Narduzzi recaps Virginia Tech, previews Boston College
Obviously nobody was a happy camper on Saturday night after that ballgame. It was not the Pitt football team that I'm used to seeing. If you look at all three phases, and again, I was probably pretty happy with our special teams units, pretty happy with our defense except three big plays that we gave up. That big pass was obviously critical, and offensively didn't play up to where we need to.Why? We just never got in a rhythm, and I think it's happened a couple times this year, just didn't get in a rhythm. We dropped the first four passes and nobody can catch fire, and it's hard as a play caller when it's three-and-out. You never get into a rhythm. And if you look at us through the year, when we get a first down, we start to get rolling, you can start to be creative and start to get going on some of your stuff, and I just felt like we never got in a rhythm for whatever reason.I always talk to our kids about making sure your minds are right and where they need to be, and so as a coach you wish you knew exactly what button to push or what problem there was. We're not mind readers. I wish we were. We'd be a heck of a lot better coaches. But it's just one of those days.We'll close the book on that and we're moving on to a talented, physical, tough Boston College football team.Questions?
Is that how you grade your first four passes, as drops?
Narduzzi: Yeah, we've got to make -- I would think that's how Coach Whipple graded them, too. We've got opportunities to make catches. We've got to make the catches. We've got to make the block. There's a lot of things. We've got to make the throw. There's all kinds of things. We just weren't in rhythm.Again, they were cranked up now. Give their defense credit. Give Bud Foster credit. They were cranked up and they played their tails off for Bud, too. So it's a little bit of both. They had some nice PBUs later, at least in the second half that you're like, heh (good play), but again, we could be more on target with the football. But that's life, and again, it's behind us. Does that answer your question?
In this league you see a lot of spread, different looks, and when you play Boston College it's a power running attack. Is it almost unique to prepare for that?
Narduzzi: You know what? I can't wait to go on the defense -- I'm the old-school guy, like I'm the old guy. Some of the new stuff, spread stuff they feel like they're really good at defensively, and again, I'm in there all the time. But it'll be fun to go in there today because it's old school. It's a little bit of Stanford from last year, which we made some mistakes in that game, so it'll be fun to go out and prepare for it. Very similar to Jim Chaney, what we faced really our first spring and fall camp as a defense. Their favorite play is what we call a push play, and they're going to hand it to a 250 (pound), AJ Dillon, the third leading rusher in the country right now. I mean, he's a Hoss. He's an NFL guy. I assume leaving this year, I don't know. That's what all the draft predictors are, and he's a load. He's the third leading rusher in the country for a reason. He's physical.But their push play, they're getting doubles on your both tackles, double on your end, and they're letting that tailback read his seam and find it. Again, it's very similar to, like I said, Chaney, so we've defended that run before. It's their favorite run. But they're talented.They've got tight ends -- they've got more tight ends -- I think they've got tight ends coming out of their ears. You're not sure which tight end is coming out there, and big physical wide outs, similar to a Notre Dame as far as the wide outs. You can't tell if they're tight ends or wide outs; they're 220 pounds.
This is the first time really in two years where you're going into a game and your preseason goals will not be attainable. Now that you're out of the division race, is that a test of maturity for this group or is it the home finality and given the fact you've got all the experience, it's not something
Narduzzi: You could have said that after the Virginia game if you wanted to. It's like, ‘Oh, we lost an ACC game, we can't do what we want to do.’ It doesn't matter. It's the next game. Our goal is to win every week, and regardless of if there's the goal there at the end or a bowl of chili, it doesn't matter what's at the end of the rainbow. We're going to play a football game. We get to play one more here at Heinz, we're playing for our senior class. We're going to play for the 2019 season, and I think to put another one on and have a chance to go to a bowl game, we'll find out where we're going -- I don't even know, in a couple weeks. It's just another game.I don't think our goals, our kids are going, ‘Oh, my gosh, we don't have that, let's shut it down.’ I don't think that's in our mentality. I know it's not in our coaches' or my mentality. It's not even there. We still needed someone else to do something already anyway. We still need something else to happen. So there's no -- we felt like really that was -- I won't say done, but we didn't win that opener, and it started there, and we were just trying to win every game after that and see what happens.
