September 6, 2014
by Jerry DiPaola
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No one should get the wrong idea about Pitt quarterback Chad Voytik. He is more than a caretaker for this Pitt offense that has now rung up 914 yards, 12 touchdowns and 92 points in two games, the latest of which was a 30-20 victory Friday night at Boston College.
Voytik’s role in all of this should not be diminished, even though James Conner and Tyler Boyd are the stars.
The 22-yard throw to wide receiver Manasseh Garner late in the first half was as accurate as any pass to leave a Pitt quarterback’s hands in the past four seasons.
While Pitt was running the hurry-up offense in the first half’s final 83 seconds, Garner caught the ball over his shoulder with a defender running stride-for-stride with him along the sideline. A play later, Voytik found Boyd in the end zone for a 5-yard score, their second scoring connection of the game.
And get this: Voytik said there was a debate on the sideline about going for the score — they were on the Pitt 20-yard line — or running out the clock. Good call, Paul.
Voytik also hit Boyd with a 15-yard score earlier in the second quarter, even though Boyd was well-covered and he said he was held coming off the line.
“Not everyone makes that play,” Voytik said.
But the most telling quote from the sophomore quarterback was this:
“I don’t know how many times we threw it, but who cares?”
Voytik completed 10 of 20 passes for 134 yards, two scores and an interception. That’s a touchdown/completion ratio in two games of 20/4. Think about that. Every five times a Pitt player has made a catch, it has meant six points. Compare that to the attempts/interception ratio of 33/1.
OK. One of the opponents was Delaware of the FCS, and Boston College has a long way to go before it becomes a successful team. And the schedule gets tougher — not next week against Florida International, but in two weeks back at Heinz Field against Iowa and later when Pitt meets Virginia, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Duke and North Carolina in successive games. Then, and only then, will we know everything there is to know about this Pitt team.
But Voytik is starting games for the first time since high school (three years ago), and he doesn’t seem bothered by the bright lights. He repeated Friday night that for the second game in a row he wasn’t nervous, describing a calm surrounding him that he said springs from being prepared.
What was it Chuck Noll once said? “The only time you feel pressure is when you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Still, the interception by linebacker Steven Daniels did happen, and if the defense didn’t play as well as it did, the game might have had a different outcome?
How many shouts of “What was he thinking” emerged from living rooms back home as soon as the interception left Voytik’s hands?
Pitt was losing, 7-3, at the time (late in the first quarter), but Voytik came back on the field and led a nine-play, 71-yard scoring drive, punctuated by the first touchdown to Boyd. Pitt never trailed after that.
Critics will say Voytik needs to complete more than half of his passes, and they will be right. Good quarterbacks complete better than 60 percent.
But for the most part, Voytik is doing what coach Paul Chryst asks of him. For now, that’s all that matters.
One more thing before I head home:
Pitt is 2-0 for the first time since the early days of Todd Graham, but this 2-0 has a different feel that that one in 2011.
For one thing, the players like and trust their coach. If I tried to say that in 2011, I would have been wrong.
Also, in 2011, Pitt opened against Buffalo and Maine at home and struggled, giving up 45 points.
This time, they went on the road and won a conference game. Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Mass., isn’t the most difficult ACC venue for visiting teams. College football is an afterthought here, with New Englanders consumed by the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics. Only 30,083 showed up on a beautiful Friday night.
But Pitt controlled the game, and once it regained the lead early in the second quarter, it was never threatened again.
As an added bonus for Chryst, Pitt gave up two touchdowns in the second half that will offer the teaching moments he craves. The victory was nice, but there is plenty of room for improvement.