Pinpointing the Problem with Pitt Football This Season is Easy

AP Photo

Remember to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for continued Pittsburgh Sports coverage: 

When a team is playing as poorly as this 2022 Pitt football team, it is often difficult to identify one thing wrong.  Typically it is a myriad of poor play, and fingers are being pointed everywhere.  However, this Pitt football team's failures comes down to one player: Senior quarterback Kedon Slovis.

We should have known, right?  The drop off in play from Slovis as he progressed through his college career was very evident.  In a sport where experience is so important, as exhibited by Kenny Pickett last season, Slovis has gotten worse with every passing season.  

Sure, Slovis had an outstanding freshman season.  He took over the starting role after JT Daniels tore two ligaments in his knee of the first game of the season.  He totaled 3,242 passing yards and 28 touchdowns with a 71.8 completion percentage in 2019.  

However, many quarterbacks would have found success with Slovis' supporting cast that season.  USC had a wide receiver corps made up of Drake London, Amon-Ra St Brown, and Michael Pittman.  Each are not only NFL players now, but are highly respected NFL players.  Regardless, still an extremely impressive freshman year for Slovis.

Unfortunately Slovis began to experience arm fatigue between the 2019 and 2020 seasons.  He saw his 2020 completion percentage fall to 67% and it continued to fall in 2021.  Even more concerning is his 28 touchdowns in 2019 matched his total output of passing touchdowns in 2020 and 2021 combined.  He had just 11 passing touchdowns in 2021, leading to a down year for USC.  

With it not working out for Slovis at USC, the bringing in of new head coach Lincoln Riley sealed the deal for his transfer.  He entered the portal and committed to Pitt before the 2022 season started.  Unfortunately, his struggles have continued despite the new scenery.

This season Slovis is just 121 for 208 (58.2 completion percentage) with five passing touchdown and five interceptions.  Now, nobody expected him to fully fill the gigantic legacy left behind by Kenny Pickett, but through seven games, those numbers are horrendous in today's style of football.  Three of his five interceptions came against a terrible Georgia Tech team who delivered an embarrassing loss to the Panthers at home earlier this season.  Slovis' play has made Pitt completely one-dimensional with Pitt's last 10 touchdowns being scored by running back Israel Abanikanda.

Now, some may want to point the finger at offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, but I disagree.  His hands are tied with Slovis.  Slovis has shown the inability to throw receivers open and doesn't make the correct decision on most passing plays.  

Some are also blaming the receiving corps.  Despite losing Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison, again I disagree and argue this WR room isn't that much worse than last season.  I find it hard to believe that transfer wide receiver Konata Mumpfield is simply never open.  Mumpfield ranked last season in the 99th percentile in the nation for getting open against man coverage.  Unless there is something going on physically with Mumpfield that we don't know about, Mumpfield's down season is on Slovis.

Also, Gavin Bartholomew was emerging last season as one of the best tight ends in the ACC.  He had filled the TE1 role nicely after Lucas Krull started experiencing a case of the drops late in the 2021 season.  However, Bartholomew has just 16 receptions this season.  We do know he was struggling through a lingering injury early on in the season, but he's invisible out there with Slovis under center.  

Quarterback play is the problem for the Pitt Panthers and you'd be hard pressed to convince me otherwise.  It's difficult to see quarterback play carry us for a full season last year just to see a drop off of this magnitude this year.  A senior quarterback cannot play this poorly and not shoulder the blame.  We should have seen it coming, and Slovis' continued struggles throughout his college career are continuing even further, and ruining what should have been a great season for Pitt.