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September 26, 2018

Pat Narduzzi

Greensboro, North Carolina

PAT NARDUZZI: Well, we're on the rebound over here in Pittsburgh, and we are getting ready for an incredible football team, as everybody knows, UCF, reigning national champion a year ago, has a really well-coached football team. We play down in Orlando against them at 3:30 on Saturday.

Again, it's an electric football team that's got a lot of speed, a lot of toughness. They play with an attitude. Josh Heupel has got them rolling, and we're in preparations now and getting ready to head down there in a couple days.


Q. How have you been preparing your defense for UCF's up-tempo offense?
PAT NARDUZZI: That's a great question. You know, it's not easy. We've actually been coaching the defense and coaching the offense, trying to get the tempo as fast as possible. But we've tried to get as many tempo periods as we can. I think our guys are in good shape, so that should not be a problem. But we'll see what the temperature looks like down there. Obviously their advantage, their house, their offense, their tempo, and their weather, which will all be a factor.

So we've got to physically be ready, mentally be ready for -- the first thing is to get lined up and finish the play and then get re-lined up again. They've had a tendency to score really quickly with a lot of their drives, and our guys got to be locked in. They're dictating the tempo to us, and we need to answer the bell and really be ready for their tempo.

Q. UCF has won 16 straight games, still continues to be dismissed by some pockets of the media. What does UCF have to do to earn more respect?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know what, they've got my respect, I can tell you that. When you watch the tape and put on tape, I think respect comes with time and doing it over and over and over again, I guess. But I don't make those decisions. All I do is watch the tape, and I watch McKenzie Milton and Adrian Killins tear it up inside. Killins is as explosive a back as you're going to see, and when you watch the middle linebacker, Pat Jasinski, he's a football player that gets everybody revved up on defense.

I just see a very physical football team. Everybody talks about how much speed they have, but I think they play physical, and they've got some nasty to them, too.

Q. Pitt has a very difficult non-conference schedule this year, playing Penn State, obviously, and now Central Florida, Notre Dame in a few weeks, and ESPN ranked this the toughest non-conference schedule in college football, and it's definitely going against the trend. Do you enjoy playing such highly ranked teams and do you think it helps your players, makes them feel like they have something to prove?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I think you embrace whatever you have. I think -- do I want to go play every top 10 team in the country and do it that way? I'd probably say no. But you embrace what you have. That's the schedule that was delivered to us on whatever day last May, and that's who's on our schedule.

Our kids like to compete, compete against the best. We competed for 30 minutes against Penn State, and I don't think we had much competition in the second half for whatever reason, and we've got to go down and compete this weekend in Central Florida. Again, a very, very strong football team to say the least, and they're explosive at every position. We'll have our work cut out.

But to me that's what you play for. That's what I coach for. We can go play Bloomsburg and Edinboro, but I don't think I'd have a whole lot of fun doing that.

Q. As you look at Milton on film, what kind of concerns does he pose for your defense this week?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, all kinds of concerns. First thing, he's got great vision. Everybody talks about what kind of athlete he is. He can run with the football, so he's going to run zone read keepers, they'll run him with the ball, run quarterback draws. He's got a quick release. He knows where he's going with the ball, so he's a quick decision maker, and if it's not open, he has the ability to kind of scramble a little bit and zip it in at the last second. You're like, golly, that was covered and all of a sudden he got -- he put it in there. So he can put the ball in a small window.

Everything impresses me. That's why he's a Heisman Trophy candidate. That's why their offense ticks. He's the guy making it tick.

Q. What's your assessment of your past defense as you get ready for this challenge?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know what, we'll find out. That's why we practice and look at the match-ups, and we'll find out where we match up. But I feel like we're going to have the right guys on the field, and we're going to give them everything we've got. Everything you've got hasn't been enough for a lot of people, so we're going to find out what the Pitt Panthers have on Saturday.

Q. Kind of going off of that with McKenzie Milton, and you said obviously a connection with Heisman. Just what you've seen from him to go a little bit deeper into his game. I know you're describing a few things there, but how he's playing this season and if you've seen going back and watching film from prior time, if you've seen any growth or anything that he's doing a lot better now than maybe he was doing before.
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, it's hard to -- when you're really good, it's hard to say you're really, really, really, really good. He's already really good. I mean, you see him do a lot of the same things he did a year ago, making plays with his feet and making plays with his arm. What else can he do? He's Superman out there right now with jersey No. 10 on the front instead of an S is what I'd say. He does it all. Like I said, when you are already playing at a high level and you win 13 games as the starter, I don't see him doing anything less, put it that way.

Q. You've won two, you've lost two; from these first four games what you're seeing from your team on film overall, some of those key pieces or key elements that need to be fixed and need to be adjusted going into the next game?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, obviously whether you win or whether you lose, whether you're 4-0 or 2-2, there's things you take from every game, and that's probably the biggest thing is, hey, what have you learned from the game, what have you learned out of your team, what have you learned out of your particular positions and unit groups. But we just need to be more consistent. I mean, at times we're playing really good football, and then at times there will be a mental or physical breakdown that will cost you. Those are the little details where I don't care if it's on offense and 10 guys are doing a great job and one is not, it only takes one guy to break a play down, and that's kind of what you see in the first four games.

Now, that happens all the time. I mean, that's not something -- Central Florida makes mistakes, too. Even in their 13-win season they made mistakes and critical errors. Do you have a guy that can make up for it or does it hit you just at the wrong time, wrong place. So those are things that we're working on.

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