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October 16, 2017

Pat Narduzzi

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

PAT NARDUZZI: Had another team meeting just to close a chapter on last week, which we need to move on to the next week. We did some really good things on Saturday, both offensively and defensively. Didn't stay as consistent as we'd like to be. Still haven't played a complete game. Need to pay attention to details a little bit more than we have, which hurts a young football team, and the details are the key.

A week ago it was discipline I thought really hurt us, and this weekend ends up being really some of the details of just doing it the same way, the right way every single time. We didn't score enough points to win the game, and we didn't hold them off the scoreboard enough. You take away the last touchdown, which we were in a four-minute, we've got to get the ball back to our defense, and we kind of loaded up with sub-package, which sometimes is all or none. We didn't execute it as well as we needed to, as well, but it's an all or nothing sometimes, but just to get the ball back. I'm not worried about the last one. Sometimes that happens.

But defensively you give up 21 points, we gave up a punt return for a touchdown, 93 yards or whatever the heck that was, and just details. And when you look back, we gave opportunities for guys to come in and make an impact in the game, young guys, backups, and they -- that makes you even younger when you do that.

So we're still young in some spots, but we move on to a very good Duke football team that won the first four, lost the last few to Florida State, Miami, Virginia, I believe, and they're well-coached by Coach Cutcliffe. Defensively they're a good football team. I think 16th in the country in rush defense, 19th in total defense. They're really good there, and they're very solid. Obviously Coach Roper and Coach Cutcliffe together I think run that offense, and Coach Cutcliffe being an offensive guru, we face some of the best coaches I think in the country in the ACC. It's impressive.

With that, I'll open it up for questions.

Q. You said you saw some good things on Saturday, too, watching tape. Who were some of the things that you took encouragement from?
PAT NARDUZZI: I mean, you look at the run game defensively, we did some great things for -- you won a lot of runs, and when you talk about three yards or less runs, we did a lot of great things, and even the run that went 83 yards, we saw that play before and afterwards, and we were successful in stopping it with base defense, and then all of a sudden -- it's a game of inches. You're supposed to line up right here and you line up right here, they've got angles on you to zone you. So I think it's those things.

And offensively still trying to find who we are run game wise, but I was happy with what Ben did in the first half. I thought he played a really good first half. He played a better first half than he played against Georgia Tech, so that's encouraging. We've got to catch the ball all the time. We've got to make plays. But we've got to find a run game. You look at the Steelers next door, a week ago Le'Veon Bell is not getting as much as he'd like or not getting it to do it. The run game makes you tick, and if you don't have a run game, it's going to be hard to win football games, period.

You look at North Carolina State, they had a run game. I know you guys laugh, but I say stop the run every week. If you say, what's the key to victory, stop the run, and we'd better be able to run the football, that's been a problem. Last time we rushed for 150 was against Penn State. Where has that gone? That was a pretty good defense there, too.

We've got to find a way to rush for 150 this week to have an opportunity to win the football game. So you can put that on your keys to victory, put that 150 is the benchmark. We've got to get 150, and we've got to go back to basics and we've got to get it.

Q. You talked about wanting to get Kenny looks. Why not just come in with a plan and say no matter what happens Kenny gets the third series and Kenny gets the fifth series and see what happens after that? Experimenting with him seems sort of odd.
PAT NARDUZZI: I guess we're odd, I guess. That's your decision to make that call. That's what we get paid to make those decisions. You say it looked good, okay. If I wait two more series, you might be going, why did you wait so long to put Kenny in? We're having a different conversation, so it's easy to sit there with your arm on that armrest and say that stuff. But the fact is we come into the second half, we throw an interception on the third play of the second half, and we haven't been a great second half team to begin with, so I can sit there and continue to put up with it, or we can do something about it. But we do that and then we go punt-punt. You have more patience than I do, I guess. I like to win, and it's going to be competitive.

And like I said, Kenny was planning on redshirting, okay. He was planning on redshirting in the summer because we felt good with Max, and we felt good with Ben, obviously. Things changed, and I said a week ago that he was going to play, and we're going to play, and we had some plans. We changed our plans. I wanted to really -- we wanted to really get Kenny in the first half. But Ben was playing really good, so it was like no need to. So your plans do change.

To say he's going to go in the third series after Ben just threw two touchdown passes, you want to put him in the third series? I think that's crazy, too. So it's all how you look at it. To me it depends on the flow of the game, okay, and you've got to be down there, and you've got to be on the headsets, you've got to be knowing -- you have to know what's happening in the game. I mean, even the first half there was a couple close throws that could be picks. We can't turn the ball over or you give yourself no chance. Our defense did an unbelievable job after that interception of going three-and-out and forcing a punt. But it killed us in field position because they downed the ball inside the 5-yard line, and now you put your offense having to go 95 plus yards, it's not easy.

