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September 7, 2016

Pat Narduzzi

Greensboro, North Carolina

COACH NARDUZZI: Good afternoon, everybody. It's great to be here with you today. Obviously we came off a nice victory at home. Defense pitched pretty much a shutout. Gave up six points with the turnover, and overall just happy with where we are after week one. We'll make our most improvements from week one to week two.

It was said previously we obviously take over heavy rivalry in Penn State coming to Heinz Field. Very strong, physical, and fast football team. They play Big Ten football, and we play ACC football, so it will be a great challenge. It's ACC versus Big Ten, and got a lot of respect for what they do in Happy Valley.

They're very-well coached and have great coordinators. Coach Pry and Coach Moorhead that do an excellent job both in their first seasons doing that here at Penn State. So it will be a challenge for both sides of the ball.

Q. How do you as a coach handle games in a rivalry like this? Obviously, not talking to the media during the week, but you don't want to treat it too much like a big-time game or feel the pressure too much. But how do you as a coach navigate these waters?
COACH NARDUZZI: Yeah, it is a big-time game. Next Saturday will be a big-time game and the week after that will be a big-time game. So we're not treating it any different with what we do operation during the week.

I did make a decision to just cut off the media with our players for the week, which, again, was something I've done in the past in a big game. Just to make sure our guys are locked in. It's more of an attitude that I wanted to carry into this week that we don't need to talk. I really don't need to talk that much. It's a matter of just focusing on what our jobs are, the execution of offense, defense, and special teams and not having that distraction of after practice, hey, these eight guys want to go to the media.

It's just we thought it was better this week just to shut that down. We'll resume next week. But the rest of our week is exactly the same as it always is.

Q. What concerns do you have about that balance of the Penn State offense as you prepare for this game?
COACH NARDUZZI: They do a great job. We've watched every game they had at Fordham which is where Coach Moorhead came from, and obviously the game last week. We've got spring game. We've got just about every tape you can get into. We've got every trick play and every formation they've run over the last three years at Fordham.

So I think, you know, they're very multiple. They do a great job with the screen game. They do a great job with what we call RPOs. They've got one of the best tailbacks in the country in Barkley. He's a great football player that can make you miss. I've talked to a lot of Big Ten coaches about what he does, and their thoughts on him just to get their takes during the summer.

So we're well aware that we, number one, have to stop the run, which is what they like to do. But they have these run-pass options whether it's throwing a bubble or pop to a tight end or receiver, and they carried out to a lengthy time on the offensive line. When you talk run-pass, there's one of those rules that they have not changed where the offensive line can go three yards down the field and not an inch over three yards and they take that to the limit. The umpire at times has no clue if it's a run or pass and he can't do his job. We've got to be prepared for that.

Every run is a pass, basically. So you're defending everything at the same time. It makes for a challenge we saw one with the first play at Villanova and practiced that this week. One we didn't cover very well with what they did and how they did it and it's something we focused on this week. So they're the masters of that in my opinion, and Coach Moorhead does an extremely great job at not only game planning, but scheming you.

Q. Pat, I know the '76 team is being honored during the game. Just wondering if there have been any history lessons for your players about that team or the significance of their rivalry considering how long it's been since it's been played?
COACH NARDUZZI: Yeah, no doubt about it. I think our guys know the history lessons in the '76 team. You walk around our building and see the National Championship trophies and our guys want to have their own legacy as far as having their own championship team here.

It's been a long time since that '76 team won that championship, and it's a great honor to have most of that team here before the game. So we obviously want to impress them with what we do and show our championship caliber team as well.

Q. It's occurred to me that you're a really good fit at Pitt. You understand the city of Pittsburgh, having grown up in Youngstown. Do you think that matters? That hasn't always been true at Pitt and around the country with job-hopping coaches and all the money there is. Does it even matter that you understand the city and the people so well?
COACH NARDUZZI: Well, I think it does matter. When athletic directors and chancellors decide on who they want as a head coach, I think fit is a big thing. You want someone that wants to have longevity at a university, and I think it matters to them. So if it matters to the higher-ups and the people that make hires, I think it's awful important.

