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UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 24, 2018
PAT NARDUZZI: Good afternoon. Obviously disappointed in last weekend's game, three-point slugfest, I guess, as it is with those guys every year. But when I look at the back of that wall and I look at our kids' attitude and their effort and the toughness they played with, you never question that out of our guys. They played with their tails off until the end on the road, which it's never easy to go on the road.
We don't do everything perfect as coaches or players, and we all make mistakes at times, and those are some of the costly things, whether it's a penalty or just an error in what to do and how to do it. That's why we teach. That's why we coach. It's not going to be perfect. It's not at any level, from Pop Warner to the NFL.
But again, the biggest thing is are they giving you everything they've got, and our kids are playing hard. They care. Are they disappointed? No doubt about it.
I've been on a lot of team buses, and I'll share this with you. I've been on a lot of team buses through the years where you're going -- you come out of the locker room, you jump on the bus and you're hearing some talk in the back of the bus, and you're kind of like as a head coach or a defensive coordinator, you're kind of like, Shut up back there. But you know what, I don't know if I -- I was on the offensive bus, I'm talking the entire time, just silent. So it hurts. And I think when it hurts, that's when you know your guys care, and the same thing was on the defensive bus.
That's a great thing, I think. Because it hurts for everybody. It's not fun, but we can't sit here and worry about it. Again, they're always tough -- the closer they are, the tougher they are because you know you're actually one play away, and we had a lot of one plays on offense, defense and special teams, when you think about how it could have changed the game just on a positive note, Stocker makes a great play at the end of the half, he's going to take that to the house. That's just one of the positive things, I guess, when you say it's a positive-negative. Positive that he got his hands on the ball; negative that he didn't pull it down, he's got great hands, too.
So there's a lot of positives to come back from it. We've got to learn from our mistakes and move on to Central Florida with -- top 15 football team with a Heisman Trophy candidate for real. It'll be the second one we've played this season. McKenzie Milton is a football player. He's got a quick release, makes good decisions, the tempo is going to be going. They're special there. And Pat Jasinski, their middle linebacker, he's a football player, kind of like our Quintin Wirginis, he's the guy that runs the show for them. So 58 and 56, some of those linebackers are always worth keeping an eye on in the game.
With that I'll open it up for questions.
Q. After watching the film what did you see on those two touchdown passes that UNC got on you? Were those more physical or mental errors?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, it's -- I'm trying to think of -- I know one of them I can think of. You're talking --
Q. There was one that --
PAT NARDUZZI: One was a T shoot, I think I mentioned the word T shoot to you guys on Thursday. Do you remember that? You're probably going, What is T shoot? T shoot is what we saw, but we weren't surprised by it. You get in the game and things happen like this, and we'll practice the T shoot -- T shoot is when there's maybe two receivers either side, usually it's what we call a smash 7 over there and they send the tailback up the middle. We try to run one, which we run them, and they grabbed us around the waist, and we weren't in position to make a play on the ball, and it's something we watched -- we watched tape from three years ago how many T shoots they've got.
That's the one I can think of, and then the other one, you know, I don't remember another one. I remember Dane's big pass.
Q. It made it 35-28 --
PAT NARDUZZI: Oh, on the little switch route. Again, just that was more just physical really. We've got to press it up and we've got to get on the guy. We didn't get on him, and something just -- probably more physical. You can say they're physical and mental. We always talk about physical and mental. They're both -- mentally if you didn't get on the right guy and didn't get on him fast enough, it's a little bit of both.
Q. How do you address the penalties during practice? How do you --
PAT NARDUZZI: We do the same thing, we've got referees. Every team meeting, obviously I guess Wednesday and Thursday, I start off the team meeting and we talk about yesterday's practice, where we are, what we need to do today. Hey, let's look at a review of what we did. I put it up there on a piece of paper, boom, stick it up there every day. It's got offensive penalties, defensive penalties, the period, who it was on, their name is up there. We've done that for years, and we've been one of the least penalized teams, and we've had way too many on special teams, uncharacteristic of a Pitt football team to be honest with you, and it's guys trying to make plays. Guys just getting anxious to go do it, and you've just got to relax.
We got two illegal shifts offensively, I think it was the only two penalties we had on offense, and we don't -- I'm not going to run them, I'm not going to make them do up-downs. They understand how it hurts, and it hurts worse in the second half. It hurts worse when you've got a 25-yard run, it's a first and 10, change the field, and now all of a sudden you're backed up again, go back further, go deeper into the end zone. Get into that coming out situation.
