PITTSBURGH — Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi isn’t exactly known for a calm and collected sideline demeanor.
Head strength and conditioning coach Dave Andrews, perhaps the most physically imposing man associated with Pitt’s program, is typically assigned the duty of keeping Narduzzi on the sideline on game days, and even Andrews isn’t always successful.
The most typical target of Narduzzi’s wraith are the game officials. Over the years as a defensive-minded coach, Narduzzi has developed a reputation for being especially disdainful of a few types of missed calls.
His two most offensive offenses? Offensive linemen blocking down field and wide receivers pushing off.
Narduzzi spoke about both of those topics when discussing the Penn State offense on Thursday. Perhaps, it was Narduzzi falling into familiar talking points, or perhaps it was a subtle way to start his working of the game day officials two days early.
Here’s what Narduzzi had to say about the spread, run-pass option attack of Penn State.
“We expect to see a lot of that spread,” he said. “We’re going to see a lot offensive linemen five yards down the field; no calls. That’s kind of what it is.”
And here’s what he had to say about the play of standout Nittany Lions wide receiver Juwan Johnson.
“He’s a big fade/comeback guy; push off you pretty good. Our guys have got to be physical with him because he’s going to be physical. You [saw Appalachian state] yelling on the sideline. They did last year. There’s some two-handed push offs and catching the ball, and he’s pretty good at it. We used to call it the run-it route, because he’s trying to run into you, push you away and then come back to the ball to get people off him.”
Narduzzi also said that his staff have done their homework about the Big Ten officiating crew that will be working the game. They have taken a close look at each of the seven personal foul flags the crew handed out last season and made sure to pass along to the Pitt players what this crew might have a propensity to look for.
“We’ve gone down to every little detail for this game,” Narduzzi said. “Composure is important. We don’t want to be one of those guys getting those flags. That helps you lose a game.”
NO NEWS, GOOD NEWS?
Narduzzi, as per his usual policy, declined to comment on the status of right tackle Alex Bookser, cornerback Dane Jackson or any of the other players that did not play in Week 1 against Albany. But he did say he “feels good” about the prospects of them playing.
Pitt has an honorary captain that is a former player speak to the team before every game. For a big game, Narduzzi pulled out a big gun, as former Pitt All-American tight end and college and pro football hall of famer Mike Ditka will speak to the team on Saturday.
Of course, Ditka has plenty of experience delivering a pre-game speech, as a Super Bowl winner and two-time NFL Coach of the Year with the Bears.
“I would think Mike Ditka knows what to do,” Narduzzi said. “I’m not going to coach him up at all.”
Penn State will enter Saturday’s game ranked No. 10 by the USA Today coaches poll and No. 13 by the Associated Press. The Lions fell three spots in the AP poll after going to overtime with Appalachian State in their opener last Saturday.
This week, Ft. Lauderdale’s Cardinal Gibbons High School, home to Pitt running back commit Vincent Davis, dropped out of the CAC Top 25, a national catholic school ranking. Cardinal Gibbons plays Dillard this Friday.
Comcast X1 internet customers in Western Pennsylvania will now get ESPN 3 and ACC Network Extra for free, whether or not they have a package that contains ESPN. That’s good news for the growing number of cord-cutters that have turned their backs on traditional cable packages.
Pitt’s women’s soccer games against Duquesne on Thursday and No. 16 Kansas on Sunday, men’s soccer game against North Carolina on Saturday and volleyball games against Kennesaw State and Dayton on Friday and No. 12 Washington on Saturday will all be streamed on ACC Network Extra.
Pitt has 16 players that have already graduated on the team this season, third-most in college football. The diploma-bearing Panthers are Rafael Araujo-Lopes, Cole Blake, Alex Bookser, Dennis Briggs, Connor Dintino, James Folston, Jr., Jeff George, Jr., Will Gragg, Mike Herndon, Colin Jonov, Kellen McAlone, Stefano Millin, Phillipie Motley, Qadree Ollison, Shane Roy and Quintin Wirginis.
BET ON ‘EM
Pitt grad Aaron Donald is the odds-on favorite to repeat as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, sharing that honor with Joey Bosa of the Los Angeles Chargers. Both players are rated as 6/1 favorites per Bovada.LV.
MAKE YOUR PLANS
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi closed his team’s pre-season kickoff luncheon with a call for Pitt fans to save the date of Dec. 1 for the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, North Carolina. For those fans making early plans, the ACC announced on Thursday that the game will be in prime time, with either a 7:45 p.m. or 8 p.m. kickoff. For those more inclined to wait and see or watch from home, the game will be televised on ESPN or ABC.