the fans and the national attention they are garnering.  Kenny Pickett is in the conversation for the Heisman Award and ESPN gives the Panthers a 71% chance to win their division.  However, Pitt will not get the chance to prove any more success this weekend as they are on their bye week.  Which begs the question, how have Pat Narduzzi’s teams been coming out of a bye?

Pat Narduzzi has been the head coach of the Pitt Panthers since 2015.  During that span his teams have played six regular season games on extended rest (10 days or more).  This is due to the Panthers typically having one bye week per year, however in 2019 they actually had two and in 2020 they had none due to the Covid-shortened season.  Bowl games are their own animal so I am not going to include them here.

Coincidentally, two of these six bye weeks have been followed by a game against Virginia Tech.  Virginia Tech is the Panthers opponent coming out of the bye this season on October 16th with a kickoff scheduled in Blacksburg for 3:30 PM EST.  This will mark the third time Pitt plays Virginia Tech coming out of a bye under Narduzzi..  The Panthers are 9-11 all-time against the Hokies.

2015

In 2015, the Panthers started the season off 2-1.  They had just narrowly escaped a loss to Youngstown State in their season opener. Chad Voytik started at quarterback for the Panthers that day and did not impress new head coach Pat Narduzzi.  Narduzzi instead made the switch to Tennessee transfer Nathan Peterman moving forward.

After a win against Akron, Pitt lost to their only non-conference Power 5 opponent that season, the Iowa Hawkeyes.  With only a narrow defeat of Youngstown and a loss to Iowa, the hopes for the Panthers were not high going into the bye week or coming out of it.  They were traveling to Blacksburg to face off against tough conference opponent, Virginia Tech.  It would be no easy road task for the Panthers.  Interestingly enough, I was to be at this game, but a car accident that left me with a concussion prevented me from attending.

However, the Panthers would surprise the Hokies in a victory over Virginia Tech 17-13.  Qadree Ollison ran for 122 yards and gave the Panthers just enough points to win.  This win started a four-game winning streak and the Panthers finished the season 8-5.  In this case, it would appear the rest helped.

2016

In 2016, the Panthers were riding high after a home victory against in-state rival Penn State.  The offense looked unstoppable even in the losses to Oklahoma State and North Carolina that followed.  Now senior, Nate Peterman, and the offense remained unstoppable, but unfortunately, the defense could not get a stop themselves, leading to a 2-2 record for Pitt to start the season. 

After following up those two straight losses with three wins in a row against Marshall, Georgia Tech, and Virginia, the Panthers were given a rest via bye.  Their bye week came before their game against Virginia Tech for the second year in a row, but this one was to be played at Heinz Field on a Thursday night.

Unfortunately, in 2016, the rest did not help.  The Panthers would lose to Virginia Tech in a close game, 39-36.  They would also drop their next game to the Miami Hurricanes in  a rout with a final score of 51-28.  Pitt would then infamously beat Clemson in Death Valley and finish the regular season on a three-game win streak, finishing 8-5 again after losing their bowl game to Northwestern.

2017

In 2017, the Panthers were dying for their bye week.  Narduzzi couldn’t decide whether to replace, the now graduated, Peterman with Max Browne or Ben Dinucci.  Pitt started the season 1-3, then were partially saved by a win over Rice to make their record 2-3.  Pitt would then go on to drop their next two to conference opponents Syracuse and NC State and the Panthers were at a miserable 2-5.

Pitt would somewhat recover for two games against easy conference opponents Duke and Virginia before finally reaching their bye week at 4-5.  At this point Dinucci was the solid starter until his injury that brought in freshman Kenny Pickett for the last two games, but we’ll get to that in 2018.

After the bye week, Dinucci and the Panthers played North Carolina on a Thursday night at home.  Similar to the season before, they would lose with a three-point deficit, 34-31.  They would then go on to drop a game to Virginia Tech nine days later.  The Panthers ended 5-7 and were not bowl eligible.  An upset win over Miami to crush their National Championship hopes in Pickett's first start was the lone bright spot of the season.

2018

The writing was on the wall for Dinucci that Kenny Pickett was taking over as the starter in 2018, so Dinucci transferred out.  Pitt would come out of their first five games 2-3 with a conference record of 1-1 and two humiliating nonconference losses against Penn State (51-6) and UCF (45-14).

Pitt would then narrowly defeat Syracuse in OT and were traveling to face Notre Dame who had National Championship aspirations.  With the expectation of a blow out, Pitt shocked Notre Dame, only losing by a score of 19-14 right before entering their bye week.

Pitt came out of their bye firing on all offensive cylinders against Duke at home.  In a 99 point game, Pitt beat Duke 54-45, and kept that going for a four-game win streak.  The Panthers would make the conference championship by winning the Coastal division, but end the season 0-3.  They finished with a record of 7-7.

2019

Unbeknownst to us at the time, 2019 would be the last time we saw the Panthers coming off a bye week, and they strangely had two of them.  The Panthers would get byes on both the 12th of October and the 9th of November. 

After starting the season 4-2 with a surprising upset win over UCF, the Panthers would take momentum into and out of their bye week.  They would go on to beat Syracuse at their place 27-20 and quarterback Kenny Pickett was really coming into his own.

The Panthers would then lose to Miami at home in a tight one followed by a win at Georgia Tech before taking their second bye week. They followed that bye with a win against North Carolina at home in overtime.  Pickett threw for 359 yards and a touchdown.  Pitt would go on to lose two of their next three and finish the season 8-5. 

Bye Week Record

So overall, it would appear that Pat Narduzzi and Kenny Pickett typically use their bye week well.  Narduzzi, as Pitt’s head coach is 4-2 overall in games post bye week.  Pickett is 3-0 coming out of bye weeks.  Also, aside from 2017, Pitt typically goes on a little run after their byes.  In three of Narduzzi’s years they have went on a winning streak of three or more games at some point following their bye weeks. 

I know we wanted Pitt to keep their momentum after the routing of Georgia Tech last Saturday.  However, this bye week may be exactly what they need to keep them on track.

Comments

  1. Seems that playing on Thursday night after the bye is what did them in.

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