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November 30, 2018
Charlotte, North Carolina
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Obviously the University of Pittsburgh team is excited to be here in Charlotte to represent the Coastal Division in the ACC championship game.
I'm honored as a head football coach to be able to take this football team to this point. To arrive here in Charlotte is an exciting time I think for our football team. They just arrived, eating lunch.
I want to congratulate Clemson and Dabo Swinney, incredible football team that we get to take on tomorrow evening. We got a great opportunity. It's been four years of a journey for this football team. Never playing in a championship game before, it's really the first ever, especially in the ACC.
I think it's such a tremendous city of Charlotte that we get the opportunity to play in. An unbelievable conference, I think the best conference in the country.
We're excited. We're ready to go. I guess we'll leave it open for questions.
Q. Not only for the football program, what does this mean for the university, the fan base, the city, you guys being here?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think it means everything to the city of Pittsburgh. You think about some of the tragic events probably about a month ago. I think everybody is looking for some good news stories to go out with some bad news stories. You talk about being Pittsburgh strong, I think it means a lot.
Unfortunately I'm stuck in the cocoon of the Duratz Center, you don't really feel the outside world much. We have breakfast there, lunch there, dinner there. You go home, everybody is sleeping.
I don't know how the outside city is feeling. The University of Pittsburgh is buzzing. There will be two million plus viewers watching this game. It means a lot to the former Panthers that played here, to all the Pittsburgh alum throughout the United States.
Q. Talk about Pickett, what does he have to do tomorrow night in, like, monsoon weather conditions?
PAT NARDUZZI: Is that right? You a weatherman, too (laughter)?
I don't know the weather. I know both teams have to go through it. Kenny Pickett or Trevor Lawrence, they both have to go through the same conditions. I think we're prepared for that. We've played through a some monsoons. We've been there, done that.
Kenny Pickett has to play his game, just like the other 10 guys on offense, the 11 guys on defense, any guy that's honored enough to step on the field special teams-wise. They have to play their football game. They have to be detailed and focused, all the other things you ask, whether it's sunny and 82, or 57 and 90% chance of hail.
Q. How did you like practice this week? What was the mindset of the guys as they headed to Charlotte?
PAT NARDUZZI: Practice was as normal. You sit there and think that you're going to get maybe something different. It's championship week. But that's been our football team. Really any football team I've been around.
I think if you have a football team that practices like this, hey, it's a big game this week, we're going to be here. I didn't notice anything different, to be honest with you. Sometimes you wish you did see maybe something a little bit different.
Based on everything I've seen, it's status quo, the way our kids prepare mentally and physically. I know there's been a lot of attention to the details, watching videotape. Maybe there's been a little bit more of that. Even with that, they have their iPads. They go away to their room, lay in bed at night and watch videotapes. A different world than back when you and me were playing.
Q. Can you use anything from the 2016 game for this game?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think you can. 2016 is really irrelevant, what happened that year, who played in this game, what happened to us, what happened to them. You can look at what we did out on the field that day schematically. I think Clemson offensively and defensively have the same coaches, so it's stuff that they like to do. You take a lot what they did that year, had success doing it on both sides of the ball. You say we're going to see similar stuff. You see similar stuff this year. Itself going to come to the one-on-one matchups and how we execute.
Q. We talked this week sort of about the players, the biggest game in their careers. You've coached these in the Big Ten. As a head coach, first time championship game, any kind of nerves for you coming into this one?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think there's nerves to kids, coaches, nerves for the players. I'm nervous before every game. I don't usually talk to the media on Friday. Usually Thursday afternoon I'm done, I can kind go like this, be done with it. I'm kind of a grumpy guy on Friday. It's 24 hours out, a little bit more.
There's always nerves. If you don't have nerves, you probably aren't ready.
Q. When you look at your schedule, your team's results defensively, you look at the teams you played this year, can you find someone comparably that is like a Clemson as far as scheme and attack?
PAT NARDUZZI: You tell me, you're the Clemson guy (laughter).
I say no. We faced some pretty good football teams now. It's not like we've played the Sisters of the Poor. When you look at Notre Dame, they're right now potentially a playoff team, I think. We played them probably as good as anybody did in the country. I haven't followed their results. I don't know if anybody played them that good. I know Syracuse didn't. I was hoping they would play them a little bit better, I thought they would.
You look at Central Florida. I don't know if anybody would want to play them in the country. I've said that. I think I'd rather play Notre Dame than Central Florida. Also send out best wishes to McKenzie and his injury. It's unfortunate in this game of football, especially for a great kid like that. I said something to him after the game, saying, Tell your coach not to run you so much. So you feel bad when things like that happen.
