Narduzzi moves past Oklahoma State for UNC


Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

By Dan Sostek | Senior Staff Writer

With a showdown looming against the reigning ACC Coastal Division champion North Carolina Tar Heels, the Pitt football team has no time to linger on past mistakes.

Coming off a disappointing 45-38 loss in Stillwater, Oklahoma, the Panthers will travel to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to begin ACC play.

The game is a rematch between the top two teams in the conference last year, when UNC’s 26-19 win at Heinz Field propelled the Tar Heels to the ACC Championship game.

At a press conference in advance of this week’s matchup, Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi reflected on the Panthers’ close loss to Oklahoma State and looked forward to a challenge from UNC head coach Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels.

Airing it out

After Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State, Narduzzi said part of the struggles quarterback Nathan Peterman and Pitt’s passing attack experienced were due to the talent of the Cowboys’ defensive backs.

Narduzzi credited Oklahoma State’s secondary for stifling the offense but said he still expects more from Peterman and the receivers.

“They’re talented — I’m not going to take anything away from who they are,” he said. “But we missed some throws. We missed some reads.”

Peterman finished the game 14 of 29 for 237 yards with one touchdown and one interception with more than a quarter of those yards coming on a 60-yard touchdown pass to Jester Weah. Overall, Narduzzi said he was impressed with the quarterback’s performance, but hinted at some forthcoming changes in the passing game.

Narduzzi said he expects wide receiver Dontez Ford, who missed the Oklahoma State game with an undisclosed injury, back “sooner rather than later.” He also said to anticipate an increased role for first-year wide receiver Aaron Mathews, who still hasn’t recorded a catch this season.

Narduzzi was impressed by redshirt freshman Tre Tipton, who hauled in his first three career catches on Pitt’s final drive Saturday. But the Panthers will need more wideouts to emerge to keep up with the ACC’s high-scoring offenses, starting with UNC.

“You’re always concerned about depth,” Narduzzi said.

Bounce back for Maddox

Junior cornerback Avonte Maddox struggled to defend speedier Oklahoma State wideouts last week, surrendering a long pass in the fourth quarter to Jhajuan Seales that set up the eventual game-winning score in the fourth quarter.

Maddox took responsibility for his struggles against the Cowboys’ passing attack, saying there were “no excuses.” Narduzzi said this is the first step to recovering from a tough week.

There was no demotion on the depth chart for Maddox — he’s still listed as the starter at cornerback, which is something Narduzzi says will not change.

“[Avonte] is a great kid, and he’s got a lot of talent,” Narduzzi said. “He’s one of our best corners when he plays with fundamentals. And I don’t worry about Avonte.”

Maddox is beginning another tough week facing Ryan Switzer and Mack Hollins, two receivers he and Lafayette Pitts struggled to defend last season. Narduzzi thinks Maddox’s tough day against Oklahoma State will serve as motivation in Chapel Hill.

“I think you’ll see a different guy this week who will play with a chip on his shoulder,” Narduzzi said.

Heading the Heels

Over the past few seasons, former North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams gave Pitt defenses fits with his blend of size, speed and arm strength. Now that Williams has graduated, Mitch Trubisky has taken his place as the Tar Heels’ signal caller.

Trubisky –– a junior from Mentor, Ohio, who Narduzzi recruited while at Michigan State –– had his best game as a starter last weekend against James Madison, completing 24 of 27 passes for 432 yards and three touchdowns.

“He’s a great player,” Narduzzi said. “He played a little last year and has three games under his belt. He’s very efficient at running the offense.”

As a whole, Narduzzi said the offense looks exactly like what Pitt saw a year ago, crediting head coach Fedora as well as the return of talented starters Hollins, Switzer and running back Elijah Hood. He knows avoiding back-to-back losses won’t be easy for the Panthers.

“When the first ACC team you play is the one who is the defending champion in that division, it is a great challenge,” Narduzzi said. “We look forward to going there.”

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