So they know, and it hurts, and they're not trying to do it. I think it's something that everybody has got penalties. I think we only had five, so it's not like there was -- I think five, and one of them was a kickoff out of bounds, which Kessman kicked the ball, so you can throw that one out. And on the same play you had Chase Pine was a little bit offsides. He thought he had to change something a little bit on that down.
But those two I'm not worried about. I'm not worried about a personal foul, I'm worried about the illegal shifts which are happening both on -- and it's something in college football, they're trying to speed these games up. Well, by the time you get off the sideline and get on the field, that 25-second clock on those first-possession plays with some of the shifting and just getting lined up, usually it's a guy that's got the furthest distance to go from the sideline. So we've got to clean that up, and we've known that.
But those are ones that have hurt us, and it's usually a young guy that's not getting set, a freshman. So those are things that you've got to live with and try to correct.
Q. Were there mistakes that you saw on the field during the week that carried into the game?
PAT NARDUZZI: Not really. You wish there would. We covered the T shoot every time we saw it. It's an arrangement of different things.
Like I said, let's just look at defensively. There's just little things, each play -- you guys can put the tape on and point it out, we called out 3rd down and 17, we call cover two man underneath, and my man Therran Coleman is in perfect coverage, Dane Jackson is in perfect coverage, and the other corner just plays it different than the other two guys. It's like -- but he didn't do that in practice.
But things happen during the game, and you've got to correct it. But it's one guy or two guys a play where -- and then the other guys are playing it really good, and you're like, Golly, if we can get all 11 playing, that's coming together and doing it right and having focus for 60 minutes each play, six seconds. You get to break off six seconds again, and we've got to have focus.
And again, perfect alignment, so I'll throw that one out to you. Some of these tempos, and we're going to see as fast a tempo as you're going to see the next two weeks. Central Florida are going to snap the ball, shoot, between 8 and 12 seconds a lot of times, period. You might as well keep your cameras on and don't shut them off, don't blink, you might miss a play. But it'll be as fast as you've seen. It'll be lightning fast. But our guys got to get the call on the sideline and get back up and see the formation, identify a formation, and that's why they're scoring so many points because it's going like this.
We've got to get aligned perfectly, and again, our guys are in generally the right spot, but we talk about perfect alignments, and I'm talking this far. That far is a big deal, whether it's a safety alignment on the No. 2, whether it's a linebacker who thinks he's in a 30, should be in a 10. It's this far away, and those are all details that you have to clean up. So there's some major things like that cover two I'm telling you about.
But there's some minor things that are just like tiny little things. They brought a couple motions, and we see about as much motion out of our offense in practice and camp and spring ball that we shouldn't have any of those things. But we had a couple of them out there, and it hurts you.
Q. Talk about losing focus on details. Are you surprised with all the seniors on defense?
PAT NARDUZZI: Not really. A lot of times it's not the seniors that are having the problems. Every once in a while it pops up, but no, it doesn't surprise me at all. If you're in the game of football long enough, that happens. And like I told the defense last night, one week Jerry DePaul was asking if you're the greatest defense ever at Pitt or since you've been here, and then the next week it's like you've got to come back. The room sometimes goes lopsided, and the offense plays good enough and the defense doesn't, and then all of a sudden the offense doesn't play good enough, the defense plays their tails off.
Like I say, you evaluate things at the end of the year, and it does not surprise me. Things happen during a game. It is moving fast out there, and you've got to think fast, you've got to be locked in. And again, I think our kids are locked in, but you're going to have mistakes. I've never been in a game where you're not going to have mistakes. But again, one less mistake and we win the football game. All it takes is one.
Like I told the defense, we didn't ask you to shut them out. There's not going to be a shutout. There's not many shutouts in college football anymore. We didn't expect you to score 60, didn't give you a time or a score based on the keys to what we have to do to win this football game. But all you need is just one play. Just one play. Make one more than you did because it's not going to be perfect. Stop that switch route you're talking about, stop the T shoot like we did all week in practice. It's just one of those plays. Intercept it, take it to the house, whatever it may be, make one more play and you win the football game.
Don't have an illegal shift when we get a 25-yard -- who knows what that turns into, but probably one less series for them. Just don't fumble a kickoff return and don't give them a short field to score again. Just take that one away.
So there's so many -- everybody has got a piece of it, coaches and players. That's how it is.
Q. This defense came into the season with a great deal of high praise. These first four games what have you noticed are the biggest shortcomings, and have they met expectations?
PAT NARDUZZI: Nobody is going to meet expectations. You're talking preseason as opposed to postseason to real stuff in season and weekly. We look at where we are weekly.
