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No. 23 Pitt’s QB situation a mystery for trip to WMU

Sportsnaut
Sep 10, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) passes under pressure from Tennessee Volunteers defensive lineman Roman Harrison (30) during the second quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a tough overtime home loss to now-15th ranked Tennessee, No. 23 Pittsburgh will try to rebound as well as gain a measure of revenge Saturday night when the Panthers play at Western Michigan in a nonconference tilt in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Last season, the Broncos stunned the Panthers in Pittsburgh, 44-41, which one of just three losses for Pitt — giving this relatively unusual Power Five at Group of Five contest a little extra juice.

Pittsburgh (1-1) will travel with hopes of earning some payback and keeping its status as a ranked team.

“They do a lot of similar things to us, so it will be some carryover from what our offense sees every day in practice with what they do coverage-wise and front-wise,” Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi said.

Pittsburgh enters 1-1 after a 38-31 win over West Virginia to start the year and the 34-27 overtime loss to Tennessee, when the Panthers squandered a 10-0 lead but then rallied to tie the game late to force overtime.

The big concern for the Panthers this week is the status of starting quarterback Kedon Slovis, who had gotten off to a good start replacing Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett.

Slovis, a highly touted transfer from USC, had completed 30 of 48 passes for 503 yards on the season before an undisclosed injury caused him to miss the second half and overtime against Tennessee.

Backup Nick Patti came and produced 9-of-20 passing for 79 yards and a touchdown for the Panthers. But even Patti appeared to injure his leg early in the fourth quarter, limping noticeably between plays but throwing the tying touchdown pass with 2:23 remaining.

Narduzzi provided no update Monday on the status of Slovis or Patti and said the third-string quarterback remains “unsettled.”

“I’m not talking personnel,” Narduzzi said. “We all know what we know. I know nothing. How about that?”

On the other side, the starting quarterback for Western Michigan will be a familiar face to Pittsburgh fans: Jack Salopek. He is a redshirt freshman who was a record-setting passer at Norwin High School, 20 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

In two games this season, Salopek has completed 46 of 79 passes for 423 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Western Michigan (1-1) opened the season with a 35-13 loss at now-No. 11 Michigan State and a 37-30 victory at Ball State on Saturday.

The Broncos trailed 23-14 with 8:34 remaining in the third quarter before rallying.

“They just kept swinging,” Western Michigan head coach Tim Lester said. “That’s our motto on offense, ‘Keep swinging.’

“We’ve got a new offensive coordinator (Jeff Thorne), we’ve got a new quarterback, we’ve got three new (offensive) linemen, we’ve got new wideouts and it’s going to take time. But we don’t have time. We need it now and they just need to keep swinging and trust the process.”

This will be Western Michigan’s first home game against a Power Five school since 2018, when the Broncos lost to Syracuse, 55-42.

–Field Level Media