PITTSBURGH — For a change, much of Pat Narduzzi’s weekly press conference on Monday centered on Pat Narduzzi.
Narduzzi refused to discuss the $5,000 fine levied to the University of the Pittsburgh by the Atlantic Coast Conference Tuesday for his post-game criticism of the officials after his team’s loss to Virginia Tech Thursday night.
But he had plenty to say about the criticism he faced for his sideline demeanor during the game, in which he ranted and raved throughout the evening, toward the officials and otherwise. Narduzzi was mostly unapologetic for his behavior on the field.
“I’d like to temper, if I could, but that’s who I am,” he said. “I like to be emotional on the sideline. I know I don’t need to get out of control, but sometimes you do. It’s part of the game. It’s part of the emotions of a football game.”
One of the parts of his job is motivating his team throughout the game, and a high-intensity presence is his preferred method of doing so.
“I think when you look in a fourth quarter, I think for a year and a half now we’ve fought all the way through the fourth quarter to the end,” Narduzzi said. “I think everybody’s really happy about who we are as a football team and finishing games. … If a coach ends up quitting in the second half or the end of the second quarter, kind of quits and sits there like a deadbeat on the sideline, probably doesn’t go to our players.”
That’s not to say that he wouldn’t mind being so intense on the sideline, but in his mind, that would involve doing something his team has yet to do this season — play a game where the final score isn’t in doubt through the final minutes.
“That’s not who I would like to be,” Narduzzi said. “I’d like to be cool and up by 50. Sometimes in the heat of a game, you’re going to be uptight and upset with different situations, whatever it is. But I’m an emotional guy. That’s to me why [the team and I] always clicked, too. I think it’s part of the game.”
PUTTING THE PAST IN THE PAST
Narduzzi was of course asked about the play of his defensive backs on Thursday. His secondary gave up 406 yards and two touchdowns through the air to Virginia Tech. He’s eager to get the back on the practice field to put the ugly performance behind them. He also doubled down with his feeling that the Hokies wideouts pushed off.
“People around the country get exposed. You let those things happen,” he said. “I got a lot of faith in our corners, I still do. Bucky [Hodges] is a big guy. [Isaiah] Ford is a big guy. We knew those guys would be good football players. You have a 6-foot-7, 250-pound wideout, pushing off, making plays. … Give [Jerod] Evans credit, he threw it well. I think we could play with better technique, you always could. You tell your corners to wipe that off, whatever happened in the past. We got to play this week.”
TAKING OFF THE REDSHIRT
Narduzzi surprised many by removing the redshirt from freshman cornerback Damar Hamlin in the fourth quarter of his team’s eighth game. But with injuries to Avonte Maddox and Phillipie Motley, Narduzzi felt his hand was forced.
“We kind of batted it around at halftime,” Narduzzi said. “I was like, ‘Do we want to do that to him?’ I’d like to have him for a long time now, not use a year for half a season. Not something I wanted to do.”
Now that the decision has been made, Narduzzi expects to find plenty of playing time for Hamlin, regardless of the fact that he’s currently third on the depth chart.
“If he’s not [ready], he’s going to [play] anyway,” he said. “He’s going to. We made that decision. … We’re going to rotate a little bit. Going to have to.”
FORD FINDS FIELD
Senior wide receiver Dontez Ford (collarbone) was listed as doubtful, but found his way onto the field early and often against Virginia Tech, finishing with three catches for 59 yards.
“I was happy with Dontez,” Narduzzi said. “I was really happy with where he was. I was happy he was back and feeling good. I was happy he took a hit, which he took some hits last week in practice, too. I’m really happy with where he is and what he did. You know, he did a lot of great things out there. … We didn’t know what he was going to do. Surprise, surprise.”
POOR PASS RUSH
Narduzzi said one of the things that affected the play of his corners was the lack of pass rush in the base defense.
“We’re not getting four-man pressure,” he said. “Another disappointing thing when you look because you’re not getting four-man pressure, so you got to bring guys to get it. Everybody wants talk about the corners. But there’s 11 guys out there. … We’re not getting good enough four-man pressure. You have Ejuan Price, a guy that is dynamic. But they’re double-teaming him a lot. Everybody else is getting singled up. We don’t have that other guy that’s really making somebody miss. That hurts you if you don’t have four guys up there that can do that.”