Pat Narduzzi is coming off of his first conference win as head coach, a 17-13 defensive showcase on the road at Virginia Tech. Now, he aims to keep his players’ confidence in check.
Narduzzi emphasized maintaining a down-to-earth mindset despite last week’s win, as well as continuous competition and Chad Voytik’s involvement at his weekly press conference on Monday.
No Let Downs
Over the past few years, Pitt has struggled to string together consecutive impressive victories, often faltering one week after wowing pundits and fans. After a win against Virginia Tech, Narduzzi believes he can avoid a let down by keeping his team level-headed.
“The kids were feeling good on the airplane on the way back after the game, but we got them back down to earth yesterday just because there’s so many things we can do better offensively, defensively, special teams wise,” Narduzzi said.
The key, Narduzzi said, is not over-praising his team and letting them get too high on themselves.
“[We’re] not patting them on the back saying ‘Hey, you guys did a nice job, you can’t get any better,’” Narduzzi said.
Despite the lack of overwhelming praise from the coaching staff, Narduzzi understands that compliments will come from students around Pitt. While he can only control so much, Narduzzi wants the team to look ahead and come out “motivated and hungry for the next game.
“Not just sitting there going ‘Hey, we did good’ and everybody up on campus is tapping everybody on the back saying ‘Nice job, nice job’ and all that baloney,” Narduzzi said. “We can’t let that get to our kids because it can waterwall down the other way.”
Over the first few weeks of the season, co-starters littered Pitt’s two deep depth chart.
This week, there are no “OR’s”—the word that signified a position with two starter– as freshman running back Qadree Ollison and junior linebacker Bam Bradley are now listed as the sole starters at their respective positions. .
“There’s always or’s,” Narduzzi said. “You can see a starter listed in there today and it may be different tomorrow.”
Notably, the depth chart lists Ollison as the sole starter at running back, while Bradley is the starter at the money linebacker, positions that previously had co-starters.
Coming off a 122-yard performance against Virginia Tech, Narduzzi said Ollison earned himself more playing time moving forward.
“He got a bigger footprint at the running back spot just because what he did at the end. He’s starting to figure what is his style,” Narduzzi said.
That style, Narduzzi said, is just hitting the hole and running downhill.
Elsewhere on the depth chart, Pitt continues to list junior Terrish Webb as the starting free safety. Reggie Mitchell held that spot going into the season, though Webb took over while Mitchell was hurt.
Mitchell returned to action against Virginia Tech, playing mostly on special teams. Webb started, intercepting a pass and earning ACC co-defensive back of the week for his efforts. Mitchell will see more time going forward, though Narduzzi said Webb’s play has merited the defensive back more snaps.
“Reggie’s a good football player. We certainly want to get him on the field,” Narduzzi said “Webb is playing well, and we want to play the guys that are playing well. I’m not subbing guys if we don’t need to.”
Keeping Voytik Involved
In the first week without quarterback competition, Voytik, Pitt’s backup quarterback, saw playing time in a package which utilized his running ability. Voytik ran five times for 37 yards against the Hokies and will take snaps under center in lieu of starting quarterback Nathan Peterman.
“Every week we’re going to have something going in,” Narduzzi said. “He’s a great football player and you want keep getting him oiled up and ready to go.”
Though Voytik didn’t pass the ball against Virginia Tech, Narduzzi plans to utilize Voytik’s passing ability in the future, as the coach says there is still potential for Voytik to air the ball out.
“We know he’s capable of throwing the ball. Everybody thinks he’s going to run it and I don’t want that to be the case,” Narduzzi said. “He will run the ball and he will throw the ball.”
How much Pitt will use Voytik will change week-to-week, as Pitt will use him situationally.
“You base it on the situation of the game, whether it’s the weather conditions or how we’re holding up defensively,” Narduzzi said.
Regardless, opposing teams will need to plan for Voytik, mostly because of the threat to break off 20-yard gains with his legs, like he did on his first snap Saturday against Virginia Tech.
“Everybody’s vulnerable to quarterback runs,” Narduzzi said.