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November 14, 2018

Pat Narduzzi

Greensboro, North Carolina

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi.


COACH NARDUZZI: We've got a big game down in North Carolina with Wake Forest, I think, is an excellent football team. I'll say this about every opponent we've played this year, when you talk about the ACC Coastal, anybody can win that division, I think, every year.

And with that being said, there's not a game in there that you go, oh, this is going to be an easy one. We tell our kids every day, and really every week, that it's going to be a battle. Wake Forest, we know, will play an emotional game. It will be senior day. That will add to the emotion.

Coming off a huge victory where they really got after North Carolina State. And I think they'll be playing with a lot of confidence, a lot of emotion. We have to be able to match that emotion on Saturday at noon and bring our A game. Because anything less, you'll walk out of there with a loss.

Q. What can you say about the road to get to where you are right now? There's an opportunity at the ACC Coastal title and an opportunity to play in the ACC Championship Game. I spoke with you when you came into Pittsburgh all the way to where you stand now, what can you say about staying the course and seeing some of the dividends come to you?
COACH NARDUZZI: Nothing's really come to us. We've pretty much taken everything that's come our way. There's been the ups and downs the entire season. The thing that I obviously give credit to is, number one, our football coaches just hanging in there, being positive, and to our football team for the perseverance through some ups and downs in the season and still believing and having faith in what we're doing as a staff and what we're doing as a program.

The challenge we've got this week -- Dave Clawson is an excellent football coach. I've known Dave for a long time back from his Columbia days, his BC days prior to that and through his entire coaching career. He does an unbelievable job building programs. He's put Wake Forest, in my opinion, on the map. They're very well-coached in all phases. They do some great stuff. It's going to be a major challenge.

Offensively we're going to face the fastest team in the country, in my opinion. You watch them line up and they're snapping the ball in between -- really seven seconds. I don't think I've seen anybody snap a ball in seven seconds. We've seen 8 to 12. But they are snapping at a high rate as fast as anybody in the country. And that presents a challenge in itself.

And besides the tempo, offensively that they show, they execute. They scheme you very well. They're going to spread you out and put you in space and have you make plays in space. And that's going to be difficult.

I don't think we played great against spread teams offensively or, excuse me, defensively.

And on the other side of the ball you look at they played their best game defensively, as we know a 13th-ranked North Carolina State team, they're feeling good. Their coach has done a darned good job. And, again, it starts with stopping the run, and that's what they did last weekend.

Q. As far as just what you can say about the guys you brought in, obviously when you're recruiting, you're trying to make a good decision. You're looking at the film, you're looking at the character, but you're somewhat rolling the dice a little bit not knowing how everything is going to translate. Just what you can say about how this team has kind of come together and how those recruits that you went after have really turned into leaders on this team that, like you said, can handle what's thrown at them and can handle adversity.
COACH NARDUZZI: You know, when I first got here, we had some good players. I mean, unfortunately I came here a year late with Aaron Donald. He was pretty good. As you can see, he's still an incredible football player at the next level. So they've always had really, I think, great talent here. If you walk down the hallways in this building, the tradition of football players here is incredible. Second to none.

And when you look at that, you know, what we've lacked is maybe that belief that we can win every football game every week and having the faith that every week we have a chance to win a football game.

And that's the biggest difference. It's not anything with the players. It's really their mindset, their attitude that we've instilled in these football players. I think our first year here we're one game away from winning the Coastal Division and came up short.

So we've had opportunities really every year to make a run. And really we haven't done anything yet. We really haven't. We're a 6-1 football team. We just got bowl eligible. We're just trying to take the next step and go down and play a really gritty Wake Forest football team.

Q. I was asking Dave about what he thought was the biggest difference between the way you guys are playing now and earlier in the season. And he said you guys have an offensive identity now, or an identity as a team. When did you start to feel like that really started to take hold?
COACH NARDUZZI: Four years ago. I think we've had an identity since we got here about what type of football team we are. I think it starts with an attitude, and then you talked about toughness. And I think I've said this probably since I've been here a thousand times, just about the toughness part of it.

And, again, offensively and defensively we have an attack mode, and we're going to run the football and stop the run. And that's kind of been what we've been since I got here. Sometimes you make a play here and a play there that puts you in a position where people think highly of you or that all of a sudden you became a team with an identity. But it really comes down to the details, the attention to details.

And as fast as we got it or as slow we got it we can lose it that quick, too. I try to make sure our kids never forget where they came from, how they got where they are. And we made a lot of mistakes early in the year. So the identity has been really not our ability to make plays, but, really, our inability to not shoot ourselves in the foot and hurt ourselves. And we did that early in the season in several ways, whether it's dropping a punt in a sloppy game.

