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December 3, 2021

Pat Narduzzi

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Bank of America Stadium

Pitt Panthers

Press Conference

PAT NARDUZZI: It's obviously great to be down in Charlotte for this championship game. It's an honor for our team to come down here and represent the Coastal Division.

Again, couldn't be more excited. We had a great week of practice. We've got a great Wake Forest team, and Coach Clawson does a great job of coaching them, tremendous football coach, tremendous person. I have a ton of respect for him. Can't wait to tee it up at 8:14.


Q. Kenny Pickett has been named the ACC Player of the Year. What can you tell us about his development as a player throughout the season, and were you expecting to come out with this award leading up to the season?

PAT NARDUZZI: You're not thinking about awards. Did I think we'd be sitting in Charlotte having Kenny Pickett No. 8 as QB one running our offense? Yeah, but you're not sitting here thinking is he going to be a Heisman candidate, is he going to be the Player of the Year. I kind of forgot they even had a Player of the Year until you get your ballot and you vote and you can't vote for your own guys, of course. You kind of go down through the list of what you have to vote for.

So that's nothing we look at. But Kenny's development through the season, I think it's well-mentioned here through the year, he started off the same way he's been finishing, at least the regular season. We need him to have one of his best games tomorrow versus an explosive Wake Forest offense.

Could be a barn burner, and we've got to score just one more point than they do. But Kenny is a tremendous football player. I think his pocket presence, his ability to throw the ball down the field compared to some of the other guys out there in the country speaks for itself.

Q. You guys have been there before a couple years ago with the rain and all that stuff down there. What did you learn from that game that helped you prepare for this week's game?

PAT NARDUZZI: I went back and looked at some of my notes and what we did, and I won't share any secrets, but to me you can talk to your kids about it, but they have their own feelings about it, okay.

I think back when we clinched it, we actually beat Wake Forest at Wake Forest to clinch it and didn't finish up the season the way we wanted to, but when we did clinch, I think our kids were excited to be there.

It's just been -- I told them, hey, listen, we don't want to be that team that's just excited to be in Charlotte, we want to be excited after the game. I've experienced that. We went -- Michigan State when I was a defensive coordinator and we played Wisconsin with Russell Wilson, some of the locals have heard this, and when we got beat by them the last second of the game, actually roughed the punter and Keyshawn Martin took it all the way back. We were going to win the game but we lost it. But the next time we went back we beat Urban Meyer and the No. 1 team in the country.

So just kind of going I think is a big advantage and knowing what you're in for. Someone can talk to you about it, but until you've done that, been there, I think that's an advantage.

Q. Talk about our good friend from Frederick, Maryland, Jordan Addison, your good wide receiver. Talk about his development because it seems like when I talked to him in the summertime he was very shy. He seems like he's more outgoing now.

PAT NARDUZZI: He's still shy. He's still shy. But he's developed. His mother talks about it all the time how -- she talks a lot to him.

But he doesn't care about that. He wants to win. He wants to play receiver, and maybe another thing, you talk about Biletnikoff that hasn't got out there enough is the guy blocks. He's not one of these prima donna wide outs out there that doesn't block anybody. There was a play I think it was last week or two weeks ago where he took and knocked two guys down on a block. It was like, wow. This guy is not thinking he's too good.

He's a complete player. He's developed in his two years at Pitt.

Q. I noticed you obviously took note of the students waiting outside the William Pitt union for student tickets to head down to Charlotte, and you brought the pizza. What can you say to that sort of atmosphere around the student body surrounding this game?

PAT NARDUZZI: I think there's a lot of excitement in Pittsburgh generally, not only on campus but everywhere. I got a lot of text messages from people.

Can't say enough about -- I saw them out there, heard about it, actually I think one of our assistants said, Look, there's people outside. I was like, Hey, let's go. I wanted to be there and let them know how important they are.

Q. You just described the excitement around Pittsburgh; how do you describe the excitement, the emotion among you guys in your locker room right now. We have talked to some of the guys throughout the week and they're saying they're a little bit even keeled, but how would you describe the emotions right now for you guys?

PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I hope they're even keel because that's kind of how I am. I feel like it's just any other Friday. We got here a little bit early. That's about the only difference in the trip here.

I hope they're even keel. The excitement is hopefully after the game. But going leading into the game, it's just about focusing on your job, doing your job one play at a time, and winning your one-on-ones on offense, defense and special teams.

Q. Sort of along those lines a little bit, I know you guys just played a primetime game last week, but what will you do with the team tomorrow? You've got a long time until 8:00. That's a lot of hours to sit around and stare at the walls. What will you do with the players and what do you have planned?

PAT NARDUZZI: We're going to stare at the walls, stare at the players for a while.

We've got a plan which we do any night game. We'll go to a movie this evening just to get them relaxed. That's our deal. Then tomorrow morning they've got a 9:30 wake-up. We'll have special teams call out. We'll have a 30-minute special teams meeting, a 45-minute offense/defense meeting, and then they'll have lunch. We'll also have what we activation and mobility, so we'll get them moving with our strength coaches, which is outstanding, just to kind of get them active, and then we're going to try to go get them a power nap on a long nap.

