The Cardiac Kids (AKA the 2019 Pitt football team) hung on at Syracuse last night to win another close game and took another step towards a possible return trip to Charlotte.
Pat Narduzzi’s team has now won five of their last six games and are another Virginia loss away from controlling their own destiny and repeating as ACC Coastal Division Champions. Regardless of what happens with Virginia, this 2019 could turn out to be a special season and the start of Pitt turning the corner as a football program.
With a current record of 5-2 and the fact that they’ll be favorites in their remaining games against Miami, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Boston College, and with a bowl game ahead, the Panthers have a decent chance of reaching a nine- or 10-win total.
What’s so special about that? Consider that Pitt has only won 10 games once in the last 37 seasons (2009 when they went 10-3). Let me repeat that, Pitt has ONLY ONE 10 WIN SEASON SINCE 1981. That’s hard to believe but unfortunately it’s true. During that same time span, the football program has only won nine games three times (2008, 2002, 1982).
I would advise Pitt fans to keep those numbers in mind the next time they start getting frustrated with Narduzzi and want to look for another coach. The fact is, that due to a lot of factors that preceded him this isn’t an easy job but it sure looks like “Duzz” is on his way to making Pitt football a winner and more importantly, relevant.
Patience is needed when trying to resurrect a program or organization and that surely is the case with Pitt. Unlike in professional sports, a college team can’t fix their problems by trading for or signing a free agent player. In college, it’s all about stacking successful recruiting classes and that’s what Narduzzi and his staff have done.
How else do you explain losing two of your best defensive players for the season to injury, graduating your three starting linebackers from last year and the defense still being the strength of the team and one of the strongest units in the country? The answer to that is quality recruiting and having a talented depth chart.
Although it’s taken time, Pitt has gotten to the point where they have a depth chart that’s filled with players who are currently backups that in reality are talented enough to start if called upon. That’s how the most successful programs in the country remain good year after year. As the saying goes, they don’t rebuild, they just reload, which is where Narduzzi wants to get Pitt to.
The exciting news for the future of Pitt football is that players with large roles on the team such as Jaylen Twyman, Jason Pinnock, Damarri Mathis, Deslin Alexandre, Carter Warren, Cam Bright, Paris Ford, Dontavius Butler, Habakkuk Baldonado, Shocky Jacques-Louis, V’Lique Carter, Devin Danielson, John Morgan, Jake Kradel and Tyler Bentley all have multiple years left in the program. Plus, talents such as Jerry Drake, Erick Hallett, Marquis Williams, Wendell Davis, Judson Tallandier, Daniel Carter, Sirvocea Dennis, Will Gipson, Jared Wayne, AJ Woods, Kyi Wright, Brandon George, Bam Brima, Brandon Hill, Davis Beville, Bryce Nelms and Leslie Smith haven’t really been called upon yet.
Considering this, plus the current Class of 2020, the fact that the future non-conference schedule isn’t going to be as demanding as it’s been of late, the talented group of assistants that Narduzzi has surrounded himself with and the impact winning will have on future recruiting, there’s no reason why the success Pitt is having this year isn’t something that becomes the norm around here.
For the first time in a very, very long time, the future of the entire Pitt athletic department appears to be as bright as it’s every been. The future for Jeff Capel and the men’s basketball team appears bright, Lance White has the energy and a plan to get the Pitt women’s basketball team winning again and the volleyball, wrestling and soccer programs are all soaring.
My advice to Pitt football fans is instead of complaining about things in a win or predicting that something bad is going to happen, enjoy and realize what’s going on with your football program. You’ve desperately been asking for a team that’s ranked in the Top 25, competes for the division championship and is playing in a prestigious bowl game. Thanks to Narduzzi and his staff, it appears all that is happening and it won’t be a one-year wonder.
After a long, long, long wait, it appears Pitt once again has a legitimate college football program.