There's times we just didn't help ourselves but our kids kept the faith. So we've had that identity. But our kids are believing it and they pay attention to the details.

We talk about focus and details and discipline, and last few weeks we've had that. And for some reason we didn't have it earlier. I think once our kids started saying, gosh, if we focus a little bit more, we pay attention to details, we don't hurt ourselves and have undisciplined penalties that just will set you back and give you no chance, that good things could happen. I think that's where the identity has come, is we've been more disciplined.

If you counted up the penalties that we've had in the last four weeks compared to what we had in the first four weeks, it's incredible. And those things turn you backwards and upside down. And that's what we haven't done to ourselves.

Q. What have you noticed in these last three weeks to explain how your running game has maybe taken it to another level, seems like?
COACH NARDUZZI: I think it's different every week depending on who you're playing and what you do and how you do it. We talk about our run game, really defense, we stopped the run last week, different type offense, different schemes that you're seeing every week. But I think you're talking particularly about really what we are doing offensively.

Our kids are just confident right now. And again confident in what we're doing and how we're doing it. And they believe in what we're doing. I think when you have that belief, I've said it a few times here in this short conference here, is a lot of great things can happen. And we've got to continue to execute.

I tell our kids every week, nobody cares what you did and rushed for last week or what you did against the run; it's what you're going to do this weekend. And I think that's the critical thing is not getting caught up.

Everybody's talking about what we did -- 500 or 492 or whatever. We've rushed for zero yards against Wake Forest ever. We've never played this football team. They are really good. They spread you out. They're detailed. They've got a plan. And they plan on executing the plan. We better be ready.

Q. You just talked about you guys' rushing performance last week. Wake, last week they held NC State to just 47 yards on the ground. What was it that Wake did in that game that kind of bottled NC State's rushing game up? And how do you guys kind of attack that and stay successful with your running attack?
COACH NARDUZZI: I'm not going to sit here and talk about how we're going to attack it, but I will talk about their defense. I think their defense played with a lot of emotion. You look at that game and they start off the game with the defense being on the field, and they go three and out against a really good, 13th-ranked North Carolina State football program.

Obviously their coach is doing a great job at lining them up, reading their keys and executing what you have to do. I'm sure Coach Clawson can tell you it comes down to execution and making plays. But the coaches are putting them in position to stop them. They put a lot of guys in the box. And they'll put a lot of guys in the box against us as well. And it will come down to who executes better.

The thing about the run game and offense versus defense is they've got 11 guys -- not like we're playing with 14 guys; we've got 11 and they've got 11 -- and it's how you get your guys lined up, how simple you keep it to do what you're doing, and then execute. But they're going to load the box up and we know it. And we like to run the ball and it really doesn't matter. We're going to try to continue to pound it and make adjustments as the game goes on and try to get our backs loose and get our linemen and fullbacks and tight ends and receivers for that matter, get a hat on a hat, and make some plays.

Q. Jamie Newman is Wake's new quarterback. Played last week, led them to a week against NC State. Does he give Wake a little bit of a different look on offense? And what does your defense have to be prepared for with them?
COACH NARDUZZI: No, I don't think Jamie gives them a different look. I think they have an identity offense. They're going to spread you out. They're going to do a great job at scheming you up. They're going to tempo you so you don't have time. You've got to keep it pretty basic or you're going to be in big trouble. They make you line up in four down and play base quarters defense. And you're going to be stuck in that, period.

And then once they get you fast tempo get your defense lined up quickly and do what they do, they're going to execute. And they've got great receivers. I think the trio -- Greg Dortch is a great football player with, I think, as many yards receiving and catching, but he's got 75 catches, almost a thousand yards. Almost a guarantee he'll go over a thousand on Saturday.

And he's a tremendous football player that they're going to give him the ball in different ways. And they're going to put you in, what we call a run-pass conflict, an RPO. They're going to put you in a run-pass conflict. You stick those guys in a box and they'll be running slants and glances, and the quarterback is going to ride that football all the way into the line of scrimmage, and all of a sudden you're going to think it's a run. And all of a sudden the quarterback is going to pop up and throw it to Dortch or Bachman, who I think is a fast, fast receiver.

And really Scotty Washington on the other edge. Those two guys made some big plays last week down the field as well as Sage. Those are guys that we've got to cover and they've got weapons at the wide receiver spot. And they're going to get their guys the ball.

And I think their offense revolves around Greg, first of all, and it's all going to be off of a fake run and put you in a run-pass conflict. Our safeties and corners have to man up. We're going to be basically man across the board the whole day, and we've got to see if we can make some plays. But they're going to make plays and get their yards and we've got to limit them and try to get off the field.

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