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UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 7, 2016
COACH NARDUZZI: Another Monday here. Another tough loss to a really good football team.
As I told our kids last night, I think Miami could have beat really anybody that night. They played really, really good and we didn't play as good as we need to against a good football team. You know, you can't make mistakes against a team that's on fire and win it but there's a lot of good things, when you look at the tape, there's a lot of positives to bring from the tape that you saw, and you know, just not enough of them.
With that, you've got a another great football team, and I know you guys talked a lot about it preseason, about the schedule we had, and we've lost some close games and a year ago we were able to win some of those close games and this year, we're not winning some of those close games. But with Clemson, you know, next on the schedule here, our kids get an opportunity to go on the road, play in a hostile environment against a really, really good football team that's ranked two or three in the country, wherever you guys have them, maybe No. 1 in the country in some rankings.
But a great football team that's won a lot of games; that knows how to win close games. They have been in some battles. They haven't blown everybody out. They have blown out half the teams and there have been battles with the other games.
But Dabo does a great job coaching. They have got a great coaching staff on both sides of the ball. They have got athletes like we faced the last couple weekends, and it's obviously a challenge for us. So with that, I'll open up for questions.
Q. To close the book on the Miami game, do you think you could have run the ball more and the other thing is, do you think maybe you didn't have to punt on third down in the fourth quarter?
COACH NARDUZZI: Yeah, you know, you could do that, you know. But you know when you're punting five times in the second half or six times in the second half, I don't want to put our defense in another tough situation.
You wish you'd go three-and-out and not miss a tackle and we don't do that, so you could always second guess yourself, should you punt or not. I don't have any regrets at all based on the way we were moving the football. You know, I have no regrets there about that.
Your first question --
Q. Did you think you ran --
COACH NARDUZZI: You get behind, you don't block them all the time, and you miss some things. You miss some reads with your running backs and you miss some blocks. And all of a sudden, you're certain -- second half, can't get it on the passing game against these guys so we did still try to mix in the runs and not get into a two-minute situation. That's what we do is run the ball. You know, at times we didn't do it well enough.
Q. Before the season started, you mentioned how you thought the knowledge on defense might lead to more explosive plays on defensive turnovers. What do you think has attributed to the lack of turnovers?
COACH NARDUZZI: The last couple weeks we haven't been able to get any. We dropped one a week ago, I think t win had an opportunity to catch one in the end zone, so you have to make plays when you can. One hit, Matt had it in his hands last week, put it on the ground, that attributed to we're not hitting them hard enough, or they have got good ball security, one or the other.
But you know, we've got to get them. We talked about that, turnovers are a two-sway street, you can see how critical they are when you lose them, it's going to help you lose the game and it's critical when you don't get some. Anytime we talk as a team, it's, hey, you can't turn it over here, and we have to get more. Let's balance it out and get two. Sometimes that comes with luck, I hate to say it, sometimes you're lucky and you know, as far as getting them. And sometimes you've got to make a play.
Q. Just on the punting again, fourth quarter, what kind of message do you think that sends your team, you're down two touchdowns, 16 points and you punt away with three minutes left without really a chance to get the ball back does that send a message?
COACH NARDUZZI: Well, we had three time-outs left, okay. With he had three time-outs left. Now if you don't want to punt the ball when you're on your own 20-yard line -- I mean, we were inside our own 20. I mean, if you go for it and you don't get it, and you had three downs already to get ten yards and you don't get it, you might as well just grab a knife and stick it in you right there and start twisting it and pull it out, in my opinion. That's how I feel about it.
I have got faith in our defense. I think when they were going to get the ball back, they ran it three straight times. We got three time-outs. We can stop the clock on offense by running the ball out-of-bounds, we can stop it on defense with time-outs. We used to of them, and everything perfect; they ran the ball three times like we wanted to.
