UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 9, 2019
PAT NARDUZZI: Obviously excited to get our first win under our belt last week against a good football team in Ohio. Again, I'd give Frank Solich credit. Really well-coached, detailed, tough, and besides them being a good football team, I think they're always going to come in and play their best. I mean, one of their best games of the year. Because they're playing up for who they're playing against. They get to come into Heinz Field, so I think that's also something we look at.
But I certainly think we made improvement from week 1 to week 2. What's the percentage of improvement? I think pretty good. We did a lot of things better. There were some things we did worse, which maybe was a lack of focus, whatever it may be. But I still believe we can make some pretty darned good improvement from week 2 to week 3, and we have to. There's still things you're disappointed in. There's five illegal procedures, that's 25 yards, okay. They're drive killers. I don't know what -- you look at the national stat, but any time there's a penalty in an offensive series or defensive series for that matter, it leads to bad offense or bad defense. It leads to a score, a field goal or a touchdown.
And same thing goes offensively. Any time there's a penalty, whether it's a holding, clipping, whatever it may be or illegal procedure, delay of game, there's a good chance you're punting and not scoring on those series.
I told you after the game, I remember complimenting the offense, like we do some hard cadence, and we worked the cadence pretty good on offense, where our guys don't even move where. So I don't know what was going on out there, but I'm sure we got them all out of our system. We got five for the year. I don't expect to see another one. And a year ago, we had a few too many delay of games. It's one of those things, knock on wood, we haven't had any of those. A couple muffed punts. We'll fix that. We've got to turn our ringers off, golly. We've got ringers going off in meetings.
But muffed punts, we missed a field goal, plant foot issue. So there's a lot of things we can clean up, and it's week 3, and it's time to clean those up.
But obviously a big game this week. We're looking forward to heading out to Happy Valley and playing a very good football team, explosive football team. They're very talented up front with their front seven. On defense they create havoc in the backfield. Obviously Sean Clifford is a baller, just another quarterback that they've developed in their system and knows what he's doing. He's got a nice arm throwing the ball all over the place. The Hamler kid, again, I remember sitting in the tower at Michigan State watching that guy run around as a sophomore going, holy cow, that guy is a football player. He's impressive. We'll have to know where he is all the time. They move him around quite a bit.
So they're explosive on offense. They're explosive on defense. Obviously very talented, and we'll have our hands full on Saturday afternoon, I guess Saturday at noon.
And then as always, I appreciate you guys. I love the media. I love you guys. You guys know that. I'll do anything for you. So it's nothing against you, you guys know that. I sure hope you know that. If you don't know that by now, then we've got issues. But I want to keep things tight this week again, just kind of what we do when there's a big opportunity. And if you've got questions for me out -- I told EJ, I'll talk on Tuesday, I'll talk on Wednesday, I'll talk every day if you want to talk. But if you've got questions, ask EJ, and I'd certainly like to answer it to give you guys content. But I just want to keep it tight with our kids and let them focus on what they need to focus on.
We'll all be happy in this room when there's a lot of focus at noon on Saturday. That's what I want.
Q. Is that game on Saturday sort of a blueprint for the personality of this season? Didn't turn it over, defense --
PAT NARDUZZI: Okay, I thought you were going ahead. You're back. Was it a blueprint? I mean, we don't ever want to turn it over, so it's a blueprint turnover-wise, it's a bad blueprint illegal procedure-wise. I think every game there's things you pool and say, I like that, I like that. Ooh, I don't like that, and I don't like that, throw that out. Every week there's stuff you like and don't like. But blueprint? Don't turn the ball over. That's our blueprint every week is protect the ball. I talk every week about just our keys to victory as a football team, not just offensively. The defense has their goals, the offense has their goals. But what do we have to do to win that game. And we had an opportunity to get some turnovers, which were disappointing. Another point that -- don't like that. We got a chance for a pick six that we don't get.
So those things will come, but we don't want to turn the ball over at all, ever. Kenny was smart with the ball and our receivers did a good job of giving him looks.
