PITTSBURGH — When the 2018 all-conference awards were released by the ACC this week, the disparity between the two teams playing in the 2018 ACC
Championship Game was stark.
The 2018 ACC Coach of the Year? Clemson’s Dabo Swinney. The Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year? Tigers running back Travis Etienne. Defensive Player of the Year: monster Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell. The Rookie of the Year was Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Of the first all-ACC team, five of the 22 players are from Clemson. None are from Pitt.
“They’ve got a lot of them, we don’t have many of them,” head coach Pat Narduzzi summarized on Wednesday.
The lack of recognition might not sit well with some teams, but the Panthers have bought into the idea of being anonymous underdogs.
“We’re like the ‘No-name Pittsburgh Football team,” Narduzzi said. “We’re just a bunch of guys. The no-name Pittsburgh Panthers … We’re in the championship game. We must have done it with smoke and mirrors, I guess.”
Narduzzi feels that the idea of a blue-collar team without any individual starts fits will with his coaching ethos and the personality of the university and city that his team represents.
“That’s what we’ve been and who we are,” he said, but he added that he wouldn’t speak as to whether the players themselves felt slighted by the lack of individual recognition.
“Personally, I don’t,” responded senior defensive tackle Shane Roy. “Being a D-tackle, I don’t necessarily get a lot of love anyways, taking on double teams and stuff. I’m used to it. … Honestly, I think we just take pride in being that blue-collar team, no-names or whatever. We know who we have in that room and we’re proud of them.”
Pitt fullback George Aston could certainly lay a solid claim to being the best in the ACC at his position, and probably would have. But the conference, inundated with spread offenses as it is, doesn’t even list a fullback in it’s all-conference awards.
Aston was recognized with an honorable mention as a tight end, a token gesture for his dominance over four years. He didn’t seem that disappointed by the lack of respect for him or his position.
“We know nobody really respects us or gives us any credit, even when we have great games,” Aston said. “It’s all about us, everyone in this building, coming together and getting it done.”
The lack of respect for the Panthers goes beyond their individual accolades. Pitt is a 27.5-point underdog against the Tigers on Saturday. That also doesn’t seem to bother the Panthers.
“We go about things with a little model called FEBU: Forget Everyone But Us,” Roy said, while adding that he was unaware of the gambling line. “We just focus on what we do and try to do it great.”