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Five Takeaways: Pat Narduzzi’s Responsibility, Offensive Line Concerns

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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.

Erick Hallett II (31) – September 18, 2021 David Hague/PSN

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.”

Vincent Davis Jr. (22) – September 18, 2021 David Hague/PSN

SHUFFLED O-LINE

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.”

 

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Clark
Clark
24 days ago

Got one more chance to find a running game. Watch Michigan – Northern Illinois on YouTube to see the difference it makes. Passing is easier, time of position keeps D fresh, etc. I know we have backs that can do this.

TMG
TMG
23 days ago
Reply to  Clark

Not when the OL are Bull fight training…. OLe’

Mugrad_89
Mugrad_89
24 days ago

It’s easy to say the right things the Monday after the game. Whether or not he means what he says remains to be seen, especially when it comes to in-game defensive adjustments and a larger role for Izzy.

Rusty S
Rusty S
23 days ago
Reply to  Mugrad_89

Somebody needs to help Izzy transfer. I really like him and think he has talent. Deserves better than this.

Eli
Eli
24 days ago

“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.”

Guess what, Pat? “Broken” is a pretty good term to describe your defense in 2016, when your defense gave up an average of 452 yards per game, as well as 2017, when it gave up 399 per game. Some of us have longer memories than you give us credit for, I suppose.

Kirk
Kirk
24 days ago
Reply to  Eli

Heck I don’t even need a long memory. His defense was “Broken” last year with two All-Americans at DE and two DB’s who made NFL rosters plus Ford. Start 3-0 and give up 30 to NC State and 31 to BC in one point losses. Never mind what Miami, ND and Clemson did to them.

John Ramella
John Ramella
24 days ago

Did you miss the part where he threw his entire defensive staff under the bus for lack of adjustments?? Flippantly remarking that he saw one play and immediately thought of an adjustment – one that was never made??

Jeff
Jeff
24 days ago

I’d personally like to see Jake Kradel at center and Goncalves at right guard. Not a big believer in Wilson. Just my two cents there. All the other stuff is just talk until we see results on the field. Get it done or be done.

Last edited 24 days ago by Jeff
Rusty S
Rusty S
23 days ago
Reply to  Jeff

I would personally love to see, Neal at LT, Cohen at LG, and Dalcourt at OC.

Jeff
Jeff
22 days ago
Reply to  Rusty S

Clever but I don’t think a suggestion of a having a better quality of recruit actually playing on the line is so preposterous of an idea. We have some decent players at the position but somebody needs to actually plug them in the spots that would help this team. I realize all quality recruits don’t pan out but Kradel and Goncalves have actually played with some degree of success. Wilson from Hampton and the not so highly touted Drexel haven’t impressed me. Not so crazy when you actually think about it.

Last edited 22 days ago by Jeff
Jeff
Jeff
22 days ago
Reply to  Jeff

Drexel was barely a three star recruit and I didn’t even find a rating for Wilson. This of course is not always a reliable indicator of success as I’ve said but Kradel and Goncalves have already played and showed promising results. I apologize for not wanting scrubs on our offensive line Rusty.

Last edited 22 days ago by Jeff
Jeff
Jeff
24 days ago

It says Drexel is injured. I didn’t know that he sustained an injury at some point. What I do know is regardless of injury he deserved to be removed from the game for the bad snaps during that debacle against Western Michigan.

Fizz
Fizz
24 days ago

We have not had a good offensive line since PC recruits, and that goes for the running game…which go hand in hand as we know. This is not on Whipple, if you don’t recruit and develop players you reap what you sow.

Rusty S
Rusty S
23 days ago

The Narduzzi in game adjustments.

  1. Spread legs
  2. Put hands on knees
  3. Chew another piece of gum
  4. Look confused
Duquesne BB

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