Q. (Indiscernible) missed a couple of kicks. Is everything going on with the snap and the hold?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think it's a matter of him missing it. Sometimes we think those 50 yarders are easy. Like what are we doing here? It's a 50 yard field goal, maybe we should just go for it or punt it. Last week I just said -- and, again, we got two great series defensively. Let them go 90, if they can go 90 or 94 yards, whatever they've got to go.
But, you know, so we'll mix that up. But just a plant foot issue. Like I said, it's something every week, but let's hope it's zero this week. That's why we practice. That's why we coach. You know, I always said if it was easy, coaches -- we wouldn't need coaches. We'd just -- I'd be at the swimming pool right now hanging out having a hot dog.
Q. How important is Saturday's game being the last scheduled match-up between the two schools, and do you think this game should be played every year?
PAT NARDUZZI: I'll start with the second part of that question and say of course, I did, but it doesn't matter what I think. Nobody cares what I think. I think everybody in the state of Pennsylvania that's not sitting in a football office somewhere in this state would say, hey, why do we play this game? So I think I've answered that question in the past.
Of course, we all want to play this game. Nobody -- it's just a close game. We're going to jump on the bus on Friday, it's close enough to get on a bus. We don't have to go wait at an airport, don't have to go through customs, we don't have to do anything. We don't have to empty our pockets. We jump on a bus and we go. So we certainly want to play that game.
But it doesn't matter. And it's a big game. It's another game for us, but it's a big game because it's a rivalry game, in state. You know, again, I'm going to emphasize to our kids, you might be the last team to ever get to play this game. It might be. I don't know if it'll be played. I'm either going to be in a coffin or retired probably, so I don't know which one it'll be. Do you have any idea?
Q. I'll beat you to it.
PAT NARDUZZI: Okay. No, you won't. Just keep getting your workout in. (Laughter).
Q. No game against Penn State for the foreseeable future. How much of a desire is there for you guys to have more of a traditional rival on the schedule every year?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I think Syracuse is always -- West Virginia is coming back, as you know. And then Syracuse is our rival. I mean, that's an old Big East rival, as we know. It's been a terrific game every year. It's a talented football team, and we're talking about it's Penn State week. But we have rivalry games. We'll make one. We'll make one if we have to. Shoot, we made one back in the day when I was at Cincinnati. The River City Rivalry, wasn't that what it was called, something like the River City Rivalry? We'll make one up. We'll get a trophy made, put a picture of Jerry on the trophy and go play.
Q. In the run-ups to this game the past few years, have you noticed your team practicing and preparing in a different way than they prepare for any other game?
PAT NARDUZZI: I hope a little bit, just because we try to -- is it good, bad, are we good enough to do that? I don't know. But it's hard for me to look back and look. You guys want me to look back sometimes during a game and say this 3rd down or 4th down, what did you do here? I think our guys are pretty focused this week. I really do. You go back and watch last year's game, that halftime, it's a shame what the score is at halftime because we played pretty good. You have a couple -- it only takes one of these and something to happen to blow things up a little bit.
Q. How is Penn State different this year than what you've seen in the past?
PAT NARDUZZI: Obviously it's the same football team. Penn State is the same football team they were -- it's just different guys wearing different numbers. Maybe they're bigger, maybe they're faster, I don't know. We'll find out Saturday at noon. But to me, it's a culture they've built over there offensively and defensively, what they do, and special teams. They've got a new special teams coordinator. But there's a culture with what they do and how they do it, so what I see on tape, I see a lot of. We've got years of videotape, whether it's against us or anybody else, that we've scoured through and got thick books that big of really what we're looking at here. It's not a one-game breakdown, it's not a five-game breakdown. It's a three-year study going on here for this game.
Q. How would you describe your relationship with James Franklin?
PAT NARDUZZI: We vacation together. (Laughter).
