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Pat Narduzzi's Sept. 19 press conference

Written by Craig Meyer on .

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi met with the assembled media Monday for his weekly press conference, in which he largely reviewed his team's (and defense's) performance against Oklahoma State in a 45-38 loss and previewed the Panthers' upcoming game against North Carolina Saturday.

Opening Statement:

“Usually we try to put the last game to rest on Sunday, but I don’t want to ignore it. As a whole, when you go back and look at the game, it wasn’t a lack of effort. Our kids played hard throughout. I love the guys who sit in these seats in here; they’ve got a lot of toughness. I love those guys for the efforts they give and for never quitting. We didn’t make enough plays offensively and defensively. We had to go out there and sit in a small locker room for almost two hours during the lightning delay. Defensively we played a great second half except for one play, and that cost us. Offensively I thought we played a great first half and not a great second half. There are so many things that we will work to correct and get better at. Give Oklahoma State credit for what they did and how they do it. They have a top-20 football team and program. I believe they will finish there based on the way Mason Rudolph can throw. I told you last week that he is an NFL guy. After seeing him live, I don’t think there’s any question of that. They have some talented wide-outs as well. There are things that we can do better on defense—fundamentally and structurally—and that’s why we coach. That game is over, and we move on to North Carolina. We get to travel down there for a 3:30 game against a great football team that was the Coastal champion a year ago. They don’t lose much. They have four or five starting offensive linemen back from last year. Elijah Hood is a great tailback, and he switches out there to receiver occasionally. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky is a guy we saw as a senior out of high school; he was a great player. I have a lot of respect for him. He played really well last year and now has three games under his belt. He’s very efficient in running the offense. Defensively Gene Chizik always does a great job. They are athletic. [M.J.] Stewart and [Des] Lawrence are the two corners that are lockdown guys. They are very athletic and very well coached. They have two defensive tackles in [Nazair] Jones and [Jalen] Dalton who are tough, and they have two good linebackers in [Andre] Smith and [Cayson] Collins who are bell cows on that side of the ball. They are very athletic defensively, and they probably blitz a little bit more than a year ago. They can heat it up there. We know Gene Chizik is a great football coach. The offense looks exactly like we saw a year ago. It will be a great challenge to go down there and face the Coastal Division champion from a year ago. That’s our goal and that’s where we want to be. When the first ACC team you play is the one who is the defending champion in that division, it is a great challenge. We look forward to going there.”

On the performance of Pitt’s secondary against Oklahoma State:

“It’s about fundamentals and structure. If we needed to change the coverage up a little bit, we didn’t do it quite enough or early enough. We had some things that we maybe didn’t use that we should have. But that happens in every game. You can always look back. I told our kids it’s 38-38 with two minutes to go in the game and we haven’t played great. We have a chance with two minutes to go to knock them out. If you told me we could have that situation with two minutes to go in the game, I’d take that because they are a good football team and I have a lot of respect for them. For the defensive backs, [they should] play with good technique and fundamentals. Don’t get frazzled. The first play of the game was a communication error, not a physical error. It was a coverage bust and a lack of communication. That’s on the coach. Sometimes it’s the tempo or the atmosphere; there are a lot of contributing factors. Fundamentally you have to play with good technique. That’s what we try to play at every position on the field. You better play good technique when you’re playing against great wide receivers.”

On Nathan Peterman and how they matched up in the passing game offensively against Oklahoma State:

“I’m not going to take anything away from who they (Oklahoma State) are, but we missed some throws and some reads. Especially on some third and medium calls, where we had a chance to stay on the field and keep them off the field. We didn’t put the ball where it needed to be on those plays. We missed a play in the fourth quarter to Jester Weah that we have to make. We’re not going to make every throw either. Quarterbacks can’t be perfect. Nathan [Peterman] managed the game well. The opener [Villanova] wasn’t managed as well. It was a below average day for him. But he’s played above average the last two weeks. If he [Peterman] continues to do that, we will be fine. You can’t blame one guy—it takes 11 to win a football game. The blame is in the whole room as far as our players and coaches. We win together, we lose together.”

On how he will prepare his defensive players for North Carolina’s passing attack:

“We just have to keep coaching them; that’s our job. They have to believe in what we do. They must understand it works when you do it right, and it doesn’t work if you don’t do it right. It’s either your way or our way, which one are you going to do? If you continue to do it your way, then we’re going to have problems. If you flip on the tape and watch when we’re successful, it is when we cover the guys with good technique. When you don’t win the play, they need to see what they did wrong. It needs to become evident. It happens, and it’s why we coach. If it were easy, everybody in here would coach. But it’s not. That’s the challenge of coaching: it’s fun.”

