Kedon Slovis made his first start last night as the starting quarterback for the Pitt Panthers and by all accounts he came out to mixed reviews.
Slovis finished the night 16 of 24 for 308 yards, 1 touchdown and zero interceptions.
Despite what looked like a good night on paper, I’ve heard and read a lot of people micromanaging his performance. To be honest, I’m shocked at the nitpicking that’s being done, but the more I think about it, I’m not shocked because we’re talking about the most scrutinized position on the football field.
Hey, I get it, Pitt fans are excited about the trajectory of their football program and how high expectations have risen. That’s fine, but at the same time, people need to be fair and realistic about those expectations.
The first thing to remember is that Slovis is not and will never be the current face and poster boy of Pitt football Kenny Pickett. Number 8 had a magical 2021 season and his arm took the Panthers to unprecedented heights, but that is in the past and as hard as it is to do, fans should cherish those memories but move forward with who is on the field this season .
In no quarterback expert, but I didn’t see anything last night that made me worry about who is leading Pitt’s offense.
The two criticisms I have of Slovis are that 1) he held the ball too long, taking a sack instead of throwing it away. By all accounts going back to his time at USC, that’s something he’s done and I’m sure Frank Cignetti will talk to him about it and work to make him better because those unnecessary sacks are a motivation killer. 2) Slovis needs to get the ball out of his hands a little earlier and anticipate where the receiver will be instead of waiting for him to be open to throw it. That point is something I have no doubt Slovis will improve on, and that will come with knowing his news receivers and playing in a new offense.
Taking reps and throwing in the offseason with your receivers is one thing, but doing it live in the game against a Power Five opponent and doing it in the atmosphere Slovis competed in last night is quite another.
All these are not excuses, just reality.
If you remember, and I do because I wrote about it, fans and the media had a strong opinion of Pickett when he entered his junior season. People wanted Pat Narduzzi to replace Pickett with another quarterback because of the lack of productivity in Pitt’s passing attack. Too many people have failed to consider the lack of weapons Pickett has had to work with up to this point and how bad Shaun Watson has been as an offensive coordinator.
I’m not saying Slovis will develop into a Heisman Trophy contender and first round pick like Pickett did, but I’ve seen enough that shows me Slovis will be more than fine once he settles in and feels comfortable with his surroundings .
The poise he showed on the game tying 4th quarter touchdown, knowing he had to lead Pitt to a touchdown, and he did just that. Several of those Konata Mumpfield completions were big throws. Earlier in the game, he threw several NFL-level completions to Bub Means and in the 2nd quarter to Mumpfield before Rodney Hammond’s 4-yard touchdown.
The most important thing that came out of last night’s historic Backyard Brawl was that Pete emerged victorious. I have a feeling that given the weapons he has around him and the talented arm he possesses, with a little patience, Slovis will lead Pitt to many more wins in his career.