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November 21, 2016

Pat Narduzzi

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

PAT NARDUZZI: Good to be here again. It's nice to come in again after a great win, a complete really team win out of our football team. Really proud of the way they went out and competed. Came back, as I said, after the game on Saturday, how they came back after a big win, were able to be mature enough, tough enough to back that up with another dominating win, really. Physical win out of our guys. They played tough, played physical against a good football team and a physical football team in Duke.

I think Duke and Coach Cutcliffe have built a program very similar to what we're trying to build here as far as toughness, and our kids came out and played really well. Last game of the season, last game for a bunch of seniors that sit in the front row in here. Had them stand up last night at the team meeting, and really it'll be an emotional week for them, I think, just the last opportunity to play in Heinz Field, last regular season game. You know, it'll be emotional, I think, for our staff, for our kids, for even the younger guys knowing how much they've helped mentor them through this season, the way they play.

I think it's a big week, and I think it'll get more emotional as the week goes on.

We play a good Syracuse football team that they've showed spurts of being great. They beat a Virginia Tech team at home during the year that probably was their best win of the year. They've got a lot of athletes running around on the field on both sides of the ball, and Dino Babers is just getting started with what they do. They're the best passing offense in the country, so we know that's awful important for us to be able to stop that. And defensively they're very active. They run around, play a lot of four-man front, really a 4-2, 4-3 scheme, but about 30 percent of the time they're going to come get you, and like every week, they have their challenges for what we do, and we'll probably see a different scheme. The safeties might be down at three yards, so we'll just kind of have to adjust on the run to see what they have planned to stop our offense.


Q. You said that last week they didn't have the receivers like you guys were facing with Washington. Syracuse, they have -- those are guys that --
PAT NARDUZZI: Those guys are all legit guys. I think one kid that transferred from Maryland two years ago, Coach Powell coached when he was there, at one point he was leading the country in pass receiving, I think, so we haven't faced him yet.

But I think 1, 3, 7 and 8, you see those guys line up out there and make a lot of plays. They like to throw it around. Dungey who is the quarterback, he's been out for two weeks. We expect to see him. I don't know what's going to happen with that, but we'll just kind of go with what they do there. They've had the backup quarterback the last two weeks, and he's played very good, as well. It's their offense, and it's just what they do and how they do it.

Q. Your secondary made a lot of plays on Saturday. Do you think that was big for their confidence?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think. You know, you guys talk a lot about confidence, and I've got a sheet in my office someone gave me a couple weeks ago that had the top 10 quarterbacks that are draft eligible this year and top receivers, and we've played four of the top 10 draft eligible quarterbacks, and I think we've played five of the top 10 draft-eligible wideouts. It's kind of like, wow, I wonder who else played all these guys.

But I think our guys have confidence. I don't think they really lack confidence. I think they understand that they have a hard job out there at the corner position. But I think any time you do make a play, it helps you, whether you're an offensive tackle blocking a great defensive end, or if you're a tailback running over a good free safety, or a defensive end pass rushing by an offensive tackle. I think either way, I think any win, anytime they make a play, it's going to give them confidence. I don't think they ever lacked it to be honest with you.

Q. You talk a lot about technique and doing things the right way. Did you see (indiscernible)?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, every week you see improvements. The great thing is we haven't had any coverage busts. One of the biggest coverage busts, I keep going back to that first play of Oklahoma State. Those were -- we haven't had any of those for weeks, but we've been in position to make plays, and I think when you talk about fundamentals and being in good position, we've been there. We can always play -- even when you play with good technique, you can get better. So that's what we do as coaches is continue to harp on fundamentals and technique. But we've gotten a little bit better out there. Still got a ways to go.

Q. You have a lot of fourth-year juniors and fifth-year seniors on the team, more than you've had in several years. Is that one of your philosophies, to try to get these kids in the system for a while, and by the time they're juniors and seniors they're ready to go?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think everybody in the country would like to have a whole football team. I think a year ago we sat in here and talked about the young football team we have. Now you say we have an old team. I think every coach in the country would like to have a team based on juniors and seniors. It's not always that way, but is it a philosophy, I think that's everybody's philosophy. It's a need, it's a want, but it's not always something you have, and it's nice to have.

We've got a great group of seniors here and really a great group of juniors.

