Pitt Football Notebook: Narduzzi reflects on debut

By Jeremy Tepper / Senior Staff Writer

Coming off of a close 45-37 first week victory over Youngstown State University, Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi had plenty to talk about in his weekly press conference.

While the main takeaway was running back James Conner’s season-ending knee injury, Narduzzi tackled plenty of other topics on Monday.

Looking back at Youngstown State

After watching the game from the sidelines on Saturday, Narduzzi had a chance to rewatch the Panthers’ win over Youngstown State on film.

Despite acknowledging some inconsistencies, particularly regarding turnovers and field position, Narduzzi restated what he said following the game: the win is what matters.

“We’re happy to be 1-0,” Narduzzi said. “Our kids did a heck of job finishing things off. It’s not really how you start but how you finish.”

Specifically, on the offensive end, Narduzzi was pleased with how his running game performed, compiling 325 total yards. Redshirt freshman Qadree Ollison led the unit with 207 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

However, Narduzzi said if the team had hit the right blocks and was more effective on outside runs, the backfield could have performed even better.

“It was a heck of a game on the ground, but we could have had a lot more,” Narduzzi said.

As a whole, the offense accumulated 458 yards, with much of that total coming on large gains.

“We had 11 explosive gains,” Narduzzi said. “We know we have probably an 85 percent chance of winning if we have eight or more and we had 11.”

Not everything was perfect on offense, though.

While he was happy with the amount of large gains, Narduzzi wants the team to strive for longer drives.

“We still need to sustain more drives,” Narduzzi said. “There’s too many three and outs or just not staying on the field and winning that time of possession.”

On the other side of the ball, Narduzzi said he is more content with the defense’s performance after having some time to sit on the game.

“Defensively, there were a lot more positives than I thought on game day,” Narduzzi said.

Five times, Pitt’s defense was put in scenarios when the Penguins held the ball in solid field position. In those instances, Pitt only gave up six points.

“We had five sudden change situations. Four times across the 50 — the 40-yard line, the 37, the 46 and the 9-yard line. They also had the ball at the 46, which gave them a 54-yard drive,” Narduzzi said.

The defense’s subpar second half performance negated some of those situations to an extent, as the team gave up two 70-yard touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

“The fourth quarter has got to be our best quarter, and we gave up a big pass and a big run,” Narduzzi said. “We can’t do that. And when you look at it, it’s just little details.”

Injury Updates

The monumental news coming from Monday’s presser was star running back James Conner’s torn MCL, which will keep him out for the season following surgery.

Besides Conner, a few other players are on the mend.

Running back Chris James, who will be asked to shoulder some of the carries without Conner, suffered an undisclosed injury, though Narduzzi said he’s day-to-day.

Defensive tackle Darryl Render didn’t play against Youngstown State for precautionary reasons.

“It was one of those things where you didn’t need to put him on the field and get him hurt,” Narduzzi said.

Narduzzi said Render will practice all week and he expects to have him play on Saturday against Akron.

Safety Reggie Mitchell was also injured against Youngstown State. Narduzzi said he isn’t ready to make any concrete statements on his status.

“I believe we’ve got a chance [for him to play this week]. It’s a day-to-day issue,” Narduzzi said. “I can’t guarantee it, like I can’t guarantee anybody coming back.”

Quarterback Rotation

Going into Youngstown State, Narduzzi had plans to bring in University of Tennessee quarterback transfer Nate Peterman for some series to replace starter Chad Voytik. He kept to that blueprint, with the decision producing mixed results.

Following two drives from Voytik, Peterman entered the game with 3:39 remaining in the first quarter. In his first series, he led Pitt to a touchdown drive, though he threw an interception in the very next series, prompting his removal from the game.

Narduzzi plans to get Peterman time again against Akron.

“We’re going to get him out there, and if he doesn’t come in there and throw a pick, you probably give him another series,” Narduzzi said. “Maybe we should’ve put him back out there and given him a second chance. I think everybody deserves those.”

Voytik had mixed results in the game, completing nine of his 14 passes for 72 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Narduzzi chalked Voytik’s struggles up to a new system and new season.

“Obviously he maybe had some first-game jitters,” Narduzzi said. “I think he made a lot of good decisions. There’s things you don’t see, the mental part of the game, he does a great job.”

No matter the mixed bag for both quarterbacks, Narduzzi’s trust in both hasn’t waned.

“We have a lot of confidence in Nathan. We have a lot of confidence in both of those guys,” Narduzzi said.

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