You better be into this game every week. You better be passionate about what you're doing as a coach, walking into that office every day and knowing that you love being there, and that's where I am, Dave. I enjoy being here. And I think maybe the fan base sees that, and I think that's kind of what it is. But you better have a passion not just to coach the game but the level where you are coaching the game.

Q. Your thoughts and feelings seeing James Conner back at work in an actual game and just what you took away from that?
COACH NARDUZZI: You know what? It's unbelievable. You could really call it a miracle. Some people aren't as fortunate as James is to have the strength and attitude that he had to be able to come back. To be honest with you, the emotions of a game are the emotions of a game and those were all expected. You expect to see him go out there because you saw him go out in spring and take a carry.

I expected him to run through the tunnel like he did. He was the first one out, which as I'm trailing him trying to keep up and I had no chance at all to keep up with him. He burst out of there through the smoke and that's what he did when he got on the field.

Like I said, it's a miracle that he's out there. He's beaten the odds. Quite honestly, I didn't gush during the game, but watching the ESPN highlight afterwards put a tear in your eyes.

Q. As far as the dynamic between him and Qadree Ollison, how you see them going forward together in the back field?
COACH NARDUZZI: We've got to keep both guys fresh. There was a point in the second half where I was like, hey, we need to give James a break. He's only human. He's not superman, even though he probably could tell you he's superman. But I thought Qadree coming in and carrying a few times and really Darrin Hull got in and got a few carries as well. It's a different tempo. They all have different running styles, like I think every tailback does. I saw juice when they got into the game.

So I was excited to see those guys run. I think we've got a three-headed monster back there, and at times it could be a four- and five-headed monster, based on what we're doing and how we're doing it.

Q. I know you've addressed already a few of the changes you've made just regarding media and whatnot leading up to the big rivalry game. But with most of the guys on your team not having played West Virginia yet or not playing Penn State, how excited are your guys and even you, for that matter, to finally get a big-time rivalry game?
COACH NARDUZZI: It is exciting. I told the guys the other day they played against Notre Dame, which I think they consider a rival as well. We don't get to play them every year either. It's like I told them, you think that was big time, wait until Saturday. If that was a rivalry, just wait.

We just try to educate them on what it is, who played before them and how intense the rivalry would be. It's going to be a heated battle on both sides, and the team that controls their emotions and uses it between the whistles is going to be the team that wins.

Q. This week and Saturday's game will be like for Dorian Johnson, a guy who had originally committed to Penn State before signing with Pitt? Does this have a special meaning for a guy like that?
COACH NARDUZZI: I don't know if it has a special meaning for him. Quite honestly I didn't know he made that decision, but in the end he signed with the Panthers, and I don't think he's ever looked back and said, man, I wish I was there. So I didn't even know that.

But I think it's a special feeling for everybody. When you talk in-state rivalries on Sunday, I just said, hey, how many guys know somebody on that team? And I would say three-quarters of the team raised their hand. So I think it's special, whether you played in high school with somebody, played against somebody in high school, know somebody personally. The world of Twitter and Snapchat now these days, these guys know who they're playing against. They know them personally. They ran a seven-on-seven in the summer together. Maybe with Dwayne Brown here in the Summer League, seven-on-seven.

So they've played with each other and know each other. It's not like it was back in the day. I told a story, last week we had Jarrod owe so you ski, a former great player and Pittsburgh Steeler coach to be our honorary captain. We live ten minutes from each other in Youngstown, Ohio. We graduated with each other the same year. I knew who he was. The legend of Jerry Olsavsky, and he knew who I was he told me the other day. I didn't think he knew who the heck I was.

But we lived ten minutes apart and didn't know each other, but these kids together know each other, and I think that's what makes it special.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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