A quick change in focus
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The Pitt football team was able to right the ship last week by picking up a 24-19 win over an ACC Coastal opponent in Georgia Tech. The win pushed the Panthers’ record to 2-1 on the season and gave the Panthers a much-needed bounce back victory.
The focus now shifts to North Carolina, and though the Tar Heels are 0-2, they can present many challenges for Pat Narduzzi’s football team as they have done in the past.
It all starts with history with this particular matchup, and history is not on the side of the Panthers. Pat Narduzzi is 0-3 against North Carolina during his tenure, and since joining the ACC, Pitt is 0-5 against the Tar Heels. Narduzzi was mindful of that in his opening remarks during Monday's press conference.
“And, again, as you guys know, I don't look in the past, I look really the last three years, and really what's happened, and how they've been able to squeak it out at the end,” Narduzzi said. “It's always been a close game. We know it's going to be a ballgame this weekend.”
Saying the games have been close is one way of putting it, but frustrating might be the better word to describe Pitt's feelings against North Carolina. Since the series has started up on a regular basis in 2013, North Carolina has won 34-27, 40-35, 26-19, 37-36, and last year’s 34-31 decision at Heinz Field.
North Carolina has found ways to win every game, either on a Pitt mistake or a big play of it’s own. Narduzzi was a bit nondescript on how he thinks North Carolina always finds a way.
“If I had to tell you why, I'd be real controversial and probably be on ESPN tonight, I won't get into the reasons why,” Narduzzi said. "We’ll stay off of ESPN. But we have to find a way to win, period.”
It’s unclear what Narduzzi means by that, but there is an awareness among the coaches and players alike that North Carolina has their number and the focus will be to change that.
North Carolina was forced to start sophomore Nathan Elliott in a pinch last season, and he threw for 235 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start leading his team to a win over Pitt. Elliott is now the full-time starter in his junior year for the Tar Heels, and Narduzzi notes he won’t come as a surprise this year.
"It will help us having some games on him,” Narduzzi said.
While there will be some tape on Elliott and his teammates, it won’t be from last week. Hurricane Florence caused for a cancellation last week with North Carolina’s game against Central Florida, giving the Tar Heels some extra time to prepare.
“It obviously gave them a week of rest, and our thoughts and prayers are with everybody down in North Carolina, dealing with that hurricane, and how devastating that's been to the people down there,” Narduzzi said.
Having said that, the Panthers’ coach said it should give North Carolina an advantage.
“They'll be fresher, I know nobody got hurt this weekend, I can tell you that, nobody is banged up, and they've had two weeks to prepare for us. I think it's an advantage for them.”