Four years ago, Pat Narduzzi was hired with the hope that he would be the coach that would finally turn the fortunes of the Pitt football program.
The thought was that Narduzzi would have the Panthers competing for the ACC Coastal Division, would lead them to upper-tier bowl games, would greatly improve recruiting and would turn Pitt’s defense into one of the best in the ACC.
If some of those things were achieved, it would get more people interested in Pitt football and more fans would show up to Heinz Field.
However, things in life don’t always go as planned and that’s definitely the case with the Pat Narduzzi Era at Pitt.
The harsh truth is that the Pitt football program is in no better shape under Narduzzi than when he was hired four years ago.
Following Saturday’s disappointing 38-35 loss to North Carolina, Narduzzi’s career record is 23-19 and in their last 16 games, Pitt is 7-9.
That’s just not good enough and quite honestly, Narduzzi has been more bark than bite and thus far has been a disappointment.
Some of what we’ve seen could easily be explained away if this was year one or two but he’s in his fourth year and is finally coaching most of his players.
From this football observer, Pitt doesn’t look like a very well-prepared or well-coached team.
Year after year, game after game, this team continues to make a lot of the same mistakes.
Josh Conklin was made to look like the problem after last season and new defensive coordinator Randy Bates was supposed to turn this group of talented players into a successful unit. Many people, including Narduzzi, expected the defense to lead the way in 2018 and could be reminiscent to some of of his great defenses at Michigan State.
Four games in and that unit has been a huge disappointment. Like in years past, they continue to give up a ton of points, allow big yardage plays, take dumb penalties and they can’t get off the field on third down.
Narduzzi and his staff know way more about football than I do but this just doesn’t look like a very well coached team.
Here are some examples of the “same old Pitt” under Narduzzi
- First drive of game, Pitt had 2nd and 2 at UNC’s 45, and Pickett took 14 yard sack. First off, why weren’t they pounding the ball for a first down. Secondly, Pickett has to know he can’t take that sack. Inexcusable.
- North Carolina’s first touchdown came on Antonio Williams’ 37 yard run. It was the first of many missed tackles on the day for Pitt.
- North Carolina’s second touchdown was set up by a deep 37 yard completion to Anthony Ratliff-Williams. Big play allowed by the defense.
- North Carolina’s third touchdown drive was kept alive when Pitt allowed a 3rd and 13 on a 16-yard completion from Nathan Elliott to Dazz Newsome as Pitt couldn’t defend the RPO. Three plays later, Elliott hooked up with a wide-open Michael Carter for a 31-yard touchdown. Big play allowed by the defense on a busted coverage.
- 3rd quarter and Pitt holds 28-21 lead, on a 3rd and 6, Pitt jumps offsides which gives UNC a 3rd and 1 which they convert. Four plays later, which included three pass plays for 43 yards, UNC ties game at 28.
- With game tied at 28, instead of getting off the field and giving the ball back to the offense, Pitt allows North Carolina to complete a 3rd and 17 on a 21 yard pass to Ratliff-Williams. Not sure how but Williams was wide open. Two plays later, North Carolina takes a 35-28 lead.
- Finally, on last drive of the game and needing to get the ball back, Pitt allows a 3rd and 5 conversion by Ratliff-Williams.
The discouraging part of this for Pitt fans is that this rundown of key plays has happened time after time over the last four years.
Unfortunately for Panther fans, they’ve seen this movie plenty of times.
Instead of putting that embarrassing Penn State behind them and winning back-back ACC games, Pitt dropped a potentially important conference game which casts a dark cloud over the remainder of the season.
In all likelihood, the remainder of the reason will be filled with fans displaying negativity towards the program, criticizing Narduzzi and not showing up for games.
Can you blame them?
Fans just want to see a winning program and in the last 27 years, Pitt has only finished one season with less than four losses. With a record of 2-2 and upcoming games against Central Florida, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Syracuse and Miami, it sure looks like this will another 4+ loss season.
Instead of moving the program forward and creating hope, Pitt football seems to be in neutral or even reverse under Narduzzi.
Can things change? Sure they can. We’re only four games into the season and plenty of games left against big opponents that can turn this season into a success starting with next Saturday against a 16th ranked undefeated Central Florida team.
However, we’ve seen zero evidence over the last couple of seasons that this is realistic which just means the heat on Narduzzi will be getting hotter and his seven-year contract extension will be coming under heavy scrutiny.
Welcome to the life of a modern day Pitt football fan.