We had a chance to make a play in the back on third and three, call another time-out and we get what we want. And maybe Qadree takes one to the house and you kick an on-side kick and you're good. Now if I had known they were going to score, you know, like the armchair quarterback guys, if I knew they were going to score, I would say, shoot, might as well just have an 18-yard run instead of a 55-yard run. But you don't know that.
I knew, I believe that if they ran the ball, if they ran the ball three straight times, if we didn't have three time-outs, it's a whole different story. You have to judge that, and it's easy after the game to sit in that chair and say, well, why did you. You know, I think you can ask the offensive guys, you've got to be smart, and it's team football. It's not just one side.
Q. You said the defense has had its struggles this year getting stops in crucial situations. In that situation, I guess you are in a way, aren't you sending a message that despite what the evidence says in terms of stopping the ball --
COACH NARDUZZI: Well, we've been a good run defense. We've been a good run defense. We have got to be in the top 20 in run defense, and have been a great pass defense, no.
But we've been a great run defense and I thought we could stop it. We did the week before. I thought we would learn. And again it looked pretty good for two downs, and for three downs it didn't. But you can say the same thing about getting a first down. You can't always have four downs to get a first down. You could say the same thing.
Any other questions on punting or going for it on fourth down and ten?
Q. The missed tackles, and obviously some of their success running the ball, was that a particular point of frustration for you, when you went back and watched the film?
COACH NARDUZZI: Yeah, I mean, they had two big runs. Two big runs and they are all missed tackles. I mean, one time they chopped Tyrique and take Soto down, prepared right there to make a play and we miss it and again give that guy credit. He's an athlete. He's made people miss all year. But we're there, but we gave up two big runs, we'd have under a hundred yards rushing if we stop those two big runs. And one of them is obviously at the end of the game if we talk about our third down stop and we are getting ready to call another time out, and about 35 seconds might have run off, two series. It was nice that we had our three time-outs, and I think that's critical. But those two runs, yeah, that would drive me nuts.
Q. Tyrique on the same play, what did you think of the --
COACH NARDUZZI: Jeremiah, first of all did a heck of a job. I mean, he was impressive. He played great leverage. And you know, he's got a chance to start next week I think. He played with a flat back. He penetrated. He made plays in the pass game, he got I think a hurry, at least a hit on the quarterback and pass, which we haven't got a lot of that inside. So I really like the way he played leverage-wise.
And Amir Watts like you told you the week before, I was upset that he did not play and he obviously got his opportunity and I thought he did some good things. He popped out of the gap a couple times late like freshmen do; and when you get doubled, don't spin out. When you get double teamed, if do you this (spinning), probably not a good thing. He did that a couple times but that's a freshman mistake. But that's why he needs to get reps and continue to play. I was happy with Amir and Jeremiah. I think Herndon got a few snaps. It was good to see the young guys.
Q. Are there other young guys you might be thinking about playing in the last three games? Guys who haven't played well?
COACH NARDUZZI: No. Not unless we have to. Not unless we have to.
Q. But Brightwell played more than he played the other day?
COACH NARDUZZI: Brightwell started against Oklahoma State and we wanted to get him in there. We think he's got a lot of ability. Been wanting to get him in there. All depends on the game plan of what someone is doing offensively. We know there's some tucking (ph) mistakes he'll make being a red-shirt freshman. We try to put guys in based on what they can do and what they can do well. Miami was a good team he can play against and be in the right spot most of the time.
In a year, it will be totally different. He'll be able to play every game. He's still learning. There's times in practice where the ball is going that way and he's running that way. We have to make sure it doesn't happen on game day. If that's going to happen, he can't be in the game.
Saleem when he's played and we've put him in a position to be successful, he's done a nice job for us, as well and so he'll continue to play.
Q. In your depth chart, you have a lot of "ors" on defense; is that too much uncertainty going into week 11?
COACH NARDUZZI: We're competing every week, and I think, you know, there's some guys banged up and there's some guys that have got to practice well to continue to keep their position.
I think that's what's -- it's not because I'm trying to mess with your mind. It's just because it's what it is right now at this point. We'll find out who practices best.