And like I said, nobody cares what you did against Georgia Tech in the first half. Nobody cares. You know what, this week the only thing I care about is what you do against Central Florida. All we care about is right here, right now, where are you. And again, you're evaluated weekly, not evaluated at the end of the season as we've mentioned before. You're evaluated weekly, and individually and as a unit.
Am I surprised? No, I've seen it. It's college football. It's teenagers. It's coaching. It's everything.
Q. How do you simulate their tempo in practice?
PAT NARDUZZI: It's a great question. I'm getting ready to walk into a meeting. As soon as we walk out of here, there's -- we've done it a bunch of different ways. There's different ways to skin the cat. But number one -- and it's every week. You say, How do you simulate it? Our scout team will probably have wristbands. We're going to try to bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. It's not going to look like them. Just like Georgia Tech's offense didn't look like it.
But yeah, every week that's probably the first thing we look at before we watch a down is before you get into really game play, right now our coaches are all in different rooms, putting the pieces together, and then come together and say, Okay, how are we playing them, who are we playing, what package do we got going on. These guys, they limit you to really doing much pressure-wise because you don't have time to even communicate. The reason they go fast is because they want to keep you in your four-down and they want to keep you from doing anything but that, okay, so they want to block a bunch of stats, so you're handcuffed as far as what you do. You do too much, you're going to get whacked and get hit for a big play. So you have to keep pace. You're playing pretty much the same defense every down.
I went off on that, but did I answer your question?
Q. You did. Seemed like you were making a lot of substitutions on defense throughout the game. Still seemed like -- you had Briggs go down, looked like a cramp. It's going to be 91 or 92 down there this Saturday. Are you expecting to need the whole two-deep on defense to play a good amount of time?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, we're always trying to sub, and a couple weeks ago when I got a penalty, that's what we're trying to do is sub even if we don't need to sub. We're going to try to get this when they do this, and I thought the officiating crew did a heck of a job of that, and obviously I emphasized it before the game with them, and they did a terrific job with putting their arms out, staying in front of the quarterback to give us a chance to substitute, and that was good to see.
But we want to sub as much as we can sub. We've got two-deep, guys that we think -- we've got the guys that we think can go in there, and we're going to continue to do that. Dennis cramped up, we didn't get to sub him. Phil Campbell didn't make the trip last week. I don't know if anybody noticed. It wasn't an injury, but he was sick. I didn't realize he was a little sick on Tuesday, a little sick on Wednesday, and then Thursday night it kicked in, so we were down one guy, and he's back yesterday feeling good, smiling. So it'll be good to have him back. And again, he practiced all week so we lost not only a guy repping, Bricen did a great job moving over with zero reps at that boundary safety spot, Bricen Garner, that is.
Q. Considering you guys have had trouble getting the ball down the field vertically, the running game has been really effective. Is it even more impressive because teams are at the line and you're still able --
PAT NARDUZZI: It does. I think offensively they were mixing things up run and pass last week pretty good. I think we've been running the ball effectively. We rushed for more yardage -- you sit there and you look at some of the stuff we put on the screen last night, when you out-rush a team, and we rushed for over 200 yards, and we rushed for more than they do, and you're still slapping yourself in the face like you still want more, it ain't good enough. Over 100 yards rushing on defense is not good enough. It's kind of the standard. Maybe the standards are all changed and these offenses are whacked out. They do a nice job, but I think --
Q. Do you just kind of keep them off the field?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, but the thing we don't want to do is handcuff our offense to the point where, hey, we'll run it three downs in a row, see if we can eat up the clock and don't run out of bounds. Nobody wants to coach that way, nobody wants to play that way offensively. Bostic used to like that, but we've got to be opened up, we've got to go, and we've got to make plays, and I don't want to handcuff anybody. We need to make plays down the field and Taysir did a great job of making plays, so those are some big-time catches. We've got to get more of that and we've got to get some more guys involved.
Q. What do you guys have to do to sustain the good things you've done in the first half offensively the last couple of games and carry that over and you've got to score right away?
PAT NARDUZZI: I mean, you're talking first half to second half? You know, that's the magic question right there. The first thing we've got to do is give ourselves a chance with field position, and it starts with special teams, and it starts with offense and defense. It's really all three phases. But I mean, the second half the last two weeks, we're sitting in the -- really last three weeks. We lose the field position the second half. We win it in the first half, and we lost it in the second half. I think we lost the field position by 117 yards if we look at that, but it was all in the second half. I mean, our average field position in the second half, does anybody know it? Anybody? You guys look at the stats? Does EJ give you a stats book? What do you guys do? There's so much information in there.