We do. James is a great guy. We go on the Nike trip every year, and I would call that a vacation, so we do vacation and socialize. But when it's game day, it's game week. It's game week, it's game week. And we vacation together.
Q. Obviously there are some people when you get your center the other day talking about -- we did ask them about Penn State --
PAT NARDUZZI: You did?
Q. Just in case he wasn't available. And he mentioned like I would have gone there even if they had offered me a scholarship, and I don't like those guys. You're the leader of this program. They were considered as a rival. Do you have to draw a line between -- you're professional colleagues with James, but on Saturday at noon, is it going to be like seeing red when you look over on the other sideline?
PAT NARDUZZI: I don't know: What was the final part of that question? See red, did you say?
Q. Are you going to think, we're buddies, in contrast to --
PAT NARDUZZI: I don't know how to answer that. I mean, game day -- again, Frank Solich is a hell of a guy, okay, excuse my language. But he's a great guy. We shake hands, we talk for a few minutes before the game and then the fight is on. After the game I'm saying, you guys got a great football team, give him a hug, and you like the guy. And that's what it is. I think that's called -- what college sports is. There's the competition part of it and there's the sportsman part of it. I feel like the University of Pittsburgh, our program is going to be a classy program and we're going to play with class and act classy. That's who we are.
Q. You guys have kind of made some comments about (indiscernible) over the years.
PAT NARDUZZI: Who has?
Q. You and James Franklin, maybe a little subtle --
PAT NARDUZZI: Maybe on vacation maybe. That's about it.
Q. Does that make it any more personal, more of a personal stake wanting to get the win for you?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, I'm not sure what conversations you're talking about, to be honest with you, but I don't --
Q. (No microphone.)
PAT NARDUZZI: I'm getting old.
Q. Getting the win was just like beating Akron --
PAT NARDUZZI: I didn't say that.
Q. No, he said that.
PAT NARDUZZI: I can't speak for him. I'll speak for me, I guess.
Q. How about preparation for that environment, communication preparation? Because it's going to be loud.
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, obviously when our offense is on the field, we'll be in silent count, using different signals to get the ball snapped. It's something that our offense has not prepared for this year yet, however Saturday, we'll have to deal with the noise. That will be part of our cadence. That's why those illegal procedures are out of our -- we got them all done this week, so obviously there will be a major focus on that. If we had zero, we'd probably have had five this weekend. So I'm kind of fired up that we were able to get a win, had five problems, and there will be a concerted effort to make sure that doesn't happen.
But noise will be critical. We know that when our offense is on the field, we'll have that issue to deal with. So that will be something that we'll deal with for sure.
Q. You have Vincent Davis listed as a starter this week --
PAT NARDUZZI: You said I do have him listed?
Q. Co-starter, three "ors." What has he done as a true freshman to earn that opportunity, and what have you seen him out of him that wants you to make keep giving him the ball?
PAT NARDUZZI: Again, AJ Davis, it's the Davis twins right now, but AJ Davis has done a nice job, and Vince is a young kid that I'm glad we put him in at the end of that Virginia game just to see how he'd react, what he'd do. I mean, if he fumbled the ball in the last two snaps, he might not have played at all the other day. We'd have been like, he's out. Give him the hook. But he's mature. He's loose. He doesn't play tight. He doesn't get nervous. He doesn't trip and fall down.
And that's what I've seen in camp when we gave him opportunities to run in there with the ones. That's kind of -- we didn't get a chance to play him early in that Virginia game. Maybe we made a mistake. Sometimes that happens. But it's a big game and you don't want to put a freshman out there.
So you just may see him do a few other things this week, too. But he's kind of a gamer. But he's also a practiced player, so we've been very, very impressed with Vince in that respect.
Q. How big of a challenge is it going to be for (indiscernible) and Carter coming up against Gross-Matos, Tony --
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, it'll be a challenge. It'll be a challenge for all those guys. But it'll going to be a challenge for our backs to make sure we get chips on Tony because we know he's blazing fast. And Matos is a big physical guy that's got three sacks, and then they're good inside, too. Their front seven is as good as you're going to see in the country. I have no doubt about that. They've managed to stay healthy. That's part of it. And they're good football players.