Q. I know you don't do leashes here, I remember that, but then how do you let a kid build any sort of momentum either way, or do you tell them, hey, look, if it's not going well -- do you treat it like all the other 21 positions?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, we do. Yeah, we do. I mean, it should be no different. It's competitive. They've got to be competitive. What's the difference when we pull backs and put Ben in? What's the difference? Until you've got a guy that's the guy, okay -- Nathan Peterman, did we ever pull him? He pulled himself in the Northwestern game when he got dinged in the head, but that guy ain't coming out of there. We didn't make a dumb decision in that decision.

So we are going to -- it's competitive, and it makes guys better, and it made Max better when he came back against Rice, and it's going to make Ben better. Ben is our starting quarterback without a question. I mean, he's the guy.

But we're still going to have quarterback -- and if things aren't going good, he knows that, we know that, whether you want to hear it or not. Sometimes you have selective hearing on what you want to hear and what you don't want to hear. We've had good communication, and Ben will be our guy, and then we'll see how it goes from there.

Q. You said on Saturday that you were pretty happy with what Ben had done overall, but is what you're saying the first couple drives of the second half the offense was moving and that's why you decided to make a change then?
PAT NARDUZZI: True. It comes down to consistency. Again, it's not just quarterbacks. As I've told Ben, we've got to run the ball. His shoulders, they're like this big, but we make them like they're this big. This ain't that big and the poor kid can't do it all by himself. We've got to help him out with some run game. I thought he did a really good job with the passing game early, but we've got to help him out a little bit. We talk way too much about the quarterback. There's some other things that we should be talking about, too.

Q. I know coaches don't like to play the what-if game, but what if Ben does come off against Syracuse, could you win the game on Saturday?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yes, I believe so, yes, because we can't survive with one quarterback, period. The guy has got to go in, and I don't want it to be at the last second, so there's no doubt about it. That's why there was no hesitation, and like I told you last week, he was going to play, now it would have been a lot harder if Ben is scoring every drive, going down the field, leading the offense down the field. But like I said, the key is are we getting better from his first start to his second start, and I say yes. His preparation was better. If you ask Ben, you'd say, hey, did you prepare better for North Carolina than you did Georgia Tech, he'd say yes, which is great, and guess what, he's going to prepare better this week than he did last week, and it'll continue to get better, and I think that's the important thing.

Q. You talked about the communication with those guys, and Ben said after the game Saturday that he was kind of surprised, kind of caught off guard, didn't know beforehand that Pickett might get in there --
PAT NARDUZZI: Did you know? Did you know I was going to put Pickett in the game? You didn't know from our conversation last week? Who knew? He knew.

Q. But that doesn't necessarily mean anything.
PAT NARDUZZI: There's communication there. I just think you hear what you want to hear. I think everybody becomes a competitor, and I think the emotions go, and we all do, okay. But I think emotions go, and I think I know you want to do that -- like I said, I wanted to get him in in the first half. Ben made me not do it because of his play. So the plan changed right off the bat.

But I think everybody in their mind says, I know what you're playing but you're not doing that because I'm going to control this and I'm going to do so good that you can't put him in, and that's what you want your quarterback to feel. He's got a great attitude. He just needs to stay within the walls of this building and hear the right things and do the right things.

Q. Do you want to get to a point where you don't have to worry about --
PAT NARDUZZI: Thank you, thank you, yes, I do.

Q. That's tough to do in this situation with the running game, the receivers, the quarterback?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, yeah, no doubt about it. We'd like to have one quarterback. That worked pretty good last year.

Q. Between Ben and Kenny, how big are the gaps?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, there's gaps. Decision making, holding on to the ball, making the right run checks, all those things. There's not this gigantic gap, put it that way. If there was -- it's not -- it's the same as it was between Max and Ben, it's the same gap between Ben and Kenny. It's the same gap. It's not this -- and then after Kenny, there's a bigger gap, okay. Knock on wood, we need both those guys to stay healthy, or you might be playing quarterback.

Q. In the running game, have you noticed that you're having more success running outside than you are inside and maybe Jordan's running style and his speed allows him to take advantage of that more than some of the other running backs?
PAT NARDUZZI: I don't feel like we're running good inside or outside, how about that. When you don't rush for 100 yards you didn't run good inside or outside. But Jordan's speed does help you on the edge more than it does inside. When you're running inside runs, there's more things to read. You're not just running in a hole. You're reading -- if the Mike comes over, you cut back, and there's a lot of things that you coach, and there's a lot more to playing running back than just saying find the hole and be a player.