And again, it has to do with how healthy a guy is and you know, Price is not slashed because he feels good. He's back there ready to go. But you know, it's all based on what we've seen so far. But that doesn't mean -- the guys know. The guys know who will be ready to go.
Q. A lot of the players that can be replaced, there's not really guys on the side -- inaudible -- in the back, but to really plug up holes, do you have to shift how the defensive line plays?
COACH NARDUZZI: We'll make some little adjustments, but Tyrique has been a beast in there, and he's also gotten worn down. It's a long season for him.
I don't think particularly -- I really don't feel bad about those guys going in. Like I said, Kellen (ph) he can play against anybody. If he can play against Miami, I think he can play against anybody. Watts, he's is a good football player. I've seen him get off the ball; he's got about as good a takeoff -- you ask Marino (ph) those, guys, he can get off the ball. He's got a ton of talent so he's only going to get better.
But it is the next man up philosophy, and I've got no -- if it was a different situation we were in right now, I mean, Jeremiah has come a long way from preseason camp and if those two guys weren't there -- (indiscernible) -- play some three technique.
Q. There have been a lot of challenging quarterbacks you've faced these last few weeks and now you have another one coming up, Watson. What kind of challenges does he present to you guys?
COACH NARDUZZI: He's special obviously. I don't know if he's still up for the Heisman or how politics go there, but he's a great football player. They are undefeated. He leads their offense. Deshaun is not only an excellent thrower, but he's got a strong arm and throws darts. But he's got the run threat, too. Kaaya really didn't, even though he scrambled on some third down passes to gain two yards last week, this guy is a threat on every down to beat with you his arm and beat with you his feet. That's going to change some things for you on defense. We have got 11 monsters out there and we've got to line up 11 monsters and go after them.
Q. Did you watch any film from last year?
COACH NARDUZZI: Look, they are very talented. You look at Christian Wilkins, one of the defensive ends. Great football player. Got a true freshman D-tackle, and Dexter Lawrence, true freshman, might be the best player they have on defense. They have got some guys -- I talked to a D-line coach in the conference that said, guys, their second line looks better than our first D-Line in the ACC. He's like -- so they have got some guys up front.
But so did the guys last week and so did the guys the week before that. So it will be a challenge to block them, but I think our guys like challenges.
Q. You guys have been starting fast for most of the season. Last two weeks slow starts, any constant you've found watching the film?
COACH NARDUZZI: No. I mean, a little bit of bad luck. A little bit of missed execution. We've just got to go out and play our game and do what we know how to do. You know, there's nothing you can do about that. Got to make plays.
Q. Does Matt have some familiarity with this defense?
COACH NARDUZZI: He does. He's played against Venables before. He's been okay with it. It will be a chess match for sure.
Q. Damar played a lot it seemed. What is your evaluation?
COACH NARDUZZI: I think he's a true freshman. I thought he played pretty good. Could play with better technique, as always, like every one of our players could on offense, defense and special teams. But he's a true freshman going in there against skilled receivers in Comley (ph) and Richards.
You know, can't be disappointed. I mean, he's thrown in the fire there. He's a young guy, and I think he stepped up, played with an attitude, too, which is good. Had a little dog in him a little bit.
Q. With him and Watson, freshmen who haven't played a lot -- saw more reps on Saturday than they have seen all season. Did you see them get better as the game went on? Did they get more comfortable and get used to the situation?
COACH NARDUZZI: Yeah, I think so. Again, defensive line is a little different against the DBs so I you see a little bit more. I think Amir certainly got better and I think Damar (ph) stayed the same the whole time. It's a little harder, you can see when you're making contact every down with somebody, as a D-tackle, is two different positions to look at.
But Amir did get comfortable out there, which was good and I think Damar saw (ph) it all day based on what he did out there.
Q. I know you don't pay much attention the rankings, but you mentioned it's a top-three team. Does that excite you as a head coach, a chance to go get a signature win this year?
