PITTSBURGH (AP)Nick Patti’s long journey at Pittsburgh could end with one more unlikely start. The senior quarterback is in the mix to play when the Panthers (8-4) take on No. 18 UCLA (9-3) in the Sun Bowl because Kedon Slovis entered the transfer portal.

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said Monday that he is holding an open competition between Patti and freshman Nate Yarnell, who started in a victory over Western Michigan in September when both Slovis and Patti were out with injuries.

”Based on today’s practice, they will do it daily, but Nick Patti was on fire today,” Narduzzi said. ”So, off of today, it’s Nick Patti. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

Patti started the Peach Bowl last year for Pitt after Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett opted out and completed 2 of 5 passes before leaving with a broken collarbone in the first quarter of what ended up being a loss to Michigan State.

Narduzzi did not go into details about the specifics around Slovis’ departure. Slovis, a USC transfer, completed just 59% of his passes with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Narduzzi said he didn’t consider going away from Slovis, whose numbers dipped in the second half of the season as Pitt became a more run-first team behind running back Israel Abanikanda.

”I love Kedon,” Narduzzi said. ”Kedon is a great kid and did a nice job for us. He helped us in winning eight football games. I believe that at that point he was the best quarterback to lead our 2022 season.”

Who will be the best quarterback to lead the Panthers in 2023 is uncertain. Pittsburgh native Phil Jurkovec is transferring back home after spending time at Notre Dame and Boston College. Christian Veilleux, a backup at Penn State, is also transferring to Pitt.

Narduzzi declined to answer questions about either player, citing NCAA rules that won’t allow him to comment on incoming players until the signing period opens Wednesday.

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