Are you hoping that big picture wise this being the last regular season game, in your mind and in the players' minds, is there a difference between 7-5 and 8-4?
Narduzzi: Yeah, eight is one more than seven and seven is one less than eight. (Smiles)
I'm not talking about the math.
Narduzzi: You just mentioned 7-4 and 8-5 and whatever. It's math to me. We'd like to get as many wins as we can, so yeah, there's a big difference because it's one more, yes. It's one more game, and you only get 12 guaranteed, so it's one more, and it's a big difference. And to beat anybody and get wins in that win column are huge. So yes, it matters. Seven is not as good as eight. Good question, though. Really detailed. (Smiles)
Looked like Maurice was lobbying to get in in that third quarter
Narduzzi: Maurice lobbies a lot. Sometimes he's better when his jaw doesn't feel good, it's kind of swollen and he talks like this. But no, Maurice is -- we're going to protect Maurice. We're going to protect our players, we're always going to protect them. Again, it's going to be another game-time decision with Maurice.Again, I just -- you just want to make sure, the doctors are telling us one thing, he's telling us another, and there's got to be somewhere in the middle that we can have some balance. It's obviously Senior Day, and him being a senior, we'd like to get him out there. But I'm not going to put him out there and then watch anything happen after that. I won't feel right.
How would you assess the progression of the offensive line from say week 5 to now?
Narduzzi: You know, we'll do that after the season, to say, okay, where did they get from week 1 because every week is a different challenge. It's hard to say that based on the defense we played last week, what the game plan was, what the weather was like, did we try to run it enough, did we run it enough, did we run it good enough, could we not run it. There's so many things to look at, we don't have time to sit there and say, how far are we. We've gotten better; I can tell you that. Have we gotten as good as we want to get? I can't tell you that. I think I'd be lying to you. But I do believe we've gotten better. But it all depends on what the challenge is and who the guys are up front. I think those are the challenges.
Were you going into the Virginia Tech game not expecting to run as much?
Narduzzi: No, we wanted to be two-dimensional, as always. But we've thrown it all year, and that's kind of been our bread and butter, and we've had success doing it. But we certainly wanted to run it more, especially with the weather conditions. But when you run it a couple times, I think I mentioned after the game, and you don't have a lot of success, you're kind of going, ‘Okay, well, let's go.’ And you try to get the passing game to open up your run game, and that didn't happen. We went three-and-out like seven times, and again, that's the rhythm we never got into.We lost the time of possession by 10 minutes, guys. When you look at our defense being on the field for another 10 minutes, we've usually won the time of possession, but to play as well as they did with as long as they were on the field was the other impressive thing. They got 250 yards or whatever it was total offense, and they averaged 2.9 yards per rush based on our stats. We kind of break it down like the NFL does as opposed to college football.
Kenny didn't have a lot of help from his teammates necessarily, but when the problems are his alone, are they accuracy problems? Are they reading problems?
Narduzzi: You know, sometimes it's accuracy, sometimes it's trust, sometimes it's -- there's a lot of things. I think he got a little bit flustered, which I think everybody in this room would, when you turn the ball over. It's hard. I don't think he had a great series the next series, and we tried to just kind of, ‘Hey, let it go and go.’ I think he missed Taysir on a skinny post that could go. We had another route down in the red zone, I think the 10-yard line that's a touchdown, we got I believe it was V'Lique wide open over the middle and he just didn't see it.But that happens. That happens in every game. There's a lot of guys missed. I'm watching tape now, where there's a lot of people missed guys. So we're not the only quarterback in the country that's not perfect, as well as the coaches.
