Right after we played the Villanova game in the season opener I wrote an article titled Why Can’t We Get The Good QBs? In it was this bit about how a commenter saw my continual talking about Peterman as our QB:
“Yesterday a commenter on here made a rather witty remark in saying that when I write about Nate Peterman, who is currently Pitt’s starting QB, “it’s like a patriot fan talking about Tom Brady and deflate gate.“
Which I suppose is true, so I’ll try to stick with more factual stuff here in this piece. But what transpired over the first four games of this season didn’t make Nate Peterman any new fans, the opposite happened actually – we were wary of Peterman’s slow start. Even though most Pitt fans kind of knew we’d be 2-2 to start off the year it still was a bit disappointing to really be at an even .500 average.
Especially since we were racking up points like we had never seen before.
To start off the first third of our season Peterman did this:
Which in any other Pitt year might have been deemed “OK or fine or whatever… same old Pitt at 2 and 2 though”. But the truth was that we didn’t seem to win games because of our QB play and in those two losses Peterman missed open receivers on 3rd down conversions way more than he had completions on those critical plays. He missed his targets on other crucial downs also.
Even the fans who appreciated his first year’s work in a Pitt uniform and wanted to see Peterman come out of the gate airing out the ball realized that our Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada was doing the best he could to cover Peterman’s slow start with his use of our running game to cover for it.
So we had eight more games to play and it looked like the run game, which was going great guns and cruising along at 15th nationally with 250 ypg and 11 TDs, was going to have to carry our Saturday matches to victory. Luckily that rushing production has kept strong in every game we have played – not an easy thing during this year when our defense is so very, very bad.
You have to wonder is some finger-pointing and ‘us vs them’ popped up in the locker room among the kids back then. But if it did, and I sort of wonder if it did, Narduzzi and staff kept them focused and together for the long run.
But you can’t expect to win games consistently with only two of the team’s four main units making anything happen. Our run defense was stout in giving up only 100 or so yards per game; we also had a great running game as mentioned, but the passing side of the equation was 1) pretty weak on offense and 2) extremely crippling on defense.
So what did happen to make the team come together to finish out the last eight games with a 6-2 record? Our defense didn’t get all that much better – aside from two crucial stops against Clemson that will go down in Pitt lore as one of the best series of plays we’ll ever have.
We still gave up an average of 37.3 ppg over the rest of the season… but we upped our scoring to 45.5 ppg. Peterman’s decision-making and arm had a lot to do with that.
We now know that we ripped off a 6-2 finish to get to the 8-4 point where we stand today. We saw a great upset of a very strong ACC opponent by our kids down in Death Valley that was accomplished on the heels of a complete beat down by Miami just the week before. That has been the hallmark of this 2016 year, resiliency has been the key for us and our QB has shown that to be true with his play also.
The key when discussing QB play is how efficient one is in throwing the ball. There are some formulas for passing efficiency that take into account some pretty esoteric details such as ESPN’s Total QBR. Here is how that works.
Peterman shows well in that with a 82.1 mark (don’t ask, I still can’t figure that out) so I look at the gauge the NCAA uses when determining ratings – in that Peterman comes in with a excellent 161.2 over all the games. That 161.2 is good for 9th in the nation (same as where he stands with the ESPN rating) and is pretty damned amazing given the rather blase’ start to the season Peterman had.
But those last eight games? That is where Peterman really took off and grabbed the offense for his own. Running for 250 yards per game wasn’t the answer with the other three units dragging their feet. It was when Canada started to really integrate the passing game as an (sort of) equal in the offense that things rounded into shape.
In those last games, when we went 6-2 to finish out with an 8-4 regular season record and a good shot at nine wins on the year Peterman had 114 completions out of 194 attempts (59%) for 2153 yards and 20 TDs : 4 INTs. Wow! And that stretch of play was good for a truly outstanding 181.2 QB rating to close out the home stretch.
To put things in a bit of different light, that 181.2 QB rating, if sustained over the season, would land him at 4th in the country vice the 9th spot he is in now.
I like stats – anyone who reads this blog and my work on the Pitt Blather knows that. But I also know that stats don’t show the 360 degrees of a kid’s play, his decision-making, ability to think on his feet, pick up yards on the ground when needed and his general bad-assedness.
