Pitt football notebook: Week 12

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Pitt football notebook: Week 12

Tyler Boyd  had an impressive game Saturday against Louisville.  Meghan Sunners | Senior Staff Photographer

Tyler Boyd had an impressive game Saturday against Louisville. Meghan Sunners | Senior Staff Photographer

Tyler Boyd had an impressive game Saturday against Louisville. Meghan Sunners | Senior Staff Photographer

Tyler Boyd had an impressive game Saturday against Louisville. Meghan Sunners | Senior Staff Photographer

By Jeremy Tepper / Senior Staff Writer

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Coming off a 45-34 win against Louisville, the Pitt football team hopes to end the first year of head coach Pat Narduzzi’s tenure with a roar.

A number of story lines stuck out in the win, including Ejuan Price’s five-sack performance, Pitt’s aggressive mentality and Tyler Boyd’s 100-yard return to form. Narduzzi addressed those topics and more at his weekly press conference Monday.

Price’s big game

Against Louisville, Price was dominant, constantly pressuring the quarterback with five sacks. For his efforts, the ACC named Price the defensive lineman of the week.

On the year, Price now has 11.5 sacks, which puts him at fourth in the country in the statistic. Narduzzi was highly complimentary of his defensive end.

“He can rush the passer, he can stop the run. He’s got a motor, he’s fast,” Narduzzi said.

When Narduzzi got to Pitt, Price emerged as a distinct talent. Through offseason practices, it became apparent that Price was a truly skilled player.

“He’s impressive and I knew that when I got here. I was like ‘Wow, that guy can go,’” Narduzzi said.

Along with his strong play, Price has been able to stay mostly healthy, something he previously struggled with throughout his Pitt career, missing all of the 2012 and 2014 seasons.

Because of that time missed, there is a possibility that the NCAA could grant Price a sixth season of eligibility. After the season, Pitt can apply for that extra year, so long as Price wants to come back. It’s apparent, though, that Narduzzi would love to have him again next season.

“I might hand deliver that to the NCAA. I might take a walk to wherever they are,” Narduzzi said.

Gambling mentality

In his first year as a head coach, it’s become clear that Narduzzi is an aggressively minded coach, usually opting for the riskier, more rewarding play over the safe option. That assertive mentality extends throughout games, as Narduzzi usually will have his defense continue to bring pressure, even when holding a lead late.

“I’m a gambler, period. I like to play to win,” Narduzzi said.

The alternative, Narduzzi believes, is a recipe for losing.

“You want to go after people. I don’t want to sit back and wait for them to come after me and catch everything. I want to throw punches too,” Narduzzi said.

That aggressive mindset trickles down throughout the program, to Narduzzi’s assistants and players. He stresses that he wants his assistants — defensive coordinator Josh Conklin and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney — to be assertive in play calling, too.

“We’re going to be aggressive. Coach Conklin’s calling a lot of pressures and coach Chaney’s calling different runs and different passes and we’re going to take shots down the field at times,” Narduzzi said.

That mentality seems to be limited to his football strategy. Narduzzi made that clear, stressing that off the field, he’s not a gambler by any means.

“I’m not a gambler by nature, I don’t gamble at all. I hate to gamble,” Narduzzi said. “I’d rather go eat.”

Boyd’s impending decision

After a down game, by his standards, with only 38 receiving yards against Duke, Boyd returned to his normal level of production against Louisville. The junior receiver caught 11 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing four times for 50 yards total.

Boyd’s strong performance wasn’t because of any new mindset or strategy — each game, Boyd is a focal point of the offense, Narduzzi said.

“Every week there is an emphasis to get [Boyd] the football,” Narduzzi said.

Boyd’s efforts against the Cardinals impressed Narduzzi, as the head coach added that he’s certainly deserving of winning ACC Receiver of the Week. Boyd did not end up earning the honor.

Though Boyd’s primary contribution came in the passing game, it was his work running the ball that roused Narduzzi.

“I was more impressed with Tyler Boyd carrying the ball,” Narduzzi said. “He had some tough carries in there when he put his head down and got some tough yards, which he doesn’t always do.”

Because of games like this, Boyd is a top prospect and a lock to go within the first two rounds of the NFL Draft in April, if he chooses to enter the Draft after this season. Still, Narduzzi said he and Boyd haven’t talked about that impending decision, instead keeping focus on the season.

“We haven’t had one word about it yet. He’s been focused,” Narduzzi said.

Whenever that decision comes, Narduzzi was forthright that he’ll let Boyd make the decision, instead of trying to influence him to return to Pitt.

“I’m never going to recruit a guy to stay,” Narduzzi said. “It’s a matter of doing what’s best for him and his family.”

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