PITTSBURGH — It’s widely known that Pitt and Pat Narduzzi have lost three consecutive bowl games and have failed to carry a winning mindset into the offseason each of those years.
In 2015, Pitt lost 44-28 to Navy in the Military Bowl, 2016 was a 31-24 loss to Northwestern, and last season (2018), they had their shot at knocking off Stanford in the Sun Bowl but fell 14-13.
For this Pitt Senior class, there is a ton of emphasis on finally bringing home a bowl win on Dec. 26, in the Quick Lane Bowl.
“It would feel great,” senior wide receiver Maurice Ffrench said. “We’ve never won a bowl game since I’ve been here. So, it would be the best feeling, actually. Win that game and end my senior year off right.”
It’s not an ordinary game against Eastern Michigan as the result will leave a final impression for these seniors and this 2019 team. They are making sure the younger guys understand the magnitude of this game.
“It’s our main mission right now,” fifth-year senior Saleem Brightwell said. “That’s why we’re focused and trying to get the young guys going. It’s going to be our last game that we are ever going to play.”
The Panthers’ last game of the regular season was played on Nov. 30 and since then have been preparing for this bowl appearance. This time of the year has a significant focus on recruiting and better developing younger guys who didn’t receive much playing time during this season but are looking for more substantial roles for next year.
For the players, there hasn’t been much of a mindset change over the last few weeks even though they acknowledge that this is a time for younger guys to show off their talents and see where they stand for next year.
“We just have to keep being the leaders that we have been all season,” Senior Dane Jackson said. “(We are) just pushing the younger guys. We have one more game and have to make the most of it.
Even though Narduzzi has yet to win a bowl game in his head coaching tenure, he’s determined to stick to most of the same rituals that he’s practiced leading up to Pitt’s last few bowl games.
“Yearly, we change some stuff,” Narduzzi said. “I’m not going to attribute not winning a bowl game to what we do preparing for the game. To me it’s not what we’re doing during the week, it’s what we do on game day and maybe your opponent,”
Narduzzi had been a part of some accomplished teams during his time at Michigan State and used the tactics that he learned there to be better suited when it comes to bowl preparation and its differences.
“We do things very similar to what we did when we won a Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl (at Michigan State),” Narduzzi said.
“We can look back and ask ‘Why haven’t we won a bowl game, but it’s having the attitude and going and getting it done.”