You can hurt your linemen by doing the other. They have to feel where the flow is going and how to come off. It's a little bit more complicated than what it appears, I guess.

Q. How are those decisions delegated? You obviously have the final call, but --
PAT NARDUZZI: I think we talk about it during the week. It's a good question. I think it goes with every position. We talk every Thursday, we talk about how are we playing the players. We have a how-to-play-the-players meeting and who are we giving the ball, who are we featuring. You have those discussions at the end of the week so you can tell, hey, what are we doing, I want to know -- I don't want to have that conversation on the headphones in the middle of the game in the heat of -- that's not the time to have that call. This week will be a little bit different than last week, and then the next week will be even more different. So we have those conversations on Thursday after the week of practice, how did they play during practice, you feel good, who are you going to rotate, okay, good. So again, it's everybody in there. So it's a staff thing, and if it's -- obviously the quarterback is an important position, and you go around and get input from your entire staff. I don't care if it's a D-line coach or the DB coach or quarterback coach; hey, what do you guys think. We all see a lot of things and we watch practice and watch how people carry themselves during -- so we're going to evaluate that, and you kind of know what you're going to do going into the game.

Q. How do you improve the run game? Is it find new guys?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, we tried to get on the free agent market there, but they won't let us in on that. But Martavius, if he wants to come on over, maybe you can line up a tailback. We're not going to get any extra guys. We need to lock into the fundamentals and the basics of who we are, okay, and like I told the offense and the defense yesterday, if we're making -- we're not as detailed as we need to, then we need to slim it down and be more detailed in what we're doing. And again, every week it's something else that you're worried about. You're worried about this, and we haven't worried about special teams all year, now all of sudden you're worried about your punt coverage team, like this Hines guy, who is this guy. So now I'm walking into a special teams meeting going, hey, what are we doing here.

We'll get it right. Just sometimes it takes -- you've got to have patience, and some of you guys have more patience.

Q. You don't have patience, though, you kind of said?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I don't.

Q. Damar, eight tackles, led the team, but struggled against the pass. How would you assess his play?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, it's a new world for him. It's not even a new position, it's playing is a new thing for him. He's a brand new guy. Did you say struggled against the pass game?

Q. At times.
PAT NARDUZZI: Did you know what his responsibilities are? Sometimes you have to know -- sometimes guys get beat, and you're like, he wasn't even supposed to be there. There was probably some other -- I can't remember -- we gave up three passes, one with Dane Jackson. So two was Dane Jackson -- again, one was unbelievable. He brought that guy's whole body this way. He had his hand on the ball. He's in great position. One, he lost eye control a little bit on an above go. I forget what the third one is. As a matter of fact, the third one was we were man free, and Damar kind of didn't turn him loose; he was on the guy but he should have been closer to him, so Damar you could say was maybe part of one of them, but Jordan Whitehead rolled over, thinking he was going to help out Damar, and all of a sudden there was a post right there. He should have had a pick. They threw a post into man free coverage and we should have had a pick on that play, so that was kind of -- if Damar had one play that I'd say, God, get on him a little bit tighter, you've got help in the middle of the field, be more aggressive.

But everything is new for him. He had his eight tackles, I'd say he needed more help in the run game than he does in the pass game because it's all new to him. Like on the big run, Damar wasn't good. Nobody blocked. If you go back and watch the tape, nobody blocked Damar, Damar blocked himself because he was so aggressive to get -- but that's a lack of experience. To his defense, it's like, he never -- he hasn't been in the action of a run like that, and that's on us as coaches to continue to develop him as a player.

But Damar is going to be really good.

Q. He puts up eight tackles, does that kind of speak to --
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, it's not all about the tackles, either, because where are the tackles. Are they for 10-yard gains, are they for TFL's? We'd rather have TFL's out of our safeties than six-yard gains. It's kind of -- stats don't really tell the story. We want them to be good tackles where we want them to be. They want to be wins, as far as three-yard or less runs, so count up the eight and find out where they are, and then we'll tell you how good it is.

Q. You didn't rotate on your offensive line this week. How did you feel those five performed?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, that front is pretty good. They did good. I mean, that's why we didn't rotate through. That was our plan on how to play the players. This was what we were going to go with. And I thought Jaryd did a nice job at the right tackle. He still had some little things that we've got to clean up that get practiced every day, and got to play together. Those guys are so critical that they play together. We didn't rotate. Good observation.

