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September 21, 2016

Pat Narduzzi

Greensboro, North Carolina

PAT NARDUZZI: Obviously we came off a tough loss on the road at I think a very good should be 3-0 Oklahoma State football program, and we move on to this week. Obviously we take on the Coastal champion North Carolina, who beat us by seven points last year at Heinz Field, and we get to go down to Chapel Hill and take on a very good football team.

They've got a lot of returning players from the championship team, and it's a heck of a way to start off the ACC play against the best. But the Panthers are up for that challenge.

Q. With what's been kind of popping up with the secondary of late, is that something that's caught you by surprise at all, or was that privately a concern for you going into the season based on how you had kind of evaluated yourselves in August?
PAT NARDUZZI: No, not really. Nothing comes as a surprise. We're a football team that's committed to stopping the run. What surprised me is that we gave up a 67-yard run. That probably was the touchdown that broke the camel's back I guess if you want to say, and that's one of the things you can't do. But no, it didn't shock me at all. If you replay back to last Wednesday's press conference, I told you they had some very good receivers out there. The Washington kid is going to be a top NFL player, probably a top-round draft choice here when he declares himself eligible for the NFL, and we very well knew that that quarterback was good. Now, how well do you know it? You go in your scout practices every week and you do a good job covering him and then you get out there, and all of a sudden it's a different deal. It presented a mismatch problem for us, and so will North Carolina for that matter.

It's one of those games that you need to really -- that it just lets your kids know how important technique is, fundamentals are, and you can't ever go away from it. When you're playing against great players, you've got to play with better technique.

So it didn't shock me because it happens. Every football team I've been on has one of those days, and again, as bad as it looked for me as a football coach on the sideline, we're in position with two minutes to go to win the football game, and that's all that matters is wins.

I don't care about stats. I've won a lot of games where we've had someone throw for over 500 yards. We beat Baylor a couple years ago when they rushed for minus 18 yards and threw for over 500, and we beat them.

The disappointing thing was that we let them throw the ball, and we also let them run the ball, and again, they wouldn't have run the ball if we take away I think it was a 67-yard run. That's just philosophies, and those other guys are on scholarship, too, and they'll be on scholarship this week, too, so it really doesn't concern me. I've got faith and trust what we're doing, we've just got to play with good technique.

Q. You said there's a mismatch issue for you this week, too, you're concerned about?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, there always is. Every week we're going to have those problems. The first thing you look at is Ryan Switzer who can take over a game by himself. He's a slot receiver, so he'll obviously be matched up on our free safeties and our strong safeties. I'm sure they'll go some formation in the boundary like Oklahoma State did, so we've prepared a lot for that.

And then when you look at the other speedster out there, they've got a lot of good players, but Matt Collins is a guy that can -- he can run. I mean, he's 6'4", so he presents the jump ball with his height, so there will be a height mismatch as well as a speed mismatch. And when I say mismatch, I'm just saying it'll be a battle out there, and they're going to take their shots off of what they saw last week without question and they've got a very good quarterback in Mitch Trubisky. I recruited him in the past. We offered him where I've been, Mentor Lake Catholic kid, and he's a super player, and I know they're excited about him. I know they'll be excited for a few years, and I know I was excited about him when I recruited him. It's a guy I'm familiar with. If he was in South Carolina or North Carolina or Florida, maybe I wouldn't know as much about him, but I've been in his high school, I've sat down and talked with him, and I know what type of person he is. He's a super kid. He's a great player.

Q. Elijah Hood, just what you can say about North Carolina's running back as well as their rushing attack as a whole.
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, when you talk about Elijah Hood, the first thing you talk about is that offensive line. They have four returning starters, and they're physical, they're strong, and they play together well. You don't see many times where they're blocking the wrong guy or they get confused. They do a great job coaching, so they're well-coached.

And then Elijah Hood is a football player. He's a bigger back. He's a 230-pound back, so we've got a perfect scout team guy in -- Kaezon Pugh has been playing him this week, so we've got a big, physical back. I don't think Kaezon is as fast as he is, but he's got deceptive speed for his size. When he gets out on the edge, he runs by people and you kind of go, wow, he can't do that as big as he is. But he does. So he's a physical runner inside.

But if you make him bounce it, he's got the breakaway speed. He's a very good football player. We struggled to contain the rush game last year, and now you've got to worry about the pass as well as stopping him in the run game, so it's a unique challenge.

Oklahoma State was a team that we really thought we could handle the run, and we knew the pass would be a challenge. This week, you're going, okay, we've got to handle the run and also handle those receivers, and they've got a slew of them out there that can run.

