PITTSBURGH — Pitt head coach, Pat Narduzzi, spoke with the media on Monday at his weekly press conference.
Following his teams consecutive road wins, they are back at Heinz Field on Saturday at Noon against Miami.
Below are five takeaways from what Narduzzi had to say about the state of his team heading into their eighth week of the season.
Second Half Struggles
On Friday night, Pitt led Syracuse 24-6 going into halftime. With 2:11 left in the game, Syracuse only trailed the Panthers by one touchdown (27-20). Pitt wound up pulling off the win, but it wasn’t pretty for much of the second half.
There were a number of different mistakes that Pitt made in that second half that made there comfortable lead dwindle — And head coach Pat Narduzzi, wasn’t thrilled, to say the least.
“You have to execute,” Narduzzi said. “There was three third-down drops. …Aaron (Mathews) got one, Nakia (Griffin-Stewart) got one — You kind of knock people out, when you convert — And when you don’t (covert), you don’t (knock people out).
Not closing out games has haunted Pitt a number of times, already, this season. They led UCF 21-0 midway through the second quarter and let them come back to take the lead at 34-28. Pitt thankfully converted on the “Pitt Special” to upset the Knights, but again, it wasn’t pretty at times.
Before the Syracuse win, Pitt dominated Duke for the majority of the game and jumping out to a 26-3 lead, early in the third quarter, before letting the Blue Devils crawl back to jumping ahead of the Panthers and leading 30-26.
Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett drove his offense down the field with 1:28 left on the clock and threw the game winning touchdown to V’Lique Carter, with 38 seconds to spare and eventually hold off Duke to win 33-30 in Durham.
“Nobody’s perfect,” Narduzzi said of his team’s second half struggles. “We have to learn from those (mistakes that we have made, in letting teams come back on us).
On Friday, with just under three minutes remaining in the game, the Panthers went to their four-minute offense to try and burn the clock and walk out of the Carrier Dome with a win. They did just that — And Narduzzi was happy with the way his offense executed the closing drive.
“As a coach you say, ‘Let’s go with a four-minute offense and see if we can execute — And do what we need to do to get the win’,” Narduzzi said of his teams final drive on Friday night.
But don’t think for a second that Narduzzi wants to be in that situation very often (of closing teams out in the final minutes).
“It keeps you on edge,” Narduzzi said. “But you get a four hour game, so you might as well be on edge for four hours.
Pitt has 17 players on their roster that are from the state of Florida, second only to Pennsylvania (40).
Narduzzi talked whether those guys will have some extra motivation come Saturday, playing the most popular team in their state and maybe a program that didn’t want them out of high school.
“I would imagine, it always is,” Narduzzi said. There’s always that little edge and playing with a chip on your shoulder — If you’re from that area.”
Miami is a powerhouse football school and has been since these kids parents were there age. Even with their ups an downs over the last decade, Narduzzi knows how good of a football program they have.
“They are still a really good football team, that has a ton of talent,” Narduzzi said. “(They have) a bunch of four and five-star football players on their team — And we don’t have many.”
Pitt (2-1) lost to Virginia the first week of the season. The Cavaliers are currently in first place of the ACC Coastal Division (3-1). Miami (1-3), who is tied for last in the Coastal, beat Virginia, and lost at home to Georgia Tech last week, who is in last place (1-3) and was ranked last in the preseason ACC poll.
Narduzzi dismissed the fact that he has to change the way he prepares for a team on a weekly basis becuase of the up and down play of a lot of the teams in the Coastal this year.
“It really doesn’t matter,” Narduzzi said. “Anybody can beat anybody, on any given day. I don’t want our kids getting caught up in that — We just got to do our job and focus on one team (Miami) this week.
Not Much Of a Shock
After not recording a reception in Pitt’s first five weeks of the season, sophomore wide receiver Shocky Jacques-Louis has had six catches for 50 yards in the the Panther wins at Duke and Syracuse.
Taysir Mack and Maurice Ffrench have gotta most of the spotlight out of the Pitt wide receiving group but Jacques-Louis is another weapon that could be useful for the passing games improvements for the rest of the year.
“Shocky (Jacques-Louis) can take the top off of the coverage,” Narduzzi said. “He’s a tough kid — I’m glad he’s finally 100% healthy. … He can run. He’s been explosive on some of the outside runs that we have used him in. He’s had opportunities to make plays and I think it’s been good for his confidence, because we need him here for this final stretch of the season.”
Who Cares About Rankings
Pitt received 18 votes in the AP Top-25 pool this week. Narduzzi still isn’t worried about being ranked, that is, until the season comes to an end.
“I don’t really care,” Narduzzi said. “There’s a lot of preseason (teams) that were in the top-25, but aren’t there anymore. Our goal is to be there at the end of the season — In the middle of the season, it doesn’t matter.”