Q. There's something you can set up that helps that with the freshman class; you're going to play five this year, I believe, so those kids are in theory going to be fifth-year seniors.
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, fourth-year seniors if they're playing as freshmen.

Q. The other ones.
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, they certainly could be, yeah.

Q. You've had a ton of success obviously with the offensive line this year, not only running the football but protecting the quarterback. How important has it been that they've been able to play just about every snap together this year, that chemistry, that continuity?
PAT NARDUZZI: It's always important. Another great thing about the win Saturday is we were able to get some other guys in the game. I think it's always good to get those guys in the game. I think it's great for the team to watch those guys play. I think our ones got so excited to go see the twos out there playing, to watch them go do -- I'm sure in the locker room it's like, man, I didn't get to play. To get to go play an ACC game was really good.

But to have our offensive line play the entire year is obviously important. We haven't been that lucky in the secondary or on the defensive line with guys banged up, but your depth chart that you guys get weekly, EJ always fudges around with, he likes to say, hey, let's put a few more "ors" in here, and I said, Okay, EJ whatever you want to do. But we've been lucky enough on offense not to have to put a lot of "ors" in there. We've had consistency there. It certainly helps you without a doubt. The communication by those guys up front is critical, and Coach Peterson and Coach Canada have done a good job of keeping that together all year.

Q. Defensively you guys held Duke to a single touchdown, held them to under 300 yards, arguably your best defensive performance of the season. What do you think went right for you guys in that game?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, it starts with defending the run. I think from our records, we gave away maybe 34 yards rushing. Again, we don't count pass quarterback scrambles, or sacks for that matter, but they weren't able to run the ball. That's always going to help you a bunch, and guys are making plays and we're playing with some backup D-tackles in there. We got a lot of use out of our D-line as far as different guys. I mean Rori Blair played a lot, Allen Edwards played a ton, Mike Herndon played a lot. Shane Roy had some reps inside. So I think the freshest we had, and again, I think really just the attitude our kids took into the game.

Q. Speaking of the backup D-tackle, seems like Jeremiah, there hasn't been much of a dropoff.
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, Jeremiah is a good football player. We all knew that from the beginning, I think. He plays a great leverage. He's taking coaching, which I think is critical, and he's taking advantage of the opportunities he's been getting.

You're always waiting for somebody to get hurt. That's what guys do. They wait to be the next guy in, and he's taken full advantage of it. I'm happy for him. He's a super kid. He's got the ability to be a very good defensive tackle in the ACC.

Q. What did you first notice from him that you thought, okay, this kid is going to contribute, he could be valuable?
PAT NARDUZZI: We thought about it back in spring ball, but it's all about consistency, too. He went through some growing pains, I think, being away from home and all those things. It's not easy. You think it's easy to go to school and study and do all the things you have to do, be in a different culture. He's a great kid, and he's just -- sometimes it takes a little longer for guys than others.

Q. (Indiscernible) played the whole game at safety and ended up having the best performance against the pass. What would you say about their ability as seniors?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, Reggie Mitchell we know has been -- he's a starter, so we just didn't have the depth that we'd like. It was great to see Jay Stocker get in there, a guy that we've watched in practice get better. We've seen him at special teams make plays. If there's a most improved player, I'm going say it's Jay Stocker. As we go through there, he's the one that filled in for Jordan Whitehead in my opinion. It wasn't Reggie. Reggie has been there. It's just he took more reps and played really good for us, but Jay Stocker is kind of a guy that has gotten better, and that's what you want to see out of your teammate is that guy step up and be the guy that could sub in and really do a nice job when he's in there.

So I think we found another guy that you're not afraid to put in the game. Sometimes you're afraid to put them in the game. Things aren't going good, you're going, ooh, I don't want to put Jay out there, but we've watched him practice, but we didn't know in the game what was going to happen. Sometimes you play great in practice, all of a sudden you get in the game and things don't go well, but Jay Stockton has been that guy. Reggie has been good all along. We've been impressed with him since really I stepped on campus.

Q. With the depth you've developed over the last year on defense, do you think you're better equipped to face a tempo team like Syracuse this year than maybe you were a year ago?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think we were equipped a year ago, as well. I don't know if we're any different as far as being able to -- we've got to rotate guys in for sure, unless you go three-and-out. If you go three-and-out then you don't have to. But it's hard to slow down that passing offense. They're going to just dink you and throw the short routes all day, line up in empty and go. They've got a lot of trick plays. Shoot, they've had maybe six other skill guys besides quarterback throw passes, so we'll prepare for all those. They've got a lot of guys throwing passes. They've got all kinds of tricks that we'll prepare for.

