Quantifying Quarterbacks: Pittsburgh QB Nathan Peterman’s Box Score Lied


Last weekend was a circus. The No.2, No.3 and No.4 ranked teams in the country were struck down one by one, mostly by clearly inferior opponents. In addition to Iowa’s win over No.3 ranked Michigan, Pitt’s stunning defeat of No.2 ranked Clemson completely dismantled the current college football playoff rankings.

By: Derrik Klassen

Oddly enough, it was quarterback Nathan Peterman who posted an absurd stat line that helped propel Pitt to victory. On 37 attempts, Peterman passed for more than 300 yards and threw five touchdowns. As stunning as Peterman’s numbers were, roughly a quarter of his passing attempts were short shovel passes behind the line of scrimmage, and two of those passes went for touchdowns. Peterman was gifted a lot of his production and certainly looked worse through the eye test than he did in the box score.


  • ADJ = Adjustment from receiver
  • DE = Drop w/ effort or defended pass
  • DB = Dropped blatantly
  • TD = Touchdown
  • INT = Interception
25+ 0/1 1/2 (1 DE, 1 TD)
21-25 1/1 0/1
16-20 1/1 0/1 (1 DB)
11-15 0/3 (1 DB, 1 DE) 0/1 (1 DE) 2/3 (1 TD)
6-10 0/1 2/2 (1 ADJ) 1/1 (1 TD) 0/1
1-5 0/1 (1 DE) 1/2 (1 DB) 1/1
0 1/1 0/1 (1 DE) 1/1 1/1
Throwaways: 1 Left Outside Left Middle Right Middle Right Outside

Total: 13/27 (48.14%) *Does not include jet/shovel passes*

Nathan Peterman conned all of us. 300-plus yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions almost always means that the quarterback played exceptionally well, but that was not true of Peterman this Saturday. Once all of Peterman’s ‘shovel’ passes are removed from his passing totals, Peterman is left completing fewer than half of his passes and two of his touchdowns are negated. Peterman did lose three completions to blatant drops–which would have put him over 50% of completion if they had been caught–but Peterman was largely to blame for his poor accuracy.

The only area of the field where Peterman had relative success was beyond fifteen yards. Had the one blatant drop been caught, Peterman would have been completed four of his seven attempts beyond fifteen yards. That is an impressive completion rate when throwing that far down the field. Peterman was egregiously bad when throwing to most other areas of the field, but he was hitting his mark down the field and that helped give Pitt enough big plays to win.

Pass Rush Breakdown:


  • 3 Man Rush: 3 Times, 2 Pressures – 1/3 (1 ADJ, 1 DB, 1 Throwaway)
  • 4 Man Rush: 7 Times, 0 Pressures – 4/7 (1 DB, 1 DE)
  • 5 Man Rush: 8 Times, 2 Pressures – 3/8 (1 DB, 2 DE, 1 TD)
  • 6 Man Rush: 8 Times, 3 Pressures – 4/8 (2 DE, 1 TD)


  • 7 Man Rush: 2 Times, 2 Pressures – 1/2 (1 TD)

Passing When Pressured: 3/9 (1 DB, 1 DE, 2 TD)

The only pass rush count in which Peterman completed more than half of his passes was when facing four rushers, and he was not pressured on any of those snaps. When Peterman did get pressured, he was quick to get the ball out. He did so frantically, but each situation unfolded in favor of Peterman, often meaning that a defensive back lost his footing or the receiver made an excellent catch. Even if luck was a factor, Peterman scored a couple of touchdowns while under pressure and managed to not throw an ugly interception.

Situational Passing:


  • Play Action: 6/11 (2 DE, 2 TD)
  • Rollout: 3/7 (1 DB, 1 TD)
  • 3rd/4th Down: 1/6 (3 DB, 1 DE, 1 TD)
  • Red Zone: 1/1 (1 TD)


Peterman should have been better on rollouts. Each and every time Pitt rolled Peterman out, he had open receivers, but he was too slow to pull the trigger in many cases. Had Peterman displayed more confidence and assertion, he would have come away with a few more easy completions.

On critical downs, Peterman was severely unfortunate. He completed just one of his six attempts on third and fourth down, but he had three of his passes get blatantly dropped by his receivers. For as uninspiring as Peterman’s play was, it was not his fault that Pitt struggled to convert third downs through the air.

Route Break Key:


  • S = Screen, Shoot, Swing
  • O = Out-breaking
  • I = In-breaking
  • V = Vertical
  • C = Crossing


S 3/4 (1 DE)
O 3/9 (1 DB, 1 DE, 1 TD)
I 2/4 (1 ADJ, 2 DE)
V 5/8 (1 DE, 2 TD)
C 0/2 (2 DB)

Aside from vertical routes, Peterman was abysmal. Many quarterbacks complete fewer passes on out-breaking routes than anywhere else, but a completion percentage of 33% is inexcusable. The issue for Peterman is not arm strength, though, and that is the obstacle for many passers who struggle with these routes. For Peterman, there is a clear lack of understanding of timing and how to control the ball. Peterman was neither on time or accurate, so it was no wonder that he struggled on routes that require a greater degree of both of those traits.

Target Distribution

Aaron Matthews (No.6) 1/3
Quadree Henderson (No.10) 0/2 (1 DE)
Dontez Ford (No.19) 0/2 (1 DB)
Darrin Hall (No.22) 0/1 (1 DB)
James Conner (No.24) 3/3 (1 TD)
Jaymar Parrish (No.31) 1/1
George Aston (No.35) 1/2 (1 DE)
Scott Orndoff (No.83) 5/7 (1 DB, 1 DE, 2 TD)
Jester Weah (No.85) 2/6 (1 ADJ, 2 DE)

Tight end Scott Orndoff was Peterman’s go-to guy. Orndoff did a little bit of everything, ranging from screens to deep vertical routes. For an offense that was lacking a dynamic pass catcher, Orndoff at least provided Pitt with a versatile presence that could keep Clemson’s defense on their toes. It is not much, but Peterman does deserve some credit for being able to consistently find Orndoff when he had a favorable match up.

Running back James Conner was the only other player that Peterman had success throwing to. All three of Conner’s receptions were on short passes, but Peterman was able to get Conner the ball and let him make plays. More so than Peterman, Conner was the real star on Saturday.

With such an absurd stat line, Nathan Peterman faked his way into being talked about as a possible NFL player, even if just as an undrafted player. With his arm, sturdy build and experience under center, Peterman will get NFL looks. That is not to say that his play has warranted him being given a legitimate chance in the NFL, but the league clearly has a type and he fits the mold. Peterman is nothing to get excited over, but he’s worth keeping an eye on because the NFL will be doing so.

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