You mentioned Dillon likely going early
Narduzzi: I don't know, that's what they say. Is that what you're hearing, too?
I’ve not heard personally but read that. For your guys, you have a good feeling you probably have a handful that could theoretically leave early, get drafted. When will those conversations with those guys happen?
Narduzzi: It will happen after the regular season is over, in that bowl period. We try to sit down with some guys and send papers in on whoever is interested. I think we're allowed to send in three (sic). Right, Chris (LaSala, associate athletic director)? Five total, just to get a grade, and obviously it's smart for anybody that's got that opportunity to get evaluated and find out what they say because it doesn't matter what I say, doesn't matter what some street agent is saying, it matters what the NFL says, and then you've got to sit down and have serious talks about what's best for you, your education. But again, if a kid is going to be a first or second rounder, just like AJ Dillon, he's got to kind of go. As sad as we'll be seeing him go, that's why they come to college is to go play that next level. That's why they play Pop Warner football, to go to high school; that's why they went to high school was to get a college scholarship; so that's why they go to college is to get an opportunity to make a lot of money if you're a first or second rounder. And I think that's the key is making a good decision based on first round, second round, and then if it says stay in, then that's when the work has to be done. First and second round I'm kicking them in the tail and saying, go. Third round I'm saying you can make a lot more money in a year, and I think those are the things that have to be discussed. That's when the discussions start, I think.
Do you know who the five guys are who you'll send in?
Narduzzi: No, I have no idea.
What if you have 10, how do you cut it off?
Narduzzi: I don't know. Good luck to you. Hopefully there's only five guys that want paperwork. Some guys are going, ‘Coach, I'm good,’ and sometimes you have surprises. You just never know. We'll decide who those five guys are, but hopefully they decide and then we've got to decide. If you've got more than five, I'm scared.
What's allowed BC's offense to be so good on third downs this year?
Narduzzi: You know, they're opportunistic on third down. I think they've got like 22 fourth downs that they've gone for, but they're going to run the football. When you look at it, it's a lot of short yardage. They're not getting themselves in fourth and long because of the style of offense they are. They're running the football and getting themselves in manageable fourth down calls. I think in our breakdown they've got just two fourth down and 3-pluses, the rest are all fourth down and 1s and 2s which you've got a chance to get those, especially when you can run the football like they did this year and kind of like we did a year ago. You're able to get more of those when you can have confidence in your run game like they've got. They've got confidence in the run game.Coach Addazio is a run guy. He's an offensive line guy. That's his trade, and they're going to have a good offensive line, they're going to be physical, they're going to be well-coached, and they can run the football.
As far as penalties go, I know you're frustrated with the amount. What have you guys done outside of just doing "don't" stuff to sort of address that? What steps have you guys taken outside of that?
Narduzzi: We talk about the details. The details, and it's -- sometimes there's nothing you can do. You've got to limit it on the field. Again, false starts are going to happen. You're in a hostile environment, the crowd, the noise, whatever. We got one tackle that lines up a little bit deep. I see tackles line up deep in the backfield all the time and never get called, and we got no warning. But some of those things are going to happen, and some of them you can't avoid.There's the unforced errors and there is the aggressive errors, and we're going to be aggressive. You know, again, I won't get into much more of that, but we evaluate it and we're going to do some things in the off-season. I've got to do something because I think it's been two years in a row, I don't know what we're going to do, but I'll be going to some penalty clinic and finding out what I can do better as a head coach.
Are the aggressive errors ones that are more tolerable as a coach, understanding that sometimes we're going to get away with it and sometimes we're not?
Narduzzi: Well, it’s aggressive. It's the game of football. I don't want anything flagrant like Amir Watts was last week (against North Carolina). That was not smart. But some other calls, like I told you after the game, I don't know -- again, I've talked about it already, so we're good there.
Have you had discussion with Paris about his issues?
Narduzzi: What issues?
Helmet to helmet hits.