Q. Stocker and Brightwell have been two redshirt freshmen that have really played well this year. How important was their sitting out last year in contributing to playing well this year?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think you wish they didn't sit out, but it's a growing thing for those guys. We'll have more of those -- there's a lot of young guys sitting in the back in this meeting that have played a lot of football for us. Next year it's going to be those other Saleem Brightwells and Stockers, and even Allen Edwards sat out a year ago and didn't play. So there's more to come, we hope, and it's development, and everybody is a little bit different. Just because they don't come in and play as a freshman doesn't mean they're not to not be good players here. Again, it all depends on depth. It's important in development. It's nice to be able to sit those guys down and let them redshirt. We would have liked to have done that with Damar Hamlin. Therran Coleman, in another year that's going to be a big, athletic corner that I think will turn some heads. So there's a lot of them sitting back there for the future that I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of development we have through the winter and through the spring.

Q. Is it tough to keep those guys interested and satisfied when they're not playing?
PAT NARDUZZI: Sometimes. I mean, they all want to play. Shoot, Aaron Mathews, he saw French play corner, now he wants to play safety. He just wants me to put him in at safety. I'm like, what are you talking about? You never wanted to play defense, now you want to play defense. But he wanted to get in there and get some action, too.

There's a lot of guys that want to play, and they don't care -- Coach, I'll play anything, he says on the sideline. Settle down, Aaron. Maybe I'll get him to rush the quarterback, maybe he'll blitz them off the edge. He was a pretty good blitzer, too, in high school.

Q. (Indiscernible) was talking about having beaten Clemson was great, but we want to finish strong and didn't finish strong last year. Obviously you played well on Saturday. Has that been the message over the last couple weeks in terms of -- a more mature group, I guess, in your second year?
PAT NARDUZZI: It's actually -- I don't read what is said out there and what our players say. I really don't. I'm around them every day. They probably don't want to read what I say and hopefully they don't want to read it, and I really don't want to read or -- I just don't read it, so I didn't know that he made that comment, but that's really -- they can tell you, it's really not what we preached as far as finishing strong because we didn't last year, but that goes to tell you what kind of leadership we have. Okay, when your players are saying that and I don't have to say that, then you talk about maturity and leadership, that's what they're saying. That's what they're saying to you, so maybe that's what they're talking about in the locker room instead of talking about girls or where they're going tonight. I think that's a great thing.

Q. You know from experience if a coordinator has a lot of success, the phone is probably going to ring in the off-season, opportunities might present themselves. When you hired Matt did you do so with the expectation that you thought he would be around for a few years?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, as a young head coach, you surely hope. I had the same expectation when we hired Chaney, and sometimes you get snowed, whatever. But I've known Matt for a long time. We've got a great relationship. I think he's having fun.

I know the business we're in, if people look and see where you are and what you're doing and like it, people are going to come get your guys. When you've got a great staff, people are going to try to go get them and poach them, but we're going to do what we can do to make sure Matt stays here for a while.

Q. Do you feel confident that (indiscernible) competitive?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I really do. The chancellor and Scott Barnes, there's no question about it. I feel really good about that. Especially if you're having fun where you are, too, I think that's part of it. If you're miserable, miserable working in your job, then I don't think all the money or contract incentives can keep you, but if you're happy, I think it does. I think that's part of it.

It's not all about the money. If it were about the money, I'd have been gone from Michigan State a long time ago, but if it's about the money then maybe you've got the wrong guy.

Q. You have a chance to win eight this year. I know you don't want to talk about the postseason, but is it going to be a better eight if you do win than it was last year? Last year was eight.
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I would say it would be. I think when you look at our losses, they were like this, and those inches we didn't get, I look back and look at how close we were to winning them all. God, if we'd have done this as coaches, maybe we would have won every one of those games. You certainly -- I would without a doubt say it's a much better year.

Q. You have senior day on Saturday; is there any chance you'll introduce James with the rest of the seniors?
PAT NARDUZZI: Have not talked about that, and right now, I don't anticipate that. No conversation of that.

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