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September 5, 2018

Pat Narduzzi

Greensboro, North Carolina

PAT NARDUZZI: It's good to be on the first postgame ACC call. We've got a big one this week against an in-state rival, Penn State. Just got off the field here with our second practice of the week and got probably 90 percent of the game plan in now, and we'll work on polishing up the game plan and getting the last 10 percent cleaned up tomorrow. With that, I'll open it up to questions.

Q. I've been asking the guys, there's this saying out there that teams make their biggest improvement from week 1 to week 2; in your experience is that the case, or what are your thoughts on that?
PAT NARDUZZI: Oh, I guarantee it's the case. I talk about it every year, especially when you look at the NFL and I think the four preseason games they get or three or whatever it is, we don't really get to play a game, and it's hard with the way preseason camps are now, even back the way they were back when you had doubles and you maybe had a couple more practice opportunities. With 24 practices prior to your opener, you just can't hit them. We had maybe three real scrimmages where you're going live. You just can't afford to get anybody hurt in this game. Obviously when you get to a game day compared to scrimmages, you get a chance to just get 11 players on the field as opposed to 22. When you take 22 players on the field, you're really taking about a quarter of your team and even more scholarship kids, when you've only got 85 on the field at the same time, and you risk the safety of the kids, obviously, and you just risk maybe not coming in full speed. Even when we calm it down, we still don't go into our opener with all our guys because of the long camp and all the hitting we have to do just to get prepared.

The live stuff is important. Guys get into the rhythm of a real game, the contact that's involved.

So I think there's no question that everybody gets -- everybody, so Penn State is going to be better this week, we're going to be better, and I think it'll be a great ballgame.

Q. Obviously Penn State is a formidable opponent as a program. Do you like the fact schedule-wise that your guys at least had a chance to play a game and you could see some of these things before an opponent like this?
PAT NARDUZZI: No question about it. I think it's tough when you open up in a ballgame that -- let's just pretend we opened up with Penn State. I think it's hard because both of you may be a little sloppier than you'd like to be. We've got 55 players on offense and defense. Forget special teams, we've got 55 players last week that got game experience, that got one under their belt, so I think it's certainly something you'd like to have -- I don't want to say preseason game, but a warmer-up game like Penn State had last week and we had this week.

You can kind of get some of the wrinkles out, some of the situational stuff, for example, even -- we returned the opening kickoff and all of a sudden we've got 10 guys on for the extra point. That's something that you just can't prepare for the excitement of a touchdown like that. Everybody is going crazy, and then you've got one guy that's so cranked up on the sideline, he's celebrating on some bench hugging up Maurice French and he's not out there. That won't happen again. When we return an opening kickoff during the season here, I guarantee you we'll have 11 guys out there. So there's always those situations that you just can't prepare for in a practice or scrimmage.

Q. You guys have obviously knocked off some playoff contenders in recent years. I was wondering how much you draw on those games as motivation heading into another one like this.
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, I think you can always -- I think our kids probably will look back and say, oh, we've played good in big games and all that. I'd prefer to say we played good in every game and like to win 12. But I think if your kids certainly have confidence in big games, I think if you had played four big games in maybe your career as a football player and played four big-time -- say top 10, top 15 teams and you lost every one of them, I think your kids would kind of go, oh, gosh, here we go again. I think in retrospect, our kids will be saying, here we go again, let's go get this one again. I think we're used to playing in big games. We've got quite a few of them this year with probably the toughest non-conference schedule with obviously Penn State, we've got Notre Dame later on and then we've got University of Central Florida.

I think we're going to have those opportunities this year, and our kids will be up for them.

Q. Looking back, in 2016 you got Penn State, you got Miami, you got Clemson. Is there something different that you notice the week before those games or any explanation for that?
PAT NARDUZZI: No, I wish I knew. If I knew, I'd plug that in and get it going. But I think just the kids get obviously more excited for those games. But like I said, I'd prefer them get excited for every darned game. That's our goal this year, just to make sure that they're cranked up, that they don't get the feeling from a coach that, hey, this is an easy opponent.

