PITTSBURGH — Does Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi think that North Carolina stole his team’s signals in last year’s 34-31 victory over the Panthers at Heinz Field?
He didn’t come out and say it this week, but it certainly sounds that way.
On Monday at his weekly press conference, Narduzzi was asked what had led to the Tar Heels’ five-game winning streak over Pitt.
“If I had to tell you why, I’d be real controversial and probably be on ESPN tonight,” Narduzzi said. “I won’t get into the reasons why. We’ll stay off of ESPN. But we have to find a way to win, period. And the past doesn’t really matter.”
Thursday, without being directly asked, he elaborated on that point a good bit.
“We’ve got to do a good job protecting ourselves on the sideline, as far as just making sure our signals are going to our guys and only our guys” he said. “We just talked about it as a staff. We’ve got to do a good job there. We changed up who our signal callers are. We’ll have three different guys that will be live this week. So, you learn some of those things that you go through: who’s stealing, who’s not.”
Narduzzi was quick to point out that certainly wasn’t the only reason Pitt has lost to North Carolina in each of his three seasons at the helm.
“They’re a good football team,” Narduzzi said. “Larry [Fedora] does a great job, and I know he doesn’t call it, but he does a good job of really game-planning you.”
As far as how Narduzzi might have discovered North Carolina’s subterfuge, he said he got a call from Mike Tomlin this week, who had “Noticed something that I didn’t notice. But he wouldn’t have noticed either if he wasn’t with his players.”
Former North Carolina wide receiver Ryan Switzer and offensive lineman R.J. Prince both play for the Steelers.
Narduzzi spoke to his team this week about former Pitt offensive lineman Alex Officer’s cancer diagnosis, and he said it’s part of his goal to keep recently graduated alumni as part of the program, calling them “Forever Panthers.”
“He had come back from Kansas City and wasn’t feeling good, so our doctors, taking care of our players — as they do, even when they’re not playing for us anymore — got him down [here], got him an MRI and they’re looking at, ‘Why is he getting hurt? What’s wrong? Something’s going on.’ They did an MRI, found out it was more in there than just a ligament or a meniscus. They found out there was something that was growing in there that was bad. Our hearts and prayers are with that family, with AO. He knows that. We’ve had multiple conversations and text messages.
“We’re trying to help him along in this process, because he’s a Forever Panther with us. He’s always with us, all the time. It’s just one of those deals. I think I mentioned it at the kickoff luncheon, we were thinking about one of our players. That’s the guy I was thinking about at that time when I said that.”
MONDAY NIGHT PANTHER FIGHT
Two of Narduzzi’s former Panthers are set to face each other this Monday, when Steelers running back James Conner and Tampa Bay safety Jordan Whitehead meet for the first time since leaving Pitt.
So who does that matchup favor? Narduzzi took a pass on picking between his former proteges.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It depends on what the run play is. Those are two great ons. Monday night, jeez, might have to DVR that game or go home and have a cup of coffee and see if I can stay up for that one. That’ll be huge. It’s a big game. Love those two guys and it sounds like they’re both doing well.”