Narduzzi: Next question. I don't think Paris has got any issues. That's the first thing. I'll take 25 Paris Fords. He ain't got any issues.
The fact that he was called --
Narduzzi: He ain't got any issues. What else we got?
For your seniors, for your four-years guys, this was the first group that you had a year to go out and kind of get them, instead of just getting thrown in and having six weeks to get a class together. What role did these guys play in sort of building the identity here and what do you remember about bringing them in and seeing them grow?
Narduzzi: You know, I think every senior class is important, and I can't tell you this one is more important, and that's not coach-speak because I think some coaches would speak the other way and say, ‘Oh, it's so meaningful because I've had them for four years.’ But man, I'll tell you what: Just relationships are important to me, to our staff, because it's important to me, and just it doesn't matter who they are. Tyler Boyd one year, you coach a guy for one year, you have a relationship with him, whether it's this long or this long, and I think that's the important thing. You've obviously got more stories the longer you're with them, but the memories will last forever that you have with these guys, and that's the fun thing. There's good memories and bad memories, and there's memories we have in here that we've failed and we've won and we've succeeded. But it's all the things that we do in here together as a football team that's key, and it's not all about winning and losing, it's those relationships that will last forever, and hopefully these guys feel the same way, and they'll be coming back forever thinking and talking about Pitt football.
Talking about one senior in particular, Damar Hamlin, when you landed him it was a big recruiting win; he's a Pittsburgh kid and he's really made big steps in his career to the point where he's a big player for you. What can you say about him and his career here?
Narduzzi: You know, Damar has been outstanding, and one of the things I'll never forget about his recruiting process, when he finally committed, and I think he knew he was coming here all the time, he goes, ‘I wish I would have told you earlier; I could have helped even get more guys,’ because I think he's a darned good recruiter, as well. But he's an outstanding football player. You see what he's developed into. He started a little slow with those injuries he came in with, and our doctors and trainers did a great job of getting him back, and now you've got an NFL safety, I think. Obviously I don't make those decisions, the NFL does, but that guy is as good a free safety as I've ever coached, a cover guy. One of the biggest things he's had to do in the off-season was improve his tackling, I thought, and shoot, I don't think in spring ball he tackled much with kind of a little issue injury-wise, and he came out this fall and has been like -- knock on wood, he's got to tackle a 250-pound back this week, but he's been really good, and I've been impressed with his play, with his attitude, with his leadership in that back end.
Dane Jackson, captain, senior, the way he's playing this year, how have you seen him grow?
Narduzzi: You know, Dane is -- we're going to have Senior Day here already. You guys are making me sad already. I forgot Dane was leaving us, too. Dane is a great football player. All our kids have developed. When you look at where they were four years ago to where they were a year ago to where they are now, he's playing at a high level, and he's playing on a pretty darned good defense right now, and again, we'll find out how good they are with two more games to go, see if they can finish strong. They came back last week.But Dane is a great cover guy. He's a great kid. He's smart. He's got it all. Dane has been -- he's not been an issue since he's been here. He's just a fun guy to coach. We'd take a bunch of those, too. We'd take a bunch of Hamlins, take a bunch of Jacksons, take a bunch of Paris Fords. Those are -- I can probably go on and on. I'll take some Mathises and Pinnocks, too. I guess I like my guys.
With the illegal procedure, whatever it was, is that something you'd normally get a warning on?
Narduzzi: We had one -- yeah, you would usually get a warning. It wasn't his foot. Your head has got -- if this is the offensive center and this is his belt, your head has got to be right there at the belt. But if he's a little bit deeper, which never gets called, but just happened to get called -- it just never gets called. I could throw that flag every day. And again, you'd like a warning first, just like they warn us sometimes -- as a matter of fact, they warned us about Pat Jones, ‘Hey, he's a little close.’ ‘Yeah, we'll back him up. Thanks for the warning. Appreciate it.’