He's an athletic guy. Sometimes that happens with those scrambling quarterbacks. They're a good football team, as well. Penn State is a good football team as well.
We've been through a journey at Pittsburgh, maybe a little bit different than Clemson. We've had some bumps in the road. Our guys won five of the last seven games to get to this game today. We've earned it, to come here. We've played some pretty good football teams through the season. I guarantee you that.
Q. What did you take from looking at Clemson's game film against South Carolina last week, especially what South Carolina did with some of their formations on offense that led to their big offensive night?
PAT NARDUZZI: They did some nice things. Will Muschamp, obviously a great football coach, got a great staff. Did some things offensively to mix them up. I think that's what you got to do with Clemson. You got to give them some different looks. If you just line up and try to line up toe-to-toe with them, maybe doesn't work out so well. Obviously you still have to do that. Can't be trick 'em all day.
They did a great job, took advantage of some things. See what we can do.
Q. You have 19 seniors. How important is it to have that kind of maturity, that kind of experience so these guys don't get overwhelmed by the big stage?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think it's real important. We have some mature guys on both sides of the football. When you look at Dennis Briggs and Quintin Wirginis. And Qadree Ollison will be one of our game time captains with Alex Bookser offense.
We have guys, we have leadership. Leadership will have to take over because coaches won't be on the field with these guys. After the first play of the game, no more nerves, game time, like playing Pop Warner football all over again.
Q. I was recalling I think three years ago I was in this room when the news came out about James being diagnosed with cancer. Have you heard from him this week with a message for your team? What is his lasting legacy with your team?
PAT NARDUZZI: James is an important guy to this program. James texted me good luck, all that stuff. James is University of Pittsburgh. He's one of our guys. He's obviously really important to what we've done. We play for James still. He plays in our backyard. Obviously he's having a great season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
James is with us. He helped build what we're doing today. This just didn't happen in a year. This has been a four-year process. Every senior that has gone through this program in the last four years knows this is a goal that we have had, something we walk down our steps, down to our training room, locker room, weight room, walk back up to our team meeting rooms. In the coach's office there is a picture of the Charlotte stadium, Panther Stadium, which is where we wanted to be.
Our kids are thinking about that every day when they walk up and down those steps, that's the stadium we want to be in, and now we're here. James is a big part of that.
Q. When did you know you have a special team this year? Between that rain delay home against Syracuse, or when you went to Notre Dame?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think we had a special team, like, four years ago. That's kind of who I am. I think we've had a special team every year. The people are what make a team special. I've got a love for every kid that I've coached for the last four years.
This is a special team because it's right now, it's right here, right now in Charlotte. These kids have put the work in to get here. Not every kid can get that done. These kids have been persistent. They've been on a mission, since that Syracuse game, whatever it may be. They've been on a mission to get what they wanted.
We broke down on ACC chances for a long time. Now we got a chance to be there and do that against a great football team in Clemson, so...
Q. I was at your luncheon right before the season started. I remember your remarks. Your last remark you said before you left the stage was, I'll see you in Charlotte. There were a few chuckles in the room.
PAT NARDUZZI: I wish I remembered saying that. I'm going to have to get video of that (laughter).
I guess things happen for a reason. Some people said last year, 2017 season, that Miami game at halftime, just making some statements. My wife said, You say a lot of things sometimes.
We're here. I guess there were some chuckles. I didn't hear them. I didn't feel it. We are here, so... I'm glad I didn't make any predictions either.
Q. Clemson is here fourth consecutive year, going for their fourth consecutive title. What do you make of their success in the league? Do you feel there's a gap between them and the rest of the league right now?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think there is a gap. They're the benchmark of ACC football. I think there's a lot of great teams in the ACC. Dabo has done an incredible job. I have a lot of respect for him, what he's done, how he's done it. He's done it the right way. I think he's a standup guy.
I think if you look at most conferences, it's the same way. There's always one or two teams that are really controlling the conference. Look at Alabama, look at Clemson, really Ohio State, Michigan State the last couple years. You would think they've been there.
But there's always that case. That's kind of what you work for. That's where we want to be. The only way you do that is go out and beat them, things start to build that way. They're a great football team. Got a lot of respect about how they've done it.
Q. Against a team like this, how important is getting off to a good start and staying with them early, everything on the line?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I think it will be a big Clemson crowd. I guarantee that, just being a drive up the road. But it's going to be important, a fast start. Again, we can have a slow start and still get it done. I never sit there and say, Guys, we need to get a fast start or watch out.
