Pitt has to burn redshirt on QB for final play of game because of helmet rule

Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett is no longer redshirting because of an NCAA rule regarding players whose helmets come off during a game.

Let’s set the scene for you. Pitt quarterback Max Browne started Saturday vs. Syracuse and left the game due to injury. Browne was replaced by Ben DiNucci, who was at quarterback when Pitt took over trailing 27-24 to the Orange with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter.

Browne’s injury left Pickett as DiNucci’s backup. And, ideally, still a redshirt. But DiNucci’s helmet came off during the penultimate play of the game, forcing Pickett to enter for the final play because Browne’s arm was in a sling.

Pickett completed his pass attempt, but Syracuse held on for the 27-24 win.

DiNucci was ineligible to be the quarterback for the final play because of an NCAA rule that mandates a player sit out a play if his helmet comes off.

If a player’s helmet comes completely off through play, other than as the direct result of a foul by an opponent, the player must leave the game for the next down. The game clock will stop at the end of the down. The player may remain in the game if his team is granted a charged timeout.

Pitt didn’t have any timeouts. So DiNucci had to sit out and Pickett had to come in. Crazily enough, Pitt used a timeout earlier in the second half to avoid a scenario that was unavoidable late in the game.

We hope the NCAA will grant some leniency to Pitt and allow Pickett to keep his redshirt. But we don’t have our hopes up. This is a terribly fluky way to lose a potential extra season of college football. But at the same time, Pitt was at its own 15. It could have tried something crazy without a “real” quarterback and saved Pickett’s redshirt in the process.

Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) plays in the annual Spring NCAA football scrimmage, Saturday, April 15, 2017, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!