We've got it down where they're taking either a 20-minute or less nap or a 90-minute or more, so they've got a big three-hour, three-and-a-half-hour window just to kind of go back to their rooms and relax, so they'll probably be on their phones hopefully getting their nap in, which I think they do, but again, it goes all the way down to measuring what kind of nap and how long is it.

Q. A.T. Perry has been one of the most dominant receivers in the FBS this season. What would you say are the main challenges he poses, and is it possible to take a player like him off the game?

PAT NARDUZZI: I'm sorry, can you mention that again? You kind of broke up a little bit. You're talking about Jordan Addison?

Q. I was talking about A.T. Perry. He has been one of the most dominant receivers in the FBS this season.

PAT NARDUZZI: Well, A.T. is a great football player. He's 6'5", he's long arms, does a good job at getting some push-off on you. In the route we've got to do a good job of making sure he doesn't push off on us. When he pushes off we'll probably get called for holding but hopefully not because as soon as that happens the first instinct is to grab on because he's a big, long-levered guy. So we've got to be careful.

But we've got to be physical at the line of scrimmage, which is our plan, like normal. He's a tremendous football player. He's definitely a guy you've got to stop.

Q. I was wondering, you mentioned you want the team to be even keeled. How important has it been, you have some older players, the super seniors, obviously Kenny, Phil Campbell, guys like that that have been in the ACC Championship before. How important has it been to have their leadership with the younger guys like Jordan and Isy and those guys?

PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, it's certainly important. Having guys that have been there already, they can tell you their stories and tell you what happened, and I think that's really important. Had it been -- we went 2018, then we don't go again until 2025, it's a wash. I'd have to bring somebody back from that era or maybe bring the entire team back and tell them what happened and what not to do so they'd listen. Sometimes they don't listen to us old people.

Q. You guys have known you were playing in this game for almost two weeks now; describe the eagerness amongst your guys in the locker room to finally get this thing kicked off. Maybe they would actually be okay with even playing tonight?

PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I think they probably would be anxious to play tonight. I think the thing that helped us is we didn't know who it was going to be until we were about teeing it up against Syracuse last week up in New York. I think that helped because there was no opponent. It was like, we're in it but ain't playing anybody yet.

I think that's helped, but our guys are certainly eager to play game No. 13 and try to get No. 11, be 1-0 this week.

Q. You mentioned that if you had gone between 2018 and 2025 you'd bring the whole team back to talk. What do you have planned for tomorrow night? Do you have anybody special coming in to talk to the team before the game?

PAT NARDUZZI: Tomorrow night? No. Tonight we do. I'm not going to release it right now, I guess. I don't want to release it yet. But usually it's a pregame meal, we'll introduce him tonight, and then release a little video as you know tonight, and he'll talk to the team tomorrow pregame meal.

Q. Do you plan your pregame speeches, or are you just off-the-cuff whatever comes to your mind?

PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I think there's a plan for everything. What am I saying here, what am I saying there. Just like I tell our captains, don't go into a team meeting because they meet with them tonight before we go to bed and before snack, the captains got them. I think you've got to always have a plan. You can't be a teacher and get to class and kind of look at them like okay, time to take chapter 19 and read. I think you always have to have a plan of what's important tonight, what's important tomorrow, what's important right before the game.

Q. You kind of also talked about the fans and just the support that the Pitt community has shown. Do you have anything special planned for the fans that are coming down to Charlotte in droves?

PAT NARDUZZI: I don't, but I guess what we have planned is to play the best football game of the year. That's to me the best give we could give them and share that moment with them after the game in that stadium.

Q. You mentioned the captains talk to the players. Is that mostly Kenny kind of getting guys fired up? Who sort of leads that on a weekly basis?

PAT NARDUZZI: You know what, I don't tell them, that's on them, but I think they each say something, or I think they have a plan. I don't dig into their plan; that's none of my business. But I think they have a plan. I've never asked, hey, who's in there talking, who's doing the most. I have an idea of who talks the most, but that's their deal, and the coaches walk out, so we don't sit in there and listen to it. It's on them, but I think it's important to let those guys have that opportunity to talk to the team and tell them what's on their mind.

Q. I also wanted to ask you, not as a follow-up to that directly but I was curious your thoughts because this time of year there's always conversations about conference versus conference, which conferences are better than others. I was curious your opinion, what do you think is the best way to measure conferences, bowl records, non-conference records, rankings? How do you compare conferences, and I guess how would you make a case for the ACC?

PAT NARDUZZI: That's a great question. I'm not going to bash any other Power Five conferences because they're all good.

But it starts off with quarterbacks. I think it starts off, who are the top quarterbacks in the country, where are they playing, in what conference, and how many do you have.

I've said it since I first got here, the quarterbacks in the ACC compared to what we saw in the Big Ten and football has not changed that much, it's just a different deal. And again, I can compare Big Ten and ACC compared to some others, compared to the SEC or the Big 12 or whatever it may be. I've got more knowledge there, but I think it comes down to who do they play and who are they beating and how are they beating them, too.

It's a hard thing to figure out, that's for sure.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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