COACH NARDUZZI: No doubt about it. I think any time you get to play one of the top teams in the country, play the spoiler and go make something happen on national TV, I think that's what players play for and I think that's what coaches coach for. That's what you want.
If we were going to play the 128th team in the country, and you guys see the same thing. Like how do you go against Villanova in the opener and compare it to Clemson, they are just complete opposites. They have be ready to regardless and hope they play the same against Villanova as they play against Clemson but I would hope we're going to get the best ball out of our guys.
Q. Last time you had a game against a top team -- inaudible -- use that as motivation?
COACH NARDUZZI: You guys can put it in the papers if you want to, I don't know, what happened back then doesn't really matter, what's happening now or who we are. I think our guys know, they have given Saturday, and if you play the best you can play, then you play lights out, you can beat anybody. That's a fact. I mean, you can go look at all the numbers. That's what we sell, not what happened back in 1978 or '76 or '09. It's what happens, you know, this Saturday. We've just got to play the best football we can on Saturday. Nothing else matters.
Q. Is it a test of maturity, though, you mentioned the word spoiler, I'm sure it's not something you want to talk about in the middle of November. With the preseason goals sort of maybe out of reach at this point, do you have to sort of refocus, and is it a test of leadership to get the guys ready?
COACH NARDUZZI: Of course you do. It's always a test of a coach. That's what we coach for. But that's where we are and you refocus your goals every day.
Every day we come out, the kids come out, they have goal sheets. They fill out personal goal sheets, and I think as the season goes on and you're winning and losing, you have to adjust your goals. To sit here and say, hey, we still have a chance to be ACC champs -- I don't quite, no way to say it, you know what I mean, yeah, we refocus our goals.
Q. Looking at the big picture, how do you compete with a program like Clemson, not just on the field, but in the National Championship Game last year, maybe again this year. People gravitate to them. Recruits gravitate to them; how do you compete as a program.
COACH NARDUZZI: Little by little. I could maybe see if we can go to your bank account, see if we could get some extra money and start buying players, but if we did that, it would probably be the wrong way. But you slowly -- you're not going to get there overnight and we know that. You know, they have got some good players. They have recruited some of the top players in the country.
But you know what, right there in the chest cavity, guys that go out and play with heart and get after it and give you everything they've got, have a chance -- you slowly peck at that and try to become the best football team you can.
Q. How would you assess the job Matt Canada has done with the offense so far, particularly creativity as the season has gone on?
COACH NARDUZZI: I give him an A Plus. I mean, really, when you look at the points we've scored, Matt's done a great job with our guys and kids believe in what they are doing. Scored a lot of points. We haven't had many sacks. I think we've had maybe five or six sacks on the year.
We turned the ball over, you know, probably compared to -- our giveaways, I would say we are in the top 20 as far as giveaways. We are not giving away some of the critical games we have, whether it be on special teams or on offense, you know -- Saturday gave away twice but we protected the football. You score a lot of points and turn it over a lot, it's probably not very good. But Matt's done a great job.
Q. Going back to July when you found out that you're going to lose some players, career-ending illnesses, all the injuries you've had, have you ever coached a season like this where the season did not go according to plan?
COACH NARDUZZI: Yeah, of course. We've had years like this. You have years -- we've had teams like this, we've had years like this, we've had defenses like this. You just keep pounding away.
Q. Do you expect more from this defense, though, when the season started?
COACH NARDUZZI: Yeah, but you never know how it's going to go, I mean, I think offense is pretty good. I think the ACC conference and the receivers and the skill and the quarterbacks, I mean, we play an excellent quarterback every Saturday or Thursday night, whatever it may be. But you know, you obviously always expect better. We still expect better this Saturday. We expect the best on Saturday. That's how we're coaching.
Q. You spoke about saying goals being out of reach --
COACH NARDUZZI: Goal is to beat Clemson on Saturday. It's a one-game season. That's our goal.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports