PITTSBURGH — Pitt laid a goose egg on the scoreboard against Virginia Tech on Saturday, and the offensive struggles have been apparent in all of Pitt’s four losses this season.
“It was not the Pitt football team that I’m used to seeing,” Narduzzi said. “Why? We just never got in a rhythm (offensively). It’s happened a couple of times this year. We dropped the first four passes, and then no one can catch fire. It’s hard as a play-caller when it’s three and out. You never get in a rhythm.”
The Panthers have averaged just nine points per game in their four losses to Virginia, Penn State, Miami, and Virginia Tech.
“As a coach, you wish you knew exactly what button to push or what problem there was,” Narduzzi said. “But that’s life, and (Virginia Tech) is behind us.”
REALITY SETS IN
Pitt is no longer in the race for a Coastal Division title, and the Panthers can’t reach 10 wins. Those are two goals that seemed in reach leading up to Saturday’s game in Blacksburg. But the season isn’t over for Narduzzi and his team.
“We’d like to get as many wins as we can,” Narduzzi said. “Yeah, there is a big difference (between being 8-3 or 7-4 at this point in the season). You only get 12 guaranteed. To beat anyone and get wins in that win column is huge.”
But the season surely isn’t over.
“Regardless if there is a goal or a bowl of chili at the end of the rainbow, we are going to play (the next) football game. We have one more game at Heinz and we are going to play it for our senior class and we are going to play it for the 2019 season.”
Even though a few of those high hopes came to a crashing halt against Virginia Tech, Narduzzi thinks his team still has a positive outlook for their final two games.
“I don’t think our kids are going, ‘Oh my gosh, we don’t have (a chance at some of those goals), so let’s just shut it down’. That’s not our mentality.
Pitt’s opening season loss to Virginia kind of set the tone for their chances at the bigger goals at this point in the season.
“We didn’t win that opener, and it started there,” Narduzzi said. “We were just trying to win every game after that and see what happens,”
OLD SCHOOL OFFENSE
Boston College isn’t your ordinary modern ACC offense. They like to play smash-mouth football and run, run and run some more — until you can prove that you can stop it.
“I can’t wait to go in the defensive room (to prepare for Boston College),” Narduzzi said. “I’m like the old school guy. It will be fun to go in there today because (what BC likes to do) is old school.”
The Eagles power run game is led by running back AJ Dillon, who is currently the leading rusher in the conference with 1,507 yards (third-most in the country).
“(Dillon) is a hoss,” Narduzzi said. “He’s an NFL guy. I’m assuming that he’s leaving this year. Their push play, they are getting doubles on both tackles, doubles on your end and they’re letting (Dillon) read his seam and find it.”
Pitt has 14 seniors that will make their final appearance for the Panthers at Heinz Field on Saturday.
“The memories you have with these guys will last forever,” Narduzzi said. “It’s all the things we do in here together as a football team that is key. Hopefully, these guys feel the same way and will be coming back here forever.”
Two seniors for Pitt that will be remembered as hometown guys that developed into special players are Damar Hamlin and Dane Jackson.
“That guy’s as good a free safety as I’ve ever coached,” Narduzzi said about Hamlin. “I’ve been impressed with his play, attitude, and his leadership in that back end. Dane (Jackson) is a great cover guy, a great kid; he’s smart and just has it all. We would take a bunch of Hamlin’s and Jackson’s.”
Another impact senior who will step on Heinz Field as a Panther for the final time is wide receiver Maurice Ffrench. Ffrench has missed Pitt’s last two games with a broken jaw.
“It’s going to be another game-time decision with Maurice,” Narduzzi said. “Obviously for senior day, we would like to get him out there. But I’m not going to put him out there and watch anything (bad) happen after that. I won’t feel right.”
RIGHT ON TARGET
Pitt’s mental errors are still kicking them in the behind in Week 11 of the season. They were charged with ten penalties in their 28-0 loss to Virginia Tech. But Narduzzi’s bunch has had 4 targeting penalties on the season that have resulted in ejections (most recently Paris Ford in the second half on Saturday).
“We talk about the details,” Narduzzi said. “There are the unforced errors, and there are aggressive errors. We are going to (continue) to be aggressive, and I won’t get into much more of that.”
But Narduzzi wasn’t done speaking his mind on those ‘aggressive’ play that his players have received penalties on this season.
“We are going to do some things in the offseason,” Narduzzi said. “I’ve got to do something because I feel like it’s been two years in a row (that we have struggled with this). I’ll be doing some penalty clinic to figure out what I can do better as a head coach.”