Q. As good as Clemson?
PAT NARDUZZI: I'd say those two defensive ends are pretty talented. Again, when I say as good as anybody in the country, I'm talking top 10, and they've got a front seven. Are they the best? Who knows. There's Michael Jordan -- who's the best? Who knows?
Q. You talked about wanting to finish drives with touchdowns instead of field goals, field goal attempts. When you look back at the film, is it discernible, can you break down kind of where you fell flat in those areas? How much of more of a challenge is that when you go on the road to Penn State?
PAT NARDUZZI: Obviously it's always a challenge. Touchdowns aren't easy. Everybody would like touchdowns. We haven't had a lot scored against us. Everybody would like them. But the long drives are hard. We've got to give ourselves some shorter fields offensively, which is something the defense and special teams can help with field position. But we'd all like to finish the drives. The important thing is not going three-and-out and moving those drives. But again, what are the issues and why are we not finishing? It comes down to execution and a little bit of focus on details. Even the first play of the game, we give up a sack, the only sack of the day is on the first play of the game on a blitz that we've seen 952 times. And the only reason it's a sack, because the protection is -- it's walled up. Everybody thinks, O-line, what happened on that first play, right, Jerry? There was a sack, so it's the line's fault, right, or the running back or the tight end. It's we run a wrong route. I mean, if you run a wrong route and you're not where you're supposed to be and two guys are standing next to each other -- Kenny is like, oh, where's my guy at.
So that's not on the O-line, it's like there's -- so every play it's something, whether it's an illegal procedure, it's a missed route, it's a block, whatever it may be, those are the things, that's why we work every day. Good question.
Q. What would you like your offense's identity to be?
PAT NARDUZZI: Explosive, run or pass, don't care. But we obviously like to run -- I want to run the football. Again, Saturday we were able to do it. Did we run better? Oh, yeah. Did we run it as good as we can? No. Did we run it as good on 4th and 1? No, but that's sometimes play selection, whatever it may be. And those are all -- again, it's coaches, it's players, it's a little bit of both. But it was kind of odd. I think they got lined up wrong.
Q. How do you feel about the athleticism of your linebackers? I think seven of them got in the other day.
PAT NARDUZZI: Seven, six, five -- I really feel comfortable -- Phil Campbell and Cam Bright are the same dude. They're both really good. They both played very well Saturday. Excited they're -- and the boundary, Kylan Johnson, he's been probably the most consistent linebacker. He's really been the most consistent linebacker. Been very impressed with him. Again, I hope everybody learns from that. If you want to learn one thing, just practice and play the same way. If you practice like this, on the game days -- what he does doesn't surprise me because that's how he practices every day. He's been very mature and locked into what we're doing.
Then the Mike position has been a little bit of an up-and-down spot which hurt us a little bit versus the run last week, I think. Whether it's some little tiny mental things that we need to do better, and give them probably -- I would imagine tailback in the middle there. I'm not sure what it looks like because I don't know who's going to start at that position this week. It's who's running the ball well, I guess, right?
Q. (Indiscernible) forced the pass more than you wanted because they were able to (indiscernible) do you feel as an offense you're more capable of sort of making them pay if they want to stack up against the run? Have you taken steps to be more dynamic?
PAT NARDUZZI: I definitely do. We've faced some good passing teams throughout -- if you catch the ball and your run the right route and you protect the quarterback, you know. I certainly believe our pass game is better right now than it was a year ago. I don't have any question about it. Our run game still a work in progress, I think. I think it got -- I think there was a lot of improvement and we were able to at least work on it, too, which is a nice thing when you didn't have to throw the ball 17 times in the first quarter. I think that's helped us be able to run the football this week, and again, we've got maybe some stuff that we haven't run yet, either.