I think we went out last week, we've tended really the three years to go out in our opener and kind of just play to our competition, and I don't think we did that last week. You may say or I may say maybe we did a little bit in the second half because I don't think we were sharp in the second half as we were in the first two quarters. But you have to play at a high level, and you've got to play with emotion for 60 minutes.

Q. Sort of piggy-backing on what Heather said a little bit, I saw something this morning, you guys have the third most graduate students in college football this year with 16 of them, and then you have five more seniors on top of that. How much can that experience, that age, maturity help in an environment like Saturday night should be?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I think obviously when you have a bunch of seniors and not only just seniors but fifth-year seniors and grad seniors, number one, it tells you you're an intelligent football team. Also I think number two, it tells you academically, Mike Farabaugh and our whole academic staff do a great job. We're not just getting guys through class and just slipping by. We're trying to achieve championships really in the classroom. So when you have that many guys graduating, I think it's a great thing.

And again, I think any time you have a senior-oriented team, those years that they've had in the program, the attention to detail out of those guys have got to be the best because they've been here, done that before, and we have to draw on that experience on Saturday night.

Q. The message out of State College this week, at least the early part of it, is that some of those guys really don't see this as a rivalry. Does that bother you or your players at all when a player or a coach flat-out says we don't see Pitt as a rival?
PAT NARDUZZI: No, we're not worried about what an opponent thinks or feels or says, to be honest with you. We're just really focused on what we are doing. We talk about preparation, preparing mentally for this game, preparing physically, which we just got off the field. And preparing emotionally. I think we're just trying to make sure our kids' minds are right, and to sit there and worry, and like I said, I don't read stuff, I don't care what anybody else is saying, we care about what we're saying, how we're doing our business, and if one thinks it's a rival and one doesn't, it doesn't matter to me. I think when you see the crowd Saturday night in Heinz Field, everybody will figure out it's a big game and it's an important game to everybody there.

Q. After your first game, what major question did you have about your team that you think you have answered?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, I guess the major question would be, hey, can we go out and start fast and knock out an opponent. That would be my biggest question because we really hadn't shown that we were going to go out in an opener and just knock somebody out, and I felt like we did that in the first half. I really didn't have -- I mean, you didn't have one major question, you had a bunch of minor questions, I guess. Obviously at every position you want to make sure you're solid at what you're doing and there's execution of the plays, and our kids are using fundamentals. Those are the minor questions. I guess maybe if I had to pick a deep-down one where you kind of -- we played two true freshmen out there, and you wondered, the major question was, is that guy going to be what he was in practice, or is he going to go out there and just collapse and just forget everything that he ever learned in 24 practices. I guess maybe that would have been my biggest question is how a couple of our puppies were going to play in the game, and really it didn't faze them at all. Those questions got answered.

Q. I know how you occasionally like to predict the future, so I'm going to ask you a future question. In your lifetime as a Pitt coach, in your career, however long that is, do you think you'll play Penn State again after next season?
PAT NARDUZZI: I'd say no. I mean, when you look at -- in my career, predicting the future, is it something -- I mentioned to our team probably Friday night or Saturday morning, this might be the last game you ever see at Heinz Field, period. Is Heinz Field going to be here in 10 years? I don't know. But unless there's two sources that can mutually agree to say, hey, this is an incredible, incredible opportunity in the state of Pennsylvania to play this game, unless there's two sides to that that want to do it and are committed to a big game that's an in-state rival and it's been -- next year will be 100, and until they do that, I might be old coming back here, maybe talking to a future team one day like Mike Ditka will come back this weekend, and if it ever happens again. It's really sad to think about because it's such a huge part of the state of Pennsylvania and the city of Pittsburgh.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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