On Avonte Maddox’s mindset after the Oklahoma State game:

“The first thing that you have to do is be able to admit that ‘I didn’t play great. I didn’t play with great technique and that’s the bottom line.’ We’ll bring Avonte [Maddox] back and talk to him. He’s a great kid and he has a lot of talent. He is one of our best corners when he plays fundamentally sound. I don’t worry about Avonte Maddox. I think you will see a different guy this week who will play with a chip on his shoulder.”

On dealing with outside reactions from the fans and media after a tough loss:

“I don’t read the newspaper. I don’t hear what you’re saying and I don’t care what you say. I hope my players don’t read it or listen to it. I’m not going to go on Twitter and read the notifications after a win or loss. My motto is ‘Be humble or be humbled.’ We went out and played a good football team and hung tough and that’s all that matters. Our kids will be resilient.”

On if the North Carolina game is a “must-win” contest:

“I would say it’s a big game because they are the defending Coastal champions. They’re the team to beat. But I’m not going to put all my eggs in one basket. Either division could be won by a one-loss team. We can’t say that either champion is going to be undefeated. Look what happened to Florida State this weekend. Do you think Jimbo Fisher is going to crawl underneath his podium and say it’s over because we lost one game? I don’t think so. One game in conference or out of conference doesn’t define you as a football program or your season.”

On what makes this Pitt team a resilient one:

“I love this football team. These guys will fight to the end. Do we do everything right as coaches? No. Do we do everything right as players all the time? No. There are a bunch of calls on both sides of the ball that you may want back at the end of the game. I might have gone for it on 4th down instead of punting it. There are so many ‘coulda-woulda-shouldas.’ The great thing about this football team is they will fight to the end regardless of what the situation is. If you’re down 14, these guys don’t care because they know it’s a four-quarter game. They believe that any game can be ours, we just need to put 60 minutes together as a whole. The offense and defense played one good half opposite of each other. We need to put those together. That’s a challenge. Nobody can be perfect, but if we played three-and-a-half good quarters, it would be better.”

On electing to primarily run the ball on the second to last offensive drive:

“We were thinking our run has been pretty good and successful. We wanted to continue to run the ball. I think James [Conner] missed a little hole on one of those runs. If he keeps it going outside, maybe we’re in a different spot today. You can look back and look at so many plays that are missed throughout the game. It boils down to execution and fundamentals. That’s no disrespect to James [Conner]; he had a heck of a game. It happens in every aspect.”

On the defensive strategy at Oklahoma State:

“We wanted to bring pressure. You will watch college or pro football and see the corners out there on an island. I don’t care if you are in man coverage or if you’re in thirds or a read cover two. They are on an island out there and eventually they have to make a play on the ball. It doesn’t really matter what the coverage is; it’s hard to give them help all the time. That’s why you’re seeing points scored like they are. Those guys are going to be on an island out there. When you ask a question about pressure opposed to base, it’s pick your poison. They have a good quarterback and good receivers. I don’t remember what play it was but at a point I wrote on my call-sheet ‘quarterback is human.’ He had a human error and I didn’t see many of them in the first half. He wasn’t as on fire in the second half and that’s because of the pressure we applied. Getting a couple of hits on him did a lot for us. I guess he was human, but only for a couple of plays.”

On what he will tell the team about the opportunity at North Carolina:

“It’s another game. It’s a big game, but it’s no bigger than Oklahoma State. We wanted that win badly, too. Our guys were locked in. If we don’t win this game, is our season over? No. And I don’t think Florida State feels that way after last week. They [Florida State] will be in it. They still have to go play Clemson and if they beat Clemson, all of the sudden you have two teams with one loss. I think the same thing will happen in the Coastal. There are no perfect teams.”

On the running back depth chart behind James Conner:

“We got Chawntez Moss and Darrin Hall in the game. It’s just a matter of not wearing out your dog. We want to get all of those guys involved. Qadree [Ollison] was out there quite a bit. Maybe he didn’t get the carries, but that’s all based on the read and what we are doing on that play and what they are doing defensively. It’s about being unselfish and doing what you need to do. We had some decent runs from all the guys back there. We need to keep guys fresh. James [Conner] gets tired. We have to keep him fresh.”

