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UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 11, 2017
PAT NARDUZZI: We just didn't take it like you'd like to. It is a game of inches and there's times where we can whether it's a linebacker fit on a quarterback run and if we just a little bit over here and you fit it right, you know, whether it's a catch, make the catch, get the 1st down, make the explosive play, it changes the game. Whether it's stuttering in your route too much without getting out of your break, it's just a game of inches, and you look at the tape, and you pop on that game tape at the end when we kind of had an incomplete pass on the shovel near the end on about the 10-yard line. If he catches that, he's looking up the field, if he catches it there's a hole as wide as this row here to go. So it's those game of inches that we've got to go take, and that's kind of what that motto was, and we certainly haven't taken it yet, but we've made strides from week one to week two, which is all you can ask for. Good football team, Like I said after the press conference, and pretty much felt the same way after watching it. As a matter of fact, I probably felt better after watching the tape than I did after, but I felt pretty good about what we did and how we did some things against a good football team.
And we've got another one coming in this weekend. It doesn't get any easier, as you guys know, No. 8, No. 9 top ranked team in Oklahoma State that we went out and battled a year ago that we know has talent across the board from the D-line back and O-line to James Washington and Mason Rudolph. I mean, they're very, very talented and our focus has to go to them. We finished meetings, which we usually don't, on Sunday night just really splitting up individually and going to watch Oklahoma State tape just for a little bit, not an extended meeting, but just to get their minds on that. So that's the most important thing at this point.
With that, I'll open it up to you guys for questions.
Q. What was your reaction when you heard James Franklin's comments about beating you guys was (indiscernible) to beating Akron?
PAT NARDUZZI: You'd have to ask him. I really don't have -- you can ask that question. I really don't have -- they went low, we went high, and you would have to ask him. I'm sure he's got a press conference.
Q. After watching the tape, as you mentioned the opinion on the quarterback and the passing game has been varied. After watching the tape again, what was your opinion of what you saw from Max Browne?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, it's a great question. You know, it doesn't change from what I thought after the game. As a matter of fact, I felt better after watching the tape. Obviously he's not perfect, but there wasn't one guy, coach, player, SID that was on Saturday. He had some -- you look at it, and we look at accuracy as far as him throwing the ball, not a burn, which Coach Watson says throw away incomplete passes, but I think he had six incomplete passes that he was accurate. He had one that he was off, and one he's trying to throw away, didn't throw it away far enough, and got picked off.
But I was pretty happy after watching the tape with him more than I was maybe after the game, and I wasn't disappointed after the game at all because I told you how I felt after the game. You know, so does he have room for improvement? Yes. And so do I. So I don't see it any different.
Q. That being said, how concerned are you about protecting him? He took a shot at the end of the Youngstown State game.
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, you guys saw him afterwards so you maybe know what I'm talking about. He took a shot, and I don't like how his helmet came off. I don't like how we ran that whole thing. But I am concerned about protecting him, so we'll do some things protection wise to help protect him better.
We've given up too many sacks, period, so something has got to change there. And again, it's not just one guy, and everybody will point to one guy over there, but the first one is really a tailback in protection didn't come back and get the guy when we knew based on the safeties that that safety goes back, the pressure is coming here, get over there and all those things. It's not just who's blitzing, it's looking at reading the back end to give you pre-snap ideas of what's going on. So little things like that, and that's the take in it that we need -- you can't have those little errors and beat a good football team.
Q. Are you concerned with (indiscernible)?
PAT NARDUZZI: No, no, I'm concerned with just how it happened. It's in a pile. I can't see what happened. But I'm just concerned that I've got a guy whose helmet comes off and he gets gashed like that. I don't want to see that happen. I don't want to see it happen to your son, I don't want to see it happen to my son or anybody's son. When you have a helmet on, you're not supposed to get gashed like that.
Q. It looked as though especially the linebackers were playing faster as the game went on and were very physical and were matching them play for play.
PAT NARDUZZI: I thought we played slower as the game went on, not that -- and again, you know, we need to probably play a couple more guys in there, and overall, they were okay, but we need to play faster. You know, Seun Idowu took a lot of snaps. I think Chase Pine got in for a series. I'd like to see him get another series. We've got to stay fresher. This week with the Temple we're going to face, there might be some more guys playing.
Q. Another game where your corners didn't allow big plays; do you feel good going into this week?
PAT NARDUZZI: No, I don't feel good look when I look at James Washington out there and Mason Rudolph. You don't feel any better because I don't care who they play, just go put on Oklahoma State; big explosive passes and runs for that matter because as soon as you start playing cover two and trying to put two over that guy, it's out the gate going 98, and that's not good, either. So it's pick your poison, but I do feel good -- better about the match-up this year than I do a year ago. But are we going to leave that guy on an island all day like we did last year? No.