Palko had bad-assedness coming out his pores it seemed; Dan Marino had bad-assedness galore as we all know. Peterman’s scale on the bad-ass listing?
Maybe not up there with those guys but he’s knocked the crap out of some cornerbacks trying to tackle him lately, he’s run very hard and dove for that beautiful pylon-tagging TD last week.
Plus he completely dominated the Nation’s #2 Clemson’s defensive backfield with 308 yards and 5 TDs in a game that I’d put up against Tyler Palko’s 5 TD “I love these f*cking guys” game against Notre Dame any day of the week.
Both were fantastic wins for Pitt weren’t they? Both will be remembered as great wins as long as we talk about Pitt football.
Speaking of that game Palko’s QB rating in that match against unranked ND was 168.0; Peterman’s rating against #2 Clemson was 174.0. Just saying…, you know what I’m saying….right?
Just kidding, sort of – those two kids are about as opposite as can be in temperament and aggressiveness. In a grudge cage match I give the money to Palko over Peterman. However, in a beer drinking and hard boiled egg eating contest I give Peterman the edge.
Peterman has one more game in a Pitt uniform to play us to victory and an elusive nine win season. I point to that Clemson game a lot because I think it was a real turning point in the season for us. We went down to Death Valley at 5-4 and having just been pretty much humiliated by Miami the week before. If we lose that game, and we were huge underdogs, I think the season could have gone down the tubes to a 7 or maybe even a 6 win year.
But we won that game and that slingshot us into the last two games knowing we could beat anyone… and we did in our last two regular season games. Now, holding anyone to under 60 points was a whole different deal apparently.
Here is some historical stats to chew on. As I said above you have to take stats into consideration with many other factors to get a complete picture of how good a college QB really is. After all – you look at these stats below and you see Sunseri is up there in the Top 5 in QB ratings which makes one shudder – same with his being #3 in passing yardage just 7 yards shy of Marino. Still, no one is saying he’s been one of our top QBs in the modern era.
But I do think we should consider Nate Peterman to be one. He came to Pitt with a pretty poor track record at Tennessee and had to work doubly hard to unseat the incumbent QB Chad Voytik, a fan favorite, to get the starting job. He did what was necessary and it turned out well. He had a decent, I think good, JR year and this season, his SR year, has been one of excellent play over all.
Here is a listing of our best QBs since the 1970 season. You can see that absent his upcoming last bowl game, Peterman not only holds his own against other Pitt QBs but has situated himself near the top in some very important categories – again, the QB rating being one that I think shows us most completely what a player contributes to the offense.
There are different teams, times and eras to consider with these numbers I know. But note that in addition to his #2 QB rating Peterman is also #1 in passing yards per game and 5th in TDs thrown. His TD:INT ratio is tops also at 3.26 TDs to 1 INT. Palko’s is 2.64:1, Sunseri come is at 2.13:1 and Rutherford’s is 2.00:1.
Pretty surprising – I didn’t know that until I started researching this article. That’s heady company and considering he’s done that in only two seasons and with only 24 games played it makes one jumps up and take notice.
We also win games with Peterman at the helm. He has 14 wins on his belt now with a possible (fingers crossed) 15th in his two years as a starter – not bad considering how many games Pitt has won on average per year since the 70’s.
It is hard to fault Matt Canada for any of his decision-making this season given our huge jump in scoring this year. His creative use of his personnel is literally what has kept us winning games in what is one of the most bizarre seasons I can remember as a Pitt fan. To have to carry the load by themselves the offensive players have, in essence, won those eight games for us.
That isn’t a good thing and the burden of that falls directly on the QB’s shoulders because, as much as we may pooh-pooh the idea, it is still a QB’s game to win or lose as soon as he touches every snap back to him. Peterman has done well with that so far at Pitt.
Now go get us that last bowl win Nate and that 9th win. With the history Pitt has had your two-year career here has been some of the best QB play we have seen in some time. Keep it going for one more win.
And thanks Nate for making The University of Pittsburgh your alma mater.
Note: Hell, lets watch some more of those Clemson highlights…