Q. They didn't rotate and you still had trouble generating -- your backs had trouble with Jordan and Kenny, I think. When you look at the running game, is it the line not getting -- missed assignments? Is it the backs not finding the holes?
PAT NARDUZZI: You guys ask this question every week. Come up here. It's a little of everything, and again, the first play of the game, it's our O-line. Guy -- Chubb runs right through the B-gap. He's outside, all of a sudden he came inside. It's like he's not allowed to do that, but he was allowed to do that. So we've got to be in our zone together. So it's -- every play is a little different thing, and the next time Brian makes his block and someone else misses it, but that's part of it. So it's a little bit of everything.

I hate to tell you that, but that's a fact. The truth.

Q. With the difficulties of running and obviously with the quarterback situation, you knew there was going to be some transition in those areas, but how much more challenging has it been than perhaps you anticipated?
PAT NARDUZZI: As far as why the run game is not going? More challenging than you'd like it to be. I didn't think it would be like this at all. As a matter of fact, you come in, you feel pretty positive, and that's why I told you, when you come out of camp, you really don't know what you have playing against each other. I know there was good and bad, but you thought you're progressing when you're playing against each other. The defense starts to get to know the offense, it becomes a little easier for the defense. But there's still stresses on the defense with what they're doing. And you're not facing anybody else that does it a different way.

I think those are the challenges. But we're not that young on offense. We are young at quarterback, Tre Tipton, not having him in there hurts you back there. James Conner is a loss. So you knew you didn't have James Conner out there for sure.

But you know what, you've still got to block them, you've still got to run to daylight.

Q. Chawntez Moss dressed but didn't play. Do you have any sort of update on his status going forward?
PAT NARDUZZI: No. We'll just see how it goes.

Q. I was curious (indiscernible) if you got the chance to (indiscernible)?
PAT NARDUZZI: Have I spoken with him? I personally have not spoken with him. I answered this obviously on Saturday. We have educated our entire football team, probably as extensively -- we did it a year ago. We did it more this year in light of the NFL and all the issues at that we're having there, but we try to educate our kids on what are you doing, why are you doing it, and if that's something you need to do, you'd better have a good reason why. It's not my job to go question a guy. It's not his to question my faith or what I'm all about as a person.

You know, that's kind of what we've done is educate them so they make smart decisions for themselves, and beyond that, that's kind of where it is. So we've been educated. They have their rights whether you like it or not, whether you like it or not or whether I like it or not, that's kind of where it is.

Q. Are you satisfied that he did have a good reason for what he did?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, I'm not going to speak for anybody else. I'm not going to speak about what my beliefs are because it doesn't matter how I believe. I'm not the judge. I'm not God, I'm not -- I don't judge you or you. I'm not judging anybody. That's not what I'm all about. You know, dissatisfied, satisfied, I'm satisfied with wins, I'm not satisfied with losses. That's what I'll talk about satisfied and dissatisfied.

Q. Have you found out why he did it?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think that question -- like I said, we educate them of what -- you're making a statement or you're making an impact. What are you doing it for? This is what it means. I think we all know, we've heard it over and over again, and that's -- EJ, you said it, I think, the best.

Q. The conference results over the weekend, Clemson loses, NC State is in first place in their division, and Miami is tooth and nail every week, the Coastal again. When you look at where this program wants to be and you see what NC State is doing, does that give the kids confidence that if we just keep at it that there is --
PAT NARDUZZI: That's what we do. I mean, that's what you do. I think our guys have -- I think guys have not lost faith. They believe. And it just takes time. We're a different football team than we were a year ago. We're a different football team than North Carolina State. Everybody is a little bit different. Some teams were really good a year ago that maybe aren't as good this year. They lost -- hey, that Trubisky guy, he's a pretty good football player. They were pretty good a year ago. All of a sudden he's playing in Chicago and there's another guy playing -- Switzer is playing now with the Cowboys, you watch him out there punt returning and stuff, it's like, those are two NFL guys that made an impact. Larry is feeling like I do. Their good players are playing at the next level.

The conference is unbelievable. I think it's better than it was a year ago. And I've said this before, the ACC -- not only the players and the conference, I think the coaches are outstanding. Cutcliffe, that guy is a guru. You get to coach against Cutcliffe. Dave Doeren, that guy has won championships in the MAC, at Northern Illinois. Dino Babers is a good football coach. The ACC, the AD's in this conference have made some great hires. I think it's great there's competition. That's what you want. We're going to be playing for a National Championship again in the ACC.

Q. Duke played Florida State pretty tough last week, had a chance to win late. What did you take from that game and the things they were able to do especially in the second half?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know what, Duke is a good football team, and Florida State is a good football team. Obviously they're young at the quarterback spot, as well. But Duke is a good football team, and when you watch it, Duke can hang with anybody, and Florida State can hang with anybody. It's two good football teams banging it head-to-head.

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