Q. With the game last year, do you think this a game where your secondary is going to feel I guess extra motivation based on --
PAT NARDUZZI: Redemption? Yeah, I sure hope. I do.
Q. How did the O-line rotation sort of play out in your mind last week and how do you see it, I guess, changing going forward?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, I don't see it changing a whole bunch. You may see a couple changes in here and there, but I think we played six guys. I don't know if Mike Herndon got in this week, but he'll probably get in this week. But Bookser was back, so you're with one less guy.
Q. Can you describe the talent level of this team compared to what you saw in Clemson last year and how beating them would be a landmark victory?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know what, every win is a victory. Beating a top-10 team here at home at Heinz Field would be another statement win. Will they be the national champion? Maybe, who knows. They'll be in the conversation with the talent they have. But they're very talented.
To compare Oklahoma to Clemson, it's hard. The one comparison I can make is it'll be orange, so they're going to bring orange in, okay. That's my only comparison. And they're fast. They're big and they're fast and they wear orange, so pretty good comparison.
Q. Are they just as fast?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think so. I think they are. You look across the board talent-wise, I think Justice Hill is going to be the fastest tailback we face this year, I'll tell you that. He's fast, No. 5, you watch him, he's fast.
Q. How do they compare to Penn State?
PAT NARDUZZI: Different talent. I think the Big Ten is different than the ACC, and the ACC is a different than the Big 12. I think Big 12 ACC athletically compared to the Big Ten, and have coached in it for eight years, those receivers are going to be a little bit different. We didn't have problems locking down the No. 1 receiver Saturday, did we? And I haven't had troubles in the past. But when you talk about locking down some of the NFL wide-outs that's come out of the Atlantic Coast Conference and I'd compare it to what we saw last year out there, I know now, you don't naturally go out and play Oklahoma State to see -- before last year I'd say it's the same. What's the difference? But James Washington is a different animal. He's a first-round draft choice next year. I was voting for him to come out last year. I thought he had a nice little bonus. But what are you going to do. He's obviously really smart, too, because he's going to get an education.
Q. Dane Jackson and Damarri Mathis, it seemed like Dane Jackson got more playing time.
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, he got a lot more playing time because he's been producing. Another good question. We've had those guys as or, and I could still put it as an or, but we're going to have to play the ors this week because they're going to go vertical and then they're going to run another receiver on and we're going to have to run another DB on, so I would expect to play more DBs this week, so the ors for sure this week. But I think you put those ors on there because we feel just as good with that Damarri Mathis as we do Dane Jackson, and that's why there's an or. If you don't see an or, you could say maybe Maddox and there's no or there; why is there not an or. Because you could really put on there -- right there, you could put Maddox or Mathis on either side. But I know you guys would hate that, so I don't do that to you. But Damarri is the next guy in right now, and hopefully some more guys develop.
Q. Would you say Clark has improved from where he was last year?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know what, it's a year of confidence, a year of technique, and been there before. That's what I said, we've got a young football team, we're learning every day. Chris Clark, he's a guy that's going to get down on himself and we've got to pick him up. I don't have to go yell at Chris Clark. He wants to catch that ball. It's like I told Chris, you're going to catch that -- it's your first time -- the first week you don't get any opportunities, then you get opportunities, you don't make them. The next time you're going to have opportunities and you're going to make them. It's a learning curve. And that's kind of how we coach our guys. It's the same thing for Dane. Sometimes it's learn under fire, and that's what happens at the corner spot. That's what happens at the linebacker spot. Every spot on the team is -- you learn. So I think reps, confidence and have been there before helps you. Some of these young guys that are playing now, what's Jimmy Morrissey going to look like in a year? I mean, that guy is snapping the ball, pulling around and making some great blocks on the edge. Nobody is talking about some of the young guys that are still making plays. I'm like shocked some of the things he does. It's hard to be a center, snap the ball and pull, too.
But catching the ball down the field, I mean, great route by Chris, he's just got to finish it, and he will. I have no doubts about it. Just like Kessman, we look at what he did the first week and then he goes into that atmosphere, from the right hash that he doesn't like, just so you guys know, but he expects to make two. I'm looking down like maybe we should have centered the ball for this field goal on 3rd down, but he puts both of them up from the right hash, so improvement, and trust and faith in our kids.
I couldn't be prouder of our kids the way they attacked the game, they prepared for the game, and they finished the game, you know, with class, and that's kind of who we are.
Q. And no or at quarterback, either, that being said, will you look for opportunities to find snaps for Ben?
PAT NARDUZZI: No, we were looking for opportunities in the opener. Ben is a good football player. We've told you that, and he did some nice things in there. Ball security is still an issue. But I told him that last night, so I'm not telling you anything I wouldn't tell him. I love Ben. He's a competitor. You can see that. He competes out there. He's not afraid of anything, and we'll clean up some things. He blames it on me in scout team from his freshman year, which is beautiful. But it may be so just because he was running for his life on scout team. That's where he got it from.
But he's a great kid, and I'm just happy with him getting an opportunity. Got to score his first rushing TD and he wanted one more and we just didn't quite put that one in at the end.
Q. Does that mean you'll look for opportunities for him?
PAT NARDUZZI: I would like to look for opportunities. It's easier said than done when you get in the game. It's a hard call. We wanted to do it in the second quarter of the Youngstown game, and I said, let's get one more TD, and then we didn't get one more until overtime. But we wanted to get him in early, but you know.
Q. Do you guys feel you're missing George Aston's presence in the red zone a little bit?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, obviously you'd like to have him out there, and he's getting closer day by day, so we'll see. I'd say he's questionable for this weekend, but you never know. I mean, there's a possibility even for this week, so we'll -- but you know, you miss George everywhere, not just in the red zone. Again, we got opportunities in the red zone to make some plays and we don't, the red zone is no different than coming out. If you don't make the play -- so I don't think the red zone is any different than just upsets everybody else a little bit more because you got that close. We had two or three 15-play drives for 77 yards and we're kicking -- it's like nobody has those. They got an 8-yard drive for a touchdown, we got 15 plays and get three. We're executing a lot of plays really well up front. We were more explosive last week than we were against Youngstown State, so what's that tell you. So we got a little bit better, and we had Chase have some more.
Q. Along those lines, Aston and James Conner both scored a ton of touchdowns in that area. Do you think you're trying to find those players who can kind of punch it in or is there play calling you need to hone in on?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think it's fine, and the guys did make the plays, and then also blocking for him, too, let's not forget about blocking. It's easy to score touchdowns when you've got Biz over there and Dorian so there's a lot of missing pieces out there, and then you've got Dontez Ford, who's a great blocker out there. There's times receivers are in the end zone blocking and looking back. Well, what are you looking back for? Just block that guy, put him on his back, send him out of the end zone, so there's all those little things that -- young guys are going like this, looking back, oh, he's coming; let me block now. No; you've got to block all the time. And there's that thing called the whistle; when it blows then you can look back and stop. Those are little things that we've got to continue to do.
Q. As a defensive-minded head coach, is this the type of offense you look forward to seeing your guys respond to?
PAT NARDUZZI: I like both. It is fun to do that. I also like those slow guys that can't run the ball and can't run down the field. That's fun, too. So I like a little bit of both, more of the second than the first. But it is a challenge, and it is a fun challenge. You walk in there and it's fun. You're all -- there's times I walk in the D staff, like hey, I've got an idea, how about this, and sometimes they go like this, see you later. But you know, no, it is a challenge and it's fun, and it's what we coach for.
Q. With Jordan set to come back after this week, is this sort of a last big chance for Jazzee, Bryce and Dennis to sort of make their push?
PAT NARDUZZI: It is. It is. Again, I've been happy with Bryce. Stocker probably hasn't got as many opportunities as you'd like, but Bryce has done a nice job practicing every day, and then he's out there. The great thing is it's like Maddox and Dane. We're not pulling them to put Damarri in, and if we're pulling him it's because there's a problem. It's the same thing, Bryce has been in there making tackles, and it's like, how do you take him out. Do you really want to find out? I don't know. If the guy is -- if it's not broken, don't fix it. But I wish -- I've got confidence in Stocker, too, to go in there, but it's just like the quarterback spot, too. You kind of don't want to mess with the mojo if things are going good. It's like if you miss the tackles, it's easy put the other guy in there, let's go.
So we're going to need three, four, five guys back there. It's not going to be every game where you're just playing four guys in the secondary or five. I think we played five back there really all day Saturday, and we're trying to compete and win the game and keep our best on the field, too, all the time.
Q. Your run game on Saturday, were you happy with that?
PAT NARDUZZI: For the run game I'd say probably. I don't know what we rushed for, net rushing and all that. You take five sacks of yards out of it, we're clearly over 200 yards rushing again. The sacks take you out of that. So I'm happy. But you know what, there's some explosive plays in there that we're missing. There's some explosive plays that are just little stuff. I mean, Alex Bookser, if he pulls around and goes north and south instead of east and west and gets the guy that's there, not the guy on the other side of the room, it's out the gate, and those are just -- but it's hard, there's things flashing in front of you, fronts and stunts and things going around there. So I'm not saying it's easy, but like anything else, it's those fine details that win football games.
Q. Not to put too much into the depth chart, but you added Therran Coleman and Damar Hamlin this week. They weren't on it the last two weeks. Do you think they might be --
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, they're getting closer. They're getting closer, and they're on the depth chart. That's probably said enough, right?
Q. Can Damar play? I saw he was dressed Saturday.
PAT NARDUZZI: He's getting closer. We'll find out this week. He's getting closer. That's why he was dressed. Is that the first day he was dressed? Little by little, we're getting there.
Q. Is frustrated as you are with the results of some of those drives, stylistically is that who you want to be?
PAT NARDUZZI: That's what we were last year. I mean, so those come, I guess, and you had explosive plays. Was it James? Was it opportunities? Was it a two-year quarterback as opposed to a two-game quarterback? There's a difference of what you're dealing with, and those will come, and -- they'll come. Again, do we have patience? Yes. Do I like it? No. But we're close to some more explosive plays, and that's all you can look for.
Q. (Indiscernible) frustrated at all?
PAT NARDUZZI: No, not really. I'm getting frustrated with him. How about that.
Q. You mentioned James Washington, but they just seem to keep adding big wide receivers.
PAT NARDUZZI: Oh, yeah. They've got them all. That's the one that scares me the most, but I'm scared of all of them.
Q. How tough is it to try to stop Washington when they've got all these other options?
PAT NARDUZZI: It's not easy. They've got Washington on one side, and then they've got the big guys on the other side, the Lacy kid and then Adleman from -- a transfer from LSU. Those are their 225-, 215-pound big -- Adleman I think is 6'4", played against us a year ago. So they've got them over place. They base out of wide outs. You're going to see three wide outs on the field most of the time. They'll do a little bit of two wide outs with play action pass and try to run, but they like to run the ball. The thing about Coach Gundy is he likes the run the ball as much as he likes to throw it. It's not just a pass-happy throw it to James Washington and some of the big athletic guys they have out there. But very talented football team.
Q. What about the quarterback just briefly, completing 70 percent of his passes. Is it a high percentage offense or is that --
PAT NARDUZZI: They throw some dinky stuff like we do, but then they throw those big long ones, and that guy runs by a lot of people. He did it to us last year a couple times, and again, we were in coverage and they're catching balls out here. They do a great job of available -- you're going to see the ball wherever you guys sit in the press box or 20th row, you're going to see that ball go up and come down like a punt, and it gives the receivers an opportunity to run under that ball and make it a jump ball, back shoulder. So that's something that we know now. We didn't really know going into it. Who looks at the elevation of the ball. It's just kind of the way Mason throws it a little bit, but they do a good job of throwing the football, and we will work hard. I'll have to get my arm out there, get it loosened up and throw some good balls.
Q. We know a lot about Youngstown because of the Stoops brothers. How did Youngstown shape you? Growing up in Youngstown, how did that sort of shape you?
PAT NARDUZZI: It's kind of like being in Pittsburgh. As I've told some of the locals here -- the locals, I sound like I'm from Oklahoma now. But the city of Youngstown is like Pittsburgh. It's a smaller city. It's a tough city. There's not a lot to do there. EJ used to go to Idora Park. I was working out. There was a little amusement park there that he always talks about so I know he was on the wildcat a lot. But I just think it's a tough city that there's a whole lot -- not a whole lot to do, so you lifted weights, you played football in the front yard, you played basketball, you dunked. There was just all those things. You were into football, and again, coming from a coaching profession where my dad coached for 30 years, it didn't matter where we lived, we were into it, whether Kentucky, we ran 13 houses down, crawled through a little hole in the fence and there we were at practice. But Youngstown was where I spent most of the time, and it's a tough city like Pittsburgh, steel, tough, and iron sharpens iron, I guess.
Q. Are you just a little younger than Mark Stoops?
PAT NARDUZZI: I don't know how old Mark is. We just played against them. But the Pelinis, the Stoopses, they went to Mooney, I went to Ursuline. You guys have heard these stories before. But I would say probably we played against each other, put it that way. Mike, Mark, Bob.
Q. A couple years into this, what have you learned from the Pitt job that you didn't know when you took it?
PAT NARDUZZI: That we have the best reporters in the country. That's the first thing. I would say -- that's true. They're supportive, and even though I don't read your stuff, at least I like entertaining you and seeing your faces every day. At least I'm not miserable looking at you. So I am happy there.
But all the tools you have here. I mean, I think when you become a head coach, you want opportunity to get better. This room wasn't here when we got here, so the support from the top down, from the chancellor to a couple ADs the we've had and Scott Barnes who's at Oregon State now and Heather Lyke now, I mean, the support is there, and as a coach that's all you can ask for, support. So that's the main thing, and then we've just got to continue to recruit, and it takes time to get where we want to get.
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