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Opinion

Saunders: Pitt’s Season Already a Wasted Opportunity

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PITTSBURGH — When a team loses a non-conference game, especially one to a lesser opponent, there are a usual group of platitudes that emerge from the postgame press conference.

It usually goes something like, “one loss doesn’t define us” or “all of our goals are still in front of us” or “it’s a long season.”

On Saturday, it was head coach Pat Narduzzi that delivered the line:

“We’ll move forward. It’s one game. It’s not an ACC game. All of our goals are still ahead of us. It’s one ballgame.”

And those sentiments are usually true. They technically are for Pitt in this case after an embarrassing 44-41 loss to Western Michigan as more than two-touchdown favorites.

The Panthers weren’t realistically headed to the College Football Playoff, so it’s not like their end-of-season standing will be dramatically impacted by the loss to the lowly Broncos.

Pitt can still go out and be extremely competitive in a Coastal Division that doesn’t look any stronger with Virginia Tech losing to West Virginia and Miami losing to Michigan State to each fall to 1-2.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone if Pitt shakes off this loss, as the Panthers have done multiple times under Narduzzi, and goes out and has an average or above average season.

Another 8-win season, which would be the fourth in seven years under Narduzzi, is certainly still within reach.

There have been just 11 of those since Jackie Sherrill left Pitt, and Narduzzi has led three of them. His in-conference winning percentage is the best of any Pitt coach since the Panthers joined the Big East in 1991.

All of that misses the point.

Pitt football is a program that lacks support and enthusiasm. The announced attendance of just over 40,000 for the second home game of the season — already low compared to most Power Five teams — seemed comically inflated when compared to the actual way the stadium looked.

And that was with the game not even being broadcast on television locally, with AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh choosing not to sign on as an ACC regional sports network this season — another sign of the program’s importance around the city.

Pitt has not been good — truly good — since the early 1980s. No one rational was expecting Narduzzi and company to come in and work miracles, leading Pitt to multiple ACC titles and national prominence.

What they wanted, and what Pitt has lacked, was consistency and stability.

Narduzzi has brought the latter. Through seven years, he’s established an enviable team culture — one that just provided the winning factor in his team beating Tennessee — developed a strong group of assistant coaches while sticking with the program despite other attractive offers.

The consistency is where Pitt and Narduzzi have fallen short.

In 2020, Pitt started 3-0 and lost at home as 14-point favorites to NC State. In 2019, they lost as 9.5-point favorites at home to Boston College. In 2018, Pitt lost as favorites on the road against a North Carolina team that finished 2-9.

The Panthers under Narduzzi have not been able to get out of their own way. They have not been able to win the games they’re supposed to win. And that — more than losses to clearly higher-tier programs or tough battles in even ACC matchups — is what causes fan apathy.

Those losses are the reason that Heinz Field was largely empty for a gorgeous September afternoon for football.

After the loss to Western Michigan, how many more will stay away? Can you blame them? I can’t.

This season, with a still-strong defensive front and a fifth-year starting quarterback, was Narduzzi’s opportunity to finally put together a complete, full-season performance.

Despite the platitudes, three games in, it’s already a failure, and almost nothing that can follow can change that.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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NarLoser
NarLoser
1 month ago

How Does This Bozo Still Have A Job

Krackerjack Kid
Krackerjack Kid
1 month ago

Narduzzi is an emotional man-baby. He gets his team a 15 yard flag over his emotions.

After the game he wants to blame MAC officiating.

This behavior isn’t new.

Big mouth and little to back it up.

Alan wants to crowbar attendance into this story, but that a whole different conversation.

Remember when Pat asked people to attend last week? See what happened? It just keeps repeating itself.

Win the games you are supposed to win and I guarantee you support swells.

But first you have to get a coach that can make intelligent in-game decisions and adjustments.

Clark
Clark
1 month ago

A very disappointing performance by the Panthers. Still no consistent running game, turnovers, defensive breakdowns in the secondary, another missed extra point, balls hiked over the qb. You won’t beat any good team with miscues like these. There is a lot of work needed to clean all this up. I really thought we were better than this.

James
James
1 month ago
Reply to  Clark

We have seen the same mistakes for 7 seasons, Narduzzi is mediocre and it shows.

Time to turn the page, he is inept and it showed today, year 7 and to lose to a MAC team, time to move on.

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago
Reply to  Clark

I thought Pitt was better than this as well. I should have known but I ignored my gut feeling and tried to be optimistic. I should have known disappointment was knocking on the door. Narduzzi and staff acquire some talented players but Narduzzi is indeed a very mediocre coach and I can’t pretend he isn’t any longer.

Kirk
Kirk
1 month ago

C’mon Alan. They didn’t win at TN because of some magical team culture. They won because they had Kenny Pickett. If TN had a competent QB they would have hung 50+ on Pitt.

Class of ' 69
Class of ' 69
1 month ago

Time for Narduzzi and Heather to go. Pitt has to decide if they want to play P5 football?
I have been a season ticket holder for 54 years. I think its time to drop football. No one under 60 cares. There was 25000 at the game. Wait to next week when Heinz Fierld is empty.

Dan K
Dan K
1 month ago
Reply to  Class of ' 69

Don’t blame ADLykes. She’s probably the best thing that’s happened to Pitt athletics in decades. Time for Narduzzi go however. H2P.

Fizz
Fizz
1 month ago
Reply to  Dan K

Really, let’s see she extended Nardi’s contract, pursued a witch hunt on Stalling’s and schedules the likes of Mass and New Hamp.

Matt Hardy
Matt Hardy
1 month ago
Reply to  Class of ' 69

I am 43 and used to care alot. After the 2018 season I got kicked out of my season ticket seats that I had since 2005 so that the student section could wrap around the end zone. They offered us nothing. So this is just a small example of why fans are not there anymore. I’m sorry but the students don’t care that much. I was a die hard loyal fan who bought season tickets for many years and the athletic dept shit on me because Heather Lyke thought it would be a good idea to move the student section… Read more »

Mark Recker
Mark Recker
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt Hardy

Do you expect us to believe that Pitt did not offer you seats in another section when they expanded the student section? Also the students show up every game so your story is full of holes.

Fizz
Fizz
1 month ago
Reply to  Class of ' 69

Certainly time to dismiss belief we are a credible Power 5 team. Moving to the MAC would be practical but we don’t have a practical stadium. It’s better fit, more rivalry potential, better recruiting base and cost efficient. Both major sports would flourish, and our fan base would be more provincial.

The Real Deal
The Real Deal
1 month ago

Tim Lester put on a coaching clinic for Narduzzi and company. Maybe Heather Luke will remember Lester when she’s interviewing Narduzzi’s replacement in the off-season.

Mike Vukovcan
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  The Real Deal

It certainly can’t hurt his chances.

Victor Mulvihill
Victor Mulvihill
1 month ago

Narduzzi doesn’t have a clue about defense, never did.

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