Narduzzi talks Canes, Coastal, calmness under pressure


Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Narduzzi’s Panthers have cumulatively outscored their opponents by a single point.

By Ben Bobeck, Senior Staff Writer

Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi’s team hasn’t really been comfortable in any game so far this season. The Panthers (5-2 overall, 2-1 ACC) have cumulatively outscored their opponents by a grand total of one point, scoring 156 points through the season while allowing a total of 155.

Speaking to the gathered media for his weekly press conference Monday afternoon, Narduzzi discussed how Pitt’s experience in close games can affect the team down the stretch.

“We’ve been in tight games. Some people aren’t in tight games. We have been,” Narduzzi said. “Like I said, it’s a nice thing. It’s nice to be in a four-minute [situation] at the end when you know the pressure is on.

Still, Narduzzi isn’t satisfied with just winning close games. He wants his players to continue producing once they’ve built a lead — something that has not come easy in the last seven games.

Pitt has gone down to the wire with its opponent after notching multi-score leads in consecutive games now, leading 24-6 over Syracuse (3-3 overall, 0-3 ACC) at halftime and 26-3 over Duke (4-3 overall, 2-2 ACC) with 11 minutes of clock left in the third quarter two weeks ago. Pitt also led 21-0 late in the first half over UCF before allowing 31 unanswered points to the Knights before coming back to win on a “special” play.

“You have to refocus, stay focused for 60 minutes and execute,” Narduzzi said. “There are 11 guys out there … If 10 guys do a good job and one guy doesn’t, it’s not good. If one guy drops the pass on third down, your punt team is coming out or your field goal team. That’s not what you want.”

The Panthers have a tough test ahead of them this Saturday at Heinz Field with the Miami Hurricanes (3-4 overall, 1-3 ACC) and first-year head coach Manny Diaz stepping into the ring. The last time Pitt and Miami faced off at Heinz, the Canes were ranked No. 2 in the nation and then-first-year quarterback Kenny Pickett was making his first career start.

That game ended with a stunning upset as Pickett and the Panthers knocked off Miami, 24-14. The Hurricanes came into Pittsburgh that November afternoon undefeated and looking to secure their spot in the College Football Playoff. Since then, the Hurricanes fired their coach, had three different starting quarterbacks and compiled a total record of 10 wins and 11 losses.

Pitt, meanwhile, has gone 12-9, including an 8-3 record in the ACC. But Narduzzi doesn’t see that 2017 upset as an “attitude shift” and is focusing instead on the talented roster that Miami still has, even with its lack of results so far this season.

“They’re still a really good football team that has a ton of talent with a bunch of four- and five-star football players on their team. We don’t have many,” Narduzzi said. “Manny Diaz will have them prepared, ready to go. Like I said, I don’t care about what they’re ranked, doesn’t matter. I don’t care what we’re ranked. It’s a good football team.”

The topic of rankings has been prominent since Pitt beat Syracuse, with the Panthers receiving significant votes in both the AP and Coaches Polls but not cracking the top 25 in either. The ever-focused Narduzzi expressed great disinterest in such metrics. 

“I don’t really care,” he said. “In the middle of the season, it doesn’t matter. Preseason rankings don’t matter. It’s postseason rankings that matter. We’re ranked at 1-0 last week. This week we’d like to be 1-0 as well. That’s the ranking I’m worried about.”

In order to go 1-0 this week, Narduzzi and his staff must prepare to face a team that, in spite of its quality talent, has been unable to demonstrate results on the field and is coming off a 28-21 overtime loss to lowly Georgia Tech. The week before, however, Miami’s defense dominated the Coastal-leading Virginia Cavaliers, who Pitt lost to by its widest margin of the season. Virginia bounced back this week by destroying Duke 48-14. Welcome to the chaos of the ACC’s Coastal Division.

Addressing how the “unpredictable nature” of Pitt’s division impacts the team’s preparation and focus, Narduzzi responded in his usual dry manner.

“It really doesn’t matter,” he said. “Look at Wisconsin in the Big Ten, got beat by Illinois. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day. I’m not worried about what anyone else is doing.”

Pitt and Miami — with their meaningless records and rankings, according to Narduzzi — will meet for a Homecoming noon kickoff Saturday at Heinz Field, with both teams just trying to leave 1-0.

“We’ve got to do our job and prepare and focus on one team this week. You say that’s coach-speak and all that. It’s a fact,” he said.