I think they had it on the 36, we had it on the 18-yard line. No offense likes that. When you look at where they had the ball, our offense never had the ball in a P and 10 across the 50, and our offense had it at the 18, and their offense had twice on our side of the field, twice. They had it at the P whatever, the P 37. They had it on the Pittsburgh 37. And again, 10 points. Just don't give them the short drive. That's 10 points. I know they beat us by three, so those are all little factors that we talk about all those things. We've got to get better punts, we've got to get better kickoff returns. We can't have penalties on punt return. We had two of them. We have a nice return and punt safe. We throw someone down, which is uncharacteristic. It's just like, you know, we just, boom! Stab ourselves in the heart. We can't do it. Until you fix that, you're going to have the same problems.
Q. Field position could be a problem with the defense giving up two the first time?
PAT NARDUZZI: No question about it. It's everything. It's all, like offense, defense, it's all combined.
Q. Talking about field position, are you seeing from Kirk in practice something better than what is put out there in the game? How do you go about getting them that out?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think he's just got to refocus on -- he can punt the ball. You guys probably see it in practice. He's just got to get in the zone. I think he's thinking too much. Again, it's a young punter. You know, a young punter that's trying to work through the good and the bad, you know. I'm happy he's caught the dang snaps. You know, don't wish for too much, you know, but I'm just happy he's got the dang things.
Q. We've seen more of your five defensive back looks against Carolina. I suspect that Central Florida and Syracuse next, we're going to see more of it?
PAT NARDUZZI: More of what now?
Q. Your defensive back set out there.
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah.
Q. How is that developing, and are you still evaluating personnel in that group and how that works?
PAT NARDUZZI: Not really. I mean, I think we've got who our guys are. We know who they are as long as they're healthy and ready to go, we know who those guys are. There's backups that will be in there at times. Derrick Coleman came in and did a heck of a job for a few plays that he was in. You'd like to see that every day in practice from everybody.
But practice is when we get an opportunity to do it in. I like where it is. Again, it's just details. We put some decent pressure on the quarterback, got a couple hits. But we've got to get some cover sacks too.
Q. Do you expect you'll have to rely on that more because of the next two offenses you're going to see?
PAT NARDUZZI: If you do go to that, usually when we get into the five DBs, what down is it? Usually third down. You start going to some of that on first and second down, you won't have to worry about third down. You'll hit the head on the goal post running the team down their throat.
This team likes to run the football. They're good running the football and they're fast into it. So switching personnel isn't really an option. Sometimes third down they'll give you a chance to change personnels. But when they sub, we're going to try to sub and get our guys out there.
But, you know, the substitution is the key, and being able to stop the run out of a front, that our three down stuff is really for pass. So if you get into that on first or second down, you know, and we've got to stop the run, period. We didn't do that last week.
To win a football game, I know I've said that for three years here, and you guy right side probably going, yeah. But some of these zone teams, we have not stopped it like we need to.
Q. How far could (Inaudible) have run it if you kept that fumble?
PAT NARDUZZI: Longer than you would.
Q. That doesn't say much.
PAT NARDUZZI: He might have taken it to the house.
Q. Preseason you said how much you like the leadership on this team. Has it held up to your expectations so far, especially bracing yourself for the stretch that's coming up?
PAT NARDUZZI: No doubt. The guys we have in this front row here our eagle council, some sharp guys. Dennis Briggs is in my office today. Greatest guys in the world. You love these guys. We've got great leadership. Like I said, I think the leadership starts with just the way we acted on the airplane and the bus. The guys are hurt after losses, and they're happy after wins. Sometimes they're not even happy after wins, you know, because they're so locked into what they want to do, and they want perfection.
Coaches want perfection. You're never going to get it, but, you know, you need to be excited after wins and after losses you should be having some disappointment. If not, there's something wrong with your heart.
Q. You just talked about the Carolina game and having your signals. When you look back, how do you feel like that went?
PAT NARDUZZI: I don't know. Maybe you've got to ask them. I don't know. You try to protect them. Who knows. I saw, I guess, maybe it's FAU has this big, it looks like a big black door, that they're trying to prevent people from seeing it. We may have to have you guys get a side line pass and come down to start to shield some stuff from the other sides.
But you can only protect it so much. If you protect it too much, and maybe that happened a couple times where you're cut off a safety, and he can't see the call, and he doesn't get it. You know, I know someone thought at one point we might have been in punt safe when we were in defense. But I mean, you screen them off, but you can't screen them off of our kids either.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports