Narduzzi speaks on adversity, adjustments for GT


Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Coach Narduzzi stands on the sideline during Pitt’s 16-12 loss to Miami on Saturday.

By Ben Bobeck, Senior Staff Writer

Pitt football’s 16-12 Homecoming loss to Miami last weekend likely derailed its hopes of becoming ACC Coastal champions this season.

But in his weekly press conference Monday afternoon, Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi asserted that a return trip to Charlotte isn’t his team’s foremost goal in the first place.

“Our goal is to win one game each weekend,” Narduzzi said. “We don’t talk about [the Coastal] in here. It’s kind of like the thing that we don’t talk about.”

After the game, Narduzzi and his coaching staff gave their players a message about not getting complacent and taking the lessons learned from a tough loss into Pitt’s (5-3 overall, 2-2 ACC) matchup with Georgia Tech (2-5 overall, 1-3 ACC) this Saturday — as well as each game yet to be played.

“We’ve got to talk about [complacency], got to think about it,” Narduzzi said. “There’s handling adversity and there’s handling success, and to me there’s both those things you’re going to deal with, and it’s harder to handle success than it is handling adversity.”

When asked what positive takeaways could be gleaned from the loss, Narduzzi pointed to Pitt’s running game, which had one of its most effective performances to date. The Panthers had their second-highest rushing yardage total of the season, behind the win over UCF, with 176 yards from five different players. Their average of 4.4 yards per rush was up from the season average of 3.5. Of those five rushers, Narduzzi singled out the improvement of sophomore running back V’Lique Carter on run plays up the middle.

“I liked the way V’Lique Carter didn’t dance around and he hit [the hole],” Narduzzi said. “He looked like a tailback instead of just a jet sweep guy, and I think that’s another positive because he needs to carry the football inside … he showed some things in the run game that make you want to give it to him inside again.”

The Panthers’ challenge this week comes from a very different opponent in Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are in the midst of a transitional season following the retirement of long-time head coach Paul Johnson and the coinciding switch away from Johnson’s distinct triple-option wishbone offense. Under the oversight of new head coach Geoff Collins, formerly the head man at Temple, Tech has been up and down this season as the adjustment period continues.

While Georgia Tech’s current offense may not be the wishbone scheme Pitt has historically faced at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, Narduzzi acknowledged the capabilities the Yellow Jackets still show each week. After all, Georgia Tech managed to beat Miami two weeks ago in overtime, which Pitt couldn’t pull off itself.

“I think every week there’s a new offense as far as what they try to do and try to create,” Narduzzi said. “So you kind of don’t know what you’re going to get offensively on Saturday when you look at what they do.”

Narduzzi likened the Yellow Jackets offensive scheme to one of Pitt’s previous opponents in Duke. The Blue Devils employ a mixed bag of different schemes encompassing both spread and speed option looks, while even going so far as to deploy the triple-option in an effort to keep opposing defenses on edge.

“There’s some times they look like they’re lining up in a spread offense and there’s some times they’ll run some speed option,” Narduzzi said. “Not near as much as Duke, but who knows, we may see the whole game they may line up in it. We’ll watch that Duke game and maybe put it back in, I don’t know. They’re very creative on offense.”

Narduzzi also voiced sympathy for the challenges faced by Collins as he had to reform Georgia Tech’s identity with a roster of players primarily recruited to run a very different scheme.

“That’s a tough deal to walk into,” Narduzzi said. “Geoff will do as good a job as anybody in the country, and he already has. They’ve got two linemen that are transfers that have come in to play for them on that O-line … They’ve got skill. They’ve always had skill. They’re down in Atlanta — it’s hard not to have skill.”

Narduzzi singled out praise for Georgia Tech’s emerging playmakers on offense in redshirt first-year quarterback James Graham, first-year receiver Ahmarean Brown and redshirt sophomore running back Jordan Mason. Graham and Brown combined have 241 yards and three touchdowns through the air, while Mason has rumbled to 566 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.

“[Brown]’s a guy we’ve got to make sure we know where he is at all times,” Narduzzi said. “Really [Mason] their old fullback is their tailback, so 215 pounds that can throw it down in there. They run physical. They’re trying to make you miss. They’ll try to truck you and run you over and get another 10 yards.”

Narduzzi and his Panthers will do their best not to get trucked as they aim to bounce back with a win over Georgia Tech on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen in the crazy conference like the ACC or the Big Ten,” Narduzzi said. “You’ve just got to keep playing, and you find out in five weeks.”