The battle for Pitt's starting quarterback job is on.
If it wasn't already, it became official when the week's two-deep depth chart was sent out this morning with the names of Nate Peterman and Chad Voytik in bold as co-starters behind center.
Head coach Pat Narduzzi reiterated, as with other positions, he won't be the one making the decision on who separates himself from the other.
"We don’t decide," Narduzzi said. "The kids decide."
By that, the Panthers' starting quarterback won't be decided until after their week of practice Thursday. But Narduzzi said he still anticipates using the other quarterback on the third series as the staff did in the first two games.
Even then, it seems like it will come down to who's playing best on gameday.
"We’re just going to go with the hot hand," Narduzzi said. "We’ve got two very, very, very capable quarterbacks and I feel comfortable with both of those guys."
Saturday, that was Nate Peterman who took all second-half reps at Akron after Chad Voytik completed 6 of 8 passes for 32 yards.
Narduzzi, who emphasizes the evaluation of his players not only in practice but during games, said he only sees "different things" from Peterman. Peterman finished Saturday's game with 148 yards and a touchdown while guiding the Panthers through multiple long scoring drives.
If Narduzzi does announce a starter Thursday, it might not matter. As written earlier, all that can be done is to watch and see what happens on gameday.
The Panthers match up with their first Power 5 opponent of the season when they head to Iowa City this weekend. Iowa is also 2-0 after victories against Illinois State and Iowa State.
Iowa is led by Pittsburgh native Kirk Ferentz, who has guided the program since 1999. Narduzzi coached against Ferentz and the Hawkeyes while at Michigan State.
"They will be known for their toughness," Narduzzi said. "They’re known for what we want to be known for, is a blue-collar, tough football team."
Pitt has lost its two games to Iowa, in 2011 and 2014. The Hawkeyes visited Heinz Field last season where they overcame a 17-7 halftime deficit to hand Pitt its first loss of the season with a 24-20 victory.
The Panthers' last trip to Iowa came in 2011, when they blew a 21-point second-half lead to lose 31-27.
"They’ll be a tough football team that’s going to smack you in the mouth," Narduzzi said. "So we’ve got to be ready to smack back."
Chris James did not play at Akron although Narduzzi said he was good to go Thursday before the game. Narduzzi made it clear Monday he is "100 percent" and was ready to go, but a lack of practice time kept him out of the game.
Narduzzi said James wore a yellow jersey during practice last week which kept teammates from hitting him and with the wet conditions placing more importance on ball security Saturday, the head coach did not want to put his back on the field after James hadn't taken a hit all week.
As for Adam Bisnowaty, Narduzzi said he is getting healthy after he did not play at Akron.
"He was probably healthy last week but he didn’t practice," Narduzzi said. "Hopefully he’ll get some reps in this week and we’ll have him back."
Reggie Mitchell also missed the Akron game due to injury and Monday he was listed as the backup to Terrish Webb at free safety. Mitchell got banged up in training camp and did not finish the Youngstown State game.
Webb has taken advantage of his additional gameday reps where he has shown Narduzzi he is a better player in games than he is in practices.
"He’s doing a nice job," Narduzzi said of Webb. "Reggie will have his hands full when he comes back."
And, despite last week's proclamation James Conner will be out for the year, Narduzzi was asked Monday if there's a chance Conner comes back this season. Last week, Narduzzi shared that Conner told him he wants to play again this season.
Here's Narduzzi's full response:
"Ask James. I don’t think so. He’d be crazy and we’d have a big, long talk. That doesn’t mean he won’t be ready to play, but will we do that? I can’t tell you he won’t be ready. We had a player at Michigan State come down with cancer. They said he’d never play again. Well, he did. Doctors said he couldn’t play, he almost lost his leg, and that’s all someone had to do is say he couldn’t. Then, all of a sudden, he came back. Maybe I should say he can’t, and then he’ll come back and play. For his best interest, he needs to get healthy."