We've done that all year. We're down at Wake Forest a couple weeks ago, came back and won that game. Done it, doesn't matter. There's going to be adversity in that game, ups and downs. We don't care how it starts, how it finishes, we're going to keep fighting for 60 minutes.
Q. You mentioned that Clemson is sort of the benchmark for ACC football now. What is it about this particular group that differentiates them from some of the years past?
PAT NARDUZZI: I don't look at all the years past. I remember two years ago. They're just a talented football team. I think everybody has to coach. Dabo does a tremendous job, period. He's got a great staff, continuity on his staff, great leadership I'm sure with their president on down. He's got everything he needs to be a champion.
They've got great players. They're down south. They recruit some of the best. They're able to get all those four- and five-star football players. He can coach them, too. There's some places that get a lot of four- and five-star guys that can't coach them.
He has a great personality about him. He's a businessman. Like I said, I couldn't say better things about Dabo Swinney.
Q. How has your offensive line practiced this week? You and Kenny both said there were some issues with the shuffling of the line against Miami.
PAT NARDUZZI: Definitely. Any time you lose one of your starting offensive linemen, started I don't know how many games straight, but two years straight, in Jimmy Morrissey. When you lose your guy up front, starting center, there's going to be some growing pains there. You move a guard over to center, a new guard in there, there's communication.
Those guys are a group that have to work together. I think in anything you do, sometimes I don't have to tell our offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator what to do. We kind of speak the same language. Any time there's a new guy coming in, it's, Well, make sure we do this.
There's some things that didn't have to be communicated up front before because they all knew. It was kind of a known deal. Now you got a new guy in there that has to be re-communicated, re-taught over and over again.
It was an issue last week. We hope a week removed, a week of coaching, that we can hopefully clean up some of those problems we had a week ago.
Q. Simply being in this game playing on December 1st, facing Clemson in a prime time game, what kind of effect can that have on recruiting?
PAT NARDUZZI: We lost a week of recruiting, so you hope playing in this game does something for you in recruiting. Every young man in high school would like to have an opportunity to play for a championship. One of the reasons I took the job at the University of Pittsburgh, I thought with the chancellor Pat Gallagher, I'm appreciative for the opportunity he's given me to be the head football coach here when he hired me, and Heather Lyke, I thank her, as well.
You want a place you can win a championship. With the support from them, the tools we have in Pittsburgh, western Pennsylvania football, you have an opportunity to do that here.
I wouldn't have taken the job if I didn't think we could be in Charlotte playing in this game at one point. It's been a program goal. As I said, it's one of our four goals we wanted to attain as a head football coach. We're able to play for a championship tomorrow. I think it's an amazing thing. I think it helps in recruiting for sure.
Q. Being in a different division, I would think you probably haven't seen Clemson on film all that much this year. When you have seen them, what are some of the things that jump out to you when you see a guy like Lawrence at quarterback, defensive linemen?
PAT NARDUZZI: Usually when you watch them in a crossover game, you're not focused on them, you're focused on the other team, what they're doing to Clemson.
When you have a close-up look at them, I'm sure we'll get a closer look, I talked to a few coaches throughout the country that played them personally, I talked about Trevor's release. It just, like, comes out. They said it's even faster when you see him live.
You're impressed really at all levels of what they have done in every position. Their D-line is a bunch of first rounders that cause havoc in the backfield, caused havoc against everybody. We have to control them, block them up front to have success Saturday.
Q. Is it hard not to treat this experience differently, this game?
PAT NARDUZZI: I'm going to keep it the same. I don't know if the kids are. I don't know if I can answer that. But it is the same.
Our kids are pumped up because it's a championship game. They know this is what you play for, to have these opportunities to play in a big game like this. It is a little bit different against our opener against Albany, I can tell you that. It's still a game, 60 minutes long, a 100-yard field. We have to move down the field and get in the end zone, stop them from getting in our end zone. It's still a football game still. It's still 60 minutes long.
But every game is a little bit different as far as who you're playing, where you're playing them. It's a championship game, so obviously a little bit different.
Q. Obviously big underdogs. What would you say to all the people out there that are not giving you any chance to win?
PAT NARDUZZI: No comment. I don't know.
Hey, the game is played. I think anybody can beat anybody on any given day, period. We all know that. We can take all the measurables. We can talk about guys that are this tall and this tall, but the one thing I don't think you can really measure is what's inside that heart. Our kids are going to play with a lot of heart, with a lot of effort. Pittsburgh, we have a lot of toughness there, that's what we expect to get out of our football team.
I make no guarantees (smiling). Got that?
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
PAT NARDUZZI: Appreciate it, thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports