In a year where they were supposed to put “Pitting” behind them, the Panthers managed to blow a winnable game once again. Head Coach Pat Narduzzi discussed his team’s performance, room to improve, and approach moving forward in his weekly press conference following the letdown game against Western Michigan on Saturday.
JUST DAMAGE CONTROL, OR A LESSON LEARNED?
Narduzzi caught flak for his comments following Saturday’s game, blaming the officials (in a game where Western Michigan lost more yards to penalties than Pitt did, no less) instead of taking responsibility for the ugly loss. He sang a different tune during his Monday press conference, specifically describing his performance coaching the defense.
“We didn’t make in-game adjustments like I would like to and I’m used to,” Narduzzi said. “I’ve got to put it on me, because ultimately I’ve got to get it done somehow, some way.”
While that admission of guilt shows progress, Narduzzi also put the blame on the players in the same breath.
“I don’t think we were mentally prepared,” Narduzzi said. “I would hope getting punched in the face on Saturday afternoon, I hope that wakes you up.”
He also shied away from WMU head coach Tim Lester’s inflammatory postgame remark that Narduzzi runs the same defense he did in 2015, pointing his finger back at Lester.
“They’re [WMU] the same way. They did the same stuff too,” Narduzzi said. “But we have been running the same defense for, I don’t know how many years, and after one game, I guess you guys think it’s broken.”
Narduzzi’s conference sent mixed messages as to whether he plans to move on constructively or continue to make excuses. We likely won’t find out against an FCS team like New Hampshire, but at some point this season Narduzzi’s mettle will be tested once again, giving an opportunity to see if he’s learned from his mistakes.
MORE CARRIES FOR IZZY
After getting just one touch against Western Michigan, a carry that lost a yard, Narduzzi promised a bigger role for running back Israel Abanikanda moving forward.
“We’ve got to get him more carries and he will get more carries,” Narduzzi said. “We’ll set it up, I’ll make sure it happens. But I’ve got a lot of faith in Izzy and he’s going to get more carries this weekend for sure.”
RUN BLOCKING CONCERNS
A week after tallying 31 carries for just 76 yards, Pitt’s running backs surpassed that mark of futility, gaining just 37 yards on 12 carries.
Narduzzi said that his offensive linemen don’t need to be world beaters: they just need to make the play in front of them, and haven’t so far.
“You don’t have to knock them up into the goal posts, but we got to get some hats on hats and put people on people and I was not happy with that,” Narduzzi said. “We’re turning guys loose [in the backfield], for whatever reason.”
Who would start along the offensive line was a huge story throughout summer practices. With three games of shoddy play from the current unit, changes may be in order.
Narduzzi said that Jake Kradel and Keldrick Wilson did okay in place of injured starting center Owen Drexel, while also mentioning that Matt Goncalves and Gabe Houy are able to play guard.
He added that Drexel’s status for next week is still unclear.
MENTALITY MOVING FORWARD
Despite the ugly, season-altering loss, Narduzzi said the team has put it behind them.
“They got to see their videotape already. I think they got corrections. We come in here and watch special teams and then we put it to bed,” Narduzzi said. “But the mood was good. There was no head-hanging and that’s what you expect.”