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Pitt football notebook: Week eight

The+Cincinnati+Bengals+selected+Tyler+Boyd+in+the+2nd+round+of+the+2016+NFL+Draft.+Jeff+Ahearn+%7C+Assistant+Visual+Editor
The Cincinnati Bengals selected Tyler Boyd in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

The Cincinnati Bengals selected Tyler Boyd in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

The Cincinnati Bengals selected Tyler Boyd in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

By Jeremy Tepper / Senior Staff Writer

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With a primetime Thursday night matchup against North Carolina this week, Pat Narduzzi and his No. 23 Panthers hope to cement themselves as ACC Coastal Division contenders against the Tar Heels.

In order to keep his team fresh, he wants to decrease his team’s workload — especially his playmakers — as star wideout Tyler Boyd had six carries, 12 receptions and even threw the ball once Saturday against Syracuse.

Narduzzi touched on this topic Monday, along with the team’s recent decrease in sacks, at his weekly press conference.

Preparing in a Short Week

Coming off a 23-20 win Saturday against Syracuse, Pitt had little time to focus on the victory. Usually, the coaches and players would arduously analyze their previous performance on Sunday. But this week, they don’t have the necessary time alotted for that.

“Usually we would come in on a Sunday and watch the game with the kids because I think it’s an unbelievable learning tool. But, we had to pick out certain plays,” Narduzzi said.

Narduzzi said he sat in with the defense on Sunday to analyze their play, while offensive coordinator Jim Chaney worked with the offense. The rest of the staff was busy preparing the game plan for North Carolina.

With that preparation, Narduzzi posits his game plan will be thorough enough, despite limited time.

“I think we’ve got it crossed and dotted on both sides of the ball and special teams,” Narduzzi said.

For what Pitt doesn’t give up in time preparing the game plan, the team limits their time and physicality in practice this week, Narduzzi said.

“Usually we practice Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. We’re going to have practice all three of those days, but we’re cutting down on each one of those practices,” Narduzzi said.

Otherwise, a normal practice load could tire some of his players come game time.

“We can know what to do, but if we go out there and we have dead legs, we’ve got issues,” Narduzzi said.

Though a short week, in theory, might sharpen the team’s focus, Narduzzi says the players should be focused on preparation regardless of practice time. What does sharpen a team’s focus, Narduzzi said, is success.

“I hope they’re focused if they’ve got three weeks till the next game or five days,” Narduzzi said. “I think winning changes their focus. They kind of get those big eyes like ‘Wow, let’s go.’”

Decrease in Sacks

Though Pitt is still 16th in the country in sacks, the team has fallen off in that department recently. Narduzzi said his players were in position to make the plays, but they just didn’t execute.

“We’ve missed a few of them the last two weeks,” Narduzzi said.

That lack of execution predominantly lies in not finishing tackles. Narduzzi sharply criticized his team’s tackling performance last week against Syracuse.

“[It was] embarrassing, to be honest with you,” Narduzzi said. “We weren’t a very good tackling team. Not only on the tailback, but on the quarterback.”

Pitt’s last opponents also affected the performance. Against Georgia Tech, there was less of a focus on getting to the quarterback, as the Yellow Jackets are predominantly a running team.

It also hurt that both team’s quarterbacks were highly athletic, especially Justin Thomas for Georgia Tech, but also Syracuse’s Eric Dungey.

“He made a ton of plays with his feet. We had guys there, but we didn’t make it,” Narduzzi said.

Resting Boyd

Coming off a performance where he caught 12 balls for 93 yards, rushed six times for 24 yards, and completed one pass for 38 yards, Narduzzi said the staff will give him a break in practices this week.

“I think Coach Chaney might have kept him a little bit. We’ll probably not run him quite so hard,” Narduzzi said.

That decision to limit him in practice, though, is something Boyd didn’t advocate to the coaches.

“He’s a workhorse. He wants more. I asked him today, ‘How you feel?’ He said ‘Coach, I feel great,’” Narduzzi said.

Regardless of how much he practices, come game time, there will be no constraints put on Boyd, due to his importance to the offense.

“He’s a playmaker, so we’ve got to run him,” Narduzzi said. “He’s done it all. I don’t know why people aren’t talking about him for the Heisman.”

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Pitt football notebook: Week eight