Q. Obviously you spoke very highly of Mitch Trubisky, but for your quarterback what you can say on your side, how you've assessed Nathan through the first few games this season.
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, Nathan, in three games -- first week we obviously didn't do a lot, and we weren't happy with him the first week for whatever reason. But that's water under the bridge. But the last two weeks Nathan has really done a nice job. We'd like him to make a few more shots on 3rd down and convert and move the sticks a couple more times, but you're looking for perfection as coaches, and we've been very, very happy with the way Nathan Peterman has played.

Q. I wanted to ask you about the matchup at kickoff returners. So far this year, Qadree and UNC's TJ Logan have been the two really dangerous kickoff returners; both have touchdowns on kickoff. Can you talk about coverage and how important that will be in the game?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, it always is. You talk about kickoff coverage, that's obviously a concern, but then punt coverage is the same concern with Switzer being back there because he's got great guts. I mean, that guy is a grinder. He's a football player. I don't know if you saw the one last week where he pretends like he fair catches but he doesn't. He didn't use a false signal or anything, but he just stood back there and caught the punt and kind of pretended like he kind of got like the lazy thing, and then he took off running with the ball. Everybody is standing around, the whistle hadn't been blown, he takes off running. He's got that kind of composure and moxie. He's a great football player.

Like any game, and this is no different, they've got weapons at the kickoff returner and a punt returner, and our coverage teams are huge in that. We'd like to win the field position war, and field position starts with our special teams and our coverage teams as well as our return teams. At the end of the day, field position is going to be an important thing, and it starts with those coverage teams. Where are they going to start their first drive and where are we going to start our first drive and so forth, if there's 15 to 18 possessions those punt returns and kick returns are going to be enormous.

Q. And I also wanted to ask a question backwards; I believe the game was tied early in the fourth quarter when you had the long delay last week. Did that impact the team or the game in any way?
PAT NARDUZZI: No. No. It would be an excuse to say it did because we both had the same delay. I think our kids came out and played well. They ran a stutter go that made me reminisce back to Michael Thomas for Ohio State that ran against somebody -- I actually Googled it on Monday, I said I've got to see that, and I just Googled the best stutter go ever, and all of a sudden Michael Thomas's stutter go, it was the exact same stutter go that we saw, and I don't know who the corner because, with you Herbstreit was doing the announcing on my phone as I was watching it, and he said, that's one of the top corners in the country.

We can talk top corners, you can talk average corners or the best corner, it doesn't matter. It was a great route by a great receiver with great speed.

But the lightning delay is something we both had to deal with. I'm sure they had a little plusher locker room. I think lightning delay is always an advantage to the home team. To the away team I think a spacious locker room -- if you could have seen us in the locker room, the only thing that was a disadvantage for us was the locker room that we're in compared to what they probably were in. I have never been in their locker room, but if it's anything like our home locker room, it's a little bit more comfortable, and we had guys using helmets as pillows for that two hours or whatever it was, and it was just a sloppy mess. It looked like the slums after we walked out of there. It was bad.

But our guys were ready when they came out, and I don't think it had any impact at all.

Q. Both teams obviously capable of scoring a lot of points, and the nature of college football today seems to lend itself to high-scoring games, sometimes both teams in the 40s. You've played a bunch of those so far this year. Carolina certainly has. How has that changed your game preparation through the years, if any?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know what, you're exactly right. It's become an offensive game, and defensive coordinators got the tougher job, there's no question. There's more one-on-ones -- people talk about coverages and all those things, there's more one-on-ones out there than there ever has been. If you went back 20 years ago and people are lining up in I-backs, there's a lot of different stuff. There's not a whole lot of different stuff you can do coverage wise, so that's why they do it. They're tempoing you, they're spreading the field and making you cover the entire field, and when you're spaced out like that, you either open up the run or you open up a pass, and it depends on how you want to die, with the run or the pass, and you can mix it up and be unsound in both and cause yourself problems, and everybody has got a philosophy.

I think our philosophy defensively is a little bit different than North Carolina. North Carolina is going to let you run a ball little bit, but they don't want to give up the big pass, and we'd like you to not run the ball and we'd rather be beat with a pass. So everybody has got their philosophy, but we'd like to be sounder in coverage and play with better fundamentals.

Q. A lot of times games don't play out the way they look on paper, but is there a certain amount of points that you figure that if we score this many in this game that we'll be safe there?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, if we score 60 or 70 I'd say we'd probably be safe, okay. I mean, no, you can't ever say that. Our offense's goal is to score more points than they do, so we never put a lid on, hey, if we do this, we'll win. Never. That component is never in our what we call keys to victory. It is score more points than they do, and defensively we've got to stop them. We have a goal that we'd like to hold people to, but we know that's fluid, especially in this game.

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