On the depth at wide receiver after the injury to Dontez Ford:

“You always are concerned with depth. We’ll have Dontez [Ford] back sooner rather than later. Tre Tipton played a solid football game out there. He’s got some wheels. He had a couple nice catches, and a great fourth-down catch. For us, it’s the next man up. Aaron Mathews will have an extended role this week as well.”

On if his "sooner rather than later" assessment for Ford comes with a timetable for a return:

“I ain’t going to talk about that. These kids, they all heal differently.”

On his assessment of North Carolina’s defense:

“They’ve got some good players, I can tell you that. I attribute their stats to the high number of spread offenses. If you look at college football in general, points and yards are happening more frequently. I think Gene Chizik is a sound defensive coordinator. He’s a bend-not-break guy, and they are very sound. They’ll be ready for us down there and will be very sound.”

On if defensive statistical goals have changed due to how good offenses are now:

“You adjust every year. When I first got to Cincinnati and eventually Michigan State, our goal defensively was to limit the other team to 13 points per game. Today, that just isn’t going to happen. Turnovers are the key. We were plus two for the whole game until there was 30 seconds left. When you win the turnover ratio, you are usually going to win the game. When you have a blocked punt, you usually win. We stopped the run for the most part. We ran the ball effectively offensively. Defensively we only gave up one long touchdown run, and that’s what we lost by. You could pick out that play and say we didn’t stop the run. Offenses are going to score points. The numbers don’t matter. It’s about getting a win.”

On potentially needing to score 30 points a game to win in today’s game:

“Yeah. Offensively we scored 31 and that wasn’t enough. The goal is to score more points than they score, and that’s all that matters.”

On if there will be any personnel changes on the Pitt defense:

“No. Avonte Maddox is our best corner. Ryan Lewis is playing very well. It’s our job to coach them up. I’ve got complete confidence in those guys.”

On managing Jordan Whitehead’s time offensively and defensively:

“He knows what he’s doing on defense. We try to manage that. Maybe there were some communication errors where we say ‘Is he not over there enough, or is he over there too much?’ When he gets the ball, he’s explosive and is fun to watch. Defensively we had a mental breakdown and communication error. It’s on the secondary as a whole. We have to do a better job. He might be getting less carries unless he knows how to communicate plays over there defensively.”

 

Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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Panthers in the Pros: Week two

Written by Craig Meyer on .

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(Photo: AP)

It's time to trot out a new feature on the blog. Pitt is in a nice and enviable position of having several former players not only in the NFL, but playing prominent roles on their teams and in the league as a whole. So even while Panthers fans may pay attention to the exploits of former Pitt players at the next level, it can't hurt to have a single, handy list showing how each player fared in a given week.

I did a similar thing this last year when I covered West Virginia and people seemed to like it, but as with anything new on this blog, there's an experimental quality to it. Nothing is set in stone. If you like it, sound off in the comments on via email/Twitter and let me know. If you don't find it that helpful, well, do the same thing you would have if you liked it and just let me know you didn't care for it.

We didn't do one last week, for reasons largely unknown to me (mostly forgetfulness on my end), but here's a rundown of how former Pitt standouts fared in Week Two of the NFL season:

 

WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals: Six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown in a 40-7 win against the Bucs. The man is an ageless wonder.

RB LeSean McCoy, Bills: 15 carries for 59 yards and four catches for 31 yards in a 37-31 loss against the Jets on Thursday.

DT Chas Alecxih, Panthers: Did not play; on injured reserve after suffering a season-ending knee injury in training camp.

P Andy Lee, Panthers: Three punts averaging 41 yards, all of which ended up inside the opposing 20, in a win against the 49ers.

WR Tyler Boyd, Bengals: Six catches for 78 yards in a loss at the Steelers. Also had a fumble…that probably wasn’t a fumble.

QB Tom Savage, Texans: Did not play in a 19-12 victory against the Chiefs.

DT Aaron Donald, Rams: Three tackles, two of them solo, in a 9-3 win against the Seahawks.

OL T.J. Clemmings, Vikings: Did not play in a 17-14 victory against the Packers, backing up Matt Kalil at left tackle.

RB Dion Lewis, Patriots: Did not play; recovering from a knee surgery that will keep him out until late October, at the earliest.

DL Jabaal Sheard, Patriots: One solo tackle and a quarterback hit in a 31-24 victory against the Dolphins.

CB Darrelle Revis, Jets: Three tackles, all of them solo, in a 37-31 win at the Bills on Thursday.

 

Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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