Penn State coach James Franklin said Saturday after his team’s 33-14 win against Pitt that the victory was “just like beating Akron”, his team’s season-opening opponent, while Pitt’s 2016 win against Penn State was “like the Super Bowl.”
When asked about Franklin’s remark Monday, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi largely declined to engage, but not without adding a barb of his own.
“You’d have to ask him,” Narduzzi said at his weekly news conference. “You can ask him that question. They went low, we went high.”
Franklin’s words, while noteworthy, were somewhat on brand for Franklin, who emphasizes the importance of every game the Nittany Lions play. When given the chance to elaborate on his opening statement, he reiterated his oft-repeated stance.
“I’ve been saying for two years that each win is like the Super Bowl for us,” Franklin said Saturday. “You can interpret it however you want. Last week, we beat Akron and it was a great win. This week, we beat Pittsburgh and it was a great win. This win is no more significant than last week. I’ve been saying it for two years … each win stands alone.”
Though the two schools won’t play again for another 362 days, Franklin’s comparison, even if somewhat out of context, will add fuel to the perception that Penn State looks down upon Pitt, a sentiment Panthers players expressed following their win against the Nittany Lions last season.
In public, though, Pitt’s players are adhering to the same mantra as their coach.
“I guess that’s a question for coach Franklin,” running back Qadree Ollison said Saturday when asked about his reaction to Franklin’s comment. “I can’t speak on what he said.”
Browne to remain Pitt QB: Narduzzi, meanwhile, said quarterback Max Browne is still running the show for the Panthers.
Narduzzi, apparently, is in no rush to flip to sophomore Ben DiNucci with No. 9 Oklahoma State (2-0) coming to Heinz Field this weekend.
If anything, Narduzzi would like to see the guys surrounding Browne in the huddle to pick it up following the PSU loss.
Narduzzi pointed to protection problems and an inability for wide receivers to connect on big plays as major issues for Pitt (1-1) heading into its second showdown against a top 10 team in as many weeks.
The Panthers have allowed eight sacks in all through two weeks and the longest reception by a receiver through eight-plus quarters is just 22 yards. Browne watched the final minutes at Beaver Stadium from the sideline after taking a shot that left the Southern California graduate transfer with a sizable gash over his right eye.
“We’ve given up too many sacks, period, so something has got to change there,” Narduzzi said.
While Narduzzi will continue to look for opportunities to get DiNucci some playing time, Browne remains the starter. Browne completed 19 of 32 for 138 yards and two interceptions against Penn State, though Narduzzi spent Sunday poring over video trying to figure out how things went wrong. On balance, Pitt’s issues in the passing game were a collaborative effort.
“I was pretty happy after watching the tape with him more than I was maybe after the game, and I wasn’t disappointed after the game at all because I told you how I felt after the game,” Narduzzi said. “You know, so does he have room for improvement? Yes. And so do I.”