PITTSBURGH — Pat Narduzzi is hoping for a big crowd on Saturday.
His Pitt Panthers will be hosting Virginia Tech at Heinz Field with a 3:30 p.m. kickoff. It’ll e the final home game of the 2018 season for the Panthers, and Narduzzi is hopeful that he’ll be able to send his 19 seniors off with a big crowd.
“That’s the key,” Narduzzi said at his press conference on Monday. “For those kids, the seniors, they look at that. That makes them feel good. The 12th man up there. All the fans in Heinz Field, they were loud last game. I don’t know how many were there, I don’t really care. I know our kids care. It will make a huge difference if they get the support they should, based on what they’ve done so far.
“Our kids play with a lot of heart. We know it’s going to be a battle on Saturday afternoon. Should be a beautiful day.”
Pitt’s last home game against Duke drew just 31,510 to Heinz Field, the second-lowest for a conference game since Pitt joined the ACC. Outside of the 68,400 that came for the Penn State game this year, Pitt has drawn less than 40,000 fans for each of its last seven home games.
The last time Pitt drew over 50,000 without playing a major rival was the season opener in 2016, when 50,149 saw them play Villanova.
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Pitt is alone in first place in the ACC Coastal Division, but Narduzzi doesn’t want to focus on that, and he doesn’t want his team to, either.
“I didn’t address it last night,” he said. “I’m not going to address it. There’s still a bunch of hungry teams sitting below us. Doesn’t really matter. I know they read on Twitter all that stuff. I guess I don’t have to address it.
“I’m going to address what we need to take care of, the business at hand. All that doesn’t matter if we don’t do what we needed to.
“Again, the focus has got to be on the preparation we need to do to win this football game, period. Nothing else matters. Those standings mean absolutely nothing. They really don’t. What are we going to do, stare at those, Google those all day, look at them on Twitter. If that’s our focus, you got a problem.”
As Narduzzi mentioned, Pitt’s grasp on first place is rather tenuous. A loss to the Hokies would drop the Panthers into a three-way tie with Virginia Tech and Virginia.
Pitt running back Darrin Hall was named the ACC running back of the week. Right guard Mike Herndon was named the ACC offensive lineman of the week.
Pitt received 10 points in the Amway/USA Today coaches poll, 15th amongst others receiving votes.
The Panthers opened as three-point favorites over the Hokies.
The first 30,000 fans will get special edition Bill Hillgrove bobbleheads that commemorate his 50th season calling Pitt men’s basketball and 45th season calling Pitt football. The bobblehead will feature audio of Hillgrove’s call of Tony Dorsett’s touchdown run at Navy on Oct. 23, 1976, that broke the NCAA career rushing record.
Pitt’s game at Wake Forest will have a noon kickoff and will be broadcast locally on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh.