STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The jab was subtle, but the message was received loud and clear in Happy Valley.
Without using names or universities, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi implied Monday that Penn State's play-calling has negatively impacted quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Narduzzi offered this interesting aside during a weekly news conference when discussing how a quarterback's play and a staff's play-calling are both crucial to on-field success.
"You could have a talented quarterback with a bad play-caller and make him look bad," Narduzzi said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "You see that around the country, some closer than others."
OK, sure, technically Narduzzi could've been talking about anyone. (Wink, wink.) And it's not that bad. But those words have already reverberated around Penn State. Nittany Lons offensive coordinator John Donovan has been on the hot seat lately, and he's received plenty of criticism, including about how he's (mis)used Hackenberg.
Here's the exact Narduzzi quote re: QB and play calling. I wonder who he's talking about... pic.twitter.com/D6A1JznH5q— Sam Werner (@SWernerPG) October 19, 2015
ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer said three weeks ago that Hackenberg is "not in a good situation at Penn State." (Coach James Franklin disagreed.) So this is only the latest criticism leveled at Donovan. The content wasn't a surprise -- but it was a bit of a shock that it came from Narduzzi.
Then again, maybe it shouldn't have been after Franklin said -- on his first day on the job -- that he intended to "dominate the state."
Penn State next plays Pitt on Sept. 10, 2016, in the two rivals' first meeting since 2000. That means the game is still 327 days away -- but we're already looking forward to it.