Q. How would you assess the defensive unit kind of as a whole over two weeks?
PAT NARDUZZI: Except for his 27-yard run, where there was what we call our stars in the backfield unblocked, just rattle his cage, just opportunities -- again, don't bring it back up, would you? Golly.
Again, the defense has been solid. But you know, when I watch tape, it ain't good enough. To be honest with you, we've still got a ways to go. There's some details, details, details that aren't good enough right now. And that's why I say the improvement from week 2 to week 3 can be better than what it is. It really could. I'm not just giving you coach talk. It really could be. It's like some details, like what are we doing here, like why is he doing that, and things happen when the lights go on. I think every game we're going to get a little bit better. There's enough things that we need to clean up on both sides of the football and really in the special teams. I mean, we had two holding calls on rangers or our punt return team. It's like we get a return back to whatever, inside the 20-yard line, and we get it called back. We get a bad spot, whatever it may be.
Q. How would you kind of --
PAT NARDUZZI: I was watching some Iowa tape. You know. Penn State-Iowa, good game to watch.
Q. The defensive front, I guess you lose Rashad Weaver before the season and then Keshawn last week. Are you kind of impressed with the way the front four has responded through two weeks, losing two of those guys?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yes and no. It's not what it was, but it's building into something. Devin Davidson I was real impressed with how he played. I think it'll get better. We've got some young guys in there just playing their first games. I think that's something you have to look at, and it's not what we want it to be. It's not where we wanted to be, but Coach Partridge has done a nice job, and we'll just continue to get better every week, I think, with those young guys playing for us.
Q. I know Carter and (indiscernible) came out of the game on Saturday. Any update on them?
PAT NARDUZZI: No update, I guess.
Q. They're not out for the year?
PAT NARDUZZI: They're not out for the year, exactly. Not even close.
Q. Speaking of reminding you of things, you said on Saturday you'd explain why you took 4th and 1 --
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, you go back and look at that, you listen to your staff, and you feel pretty good about what you were going to do. You kind of look at what you want to do short yardage-wise. Do you really want to be 3rd and 5 or do you want to be 4th and 1, 1 and a half? Maybe it was a little longer than we thought. We thought it was going to be a 4th and 1, and it was still 4th and 1 and a half.
But you know, flip a coin. You can do whatever you want to do. We thought we had a pretty good opportunity on 4th and 1 to get a play. We had a play we liked, we thought, and that play wasn't as good as you thought it was. So bad decision.
But the great thing is we put our defense in a tough position, and they held. I think you take risks. There's high-risk, high-reward when you do that, but obviously we had some faith in our defense. But I don't want to do it to them all the time. Yeah, you could say it's a bad decision. I'll take it. My fault. That's why every week there's stuff. You make a decision, and I'd say one out of ten times, one out of seven times you might make that decision based on what the game is and who you're playing. 3rd and 5, we take a sack, it's like, hey, why didn't you take the 4th and 1, Coach, that was dumb. So I don't know.
Q. Were you trying to pump up your offensive line a little bit, have some trust in them to get that yard?
PAT NARDUZZI: I wasn't really, but I thought we'd be pretty good on 4th and 1. I hope they're already pumped up.
Q. When you look at the big picture conference-wise, the ACC only has two teams in the poll this week. Obviously Clemson No. 1 and somebody was in at 25 --
PAT NARDUZZI: You don't even know.
Q. It's my poll and I don't even know who's 25. Is that just a testament to Clemson's excellence, or is it maybe a sign that the conference just can't quite keep up pace?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, I look at that, and I shouldn't say -- I couldn't have told you who was in it or who was out of it, so I haven't looked at it. I used to look at it a year ago and I don't have to vote this year, which I'm thankful for. That's another pain in my tail on Sunday morning.
You know, the conference is good. At the end of the year, let's find out where we are. All these preseason -- I mean, like sometimes you look at it and go, preseason? Why. It doesn't matter where you are preseason, where you are later on, but it doesn't really matter. Don't look at it.
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