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Narduzzi updates staff search (plus other notes)

Written by Sam Werner on .

FORT WORTH, Texas — I caught up with Pat Narduzzi briefly at Michigan State's Cotton Bowl media availability today, and he said that while his focus over the past few days has been primarily on the Spartans' defensive gameplan for Baylor, he has spent his spare time getting ready to step into the Pitt head coaching role full-time.

In terms of the coaching staff, Narduzzi has had some phone calls with various candidates, but said he wants to meet with the current Pitt staff before he gets too far into the process. That won't happen until after Pitt's bowl game Jan. 2, since Narduzzi wants to be respectful of this team and their process leading up to the game.

"I don't think that's fair to do to the kids," Narduzzi said. "It comes down to the kids, because if the coaches kind of know their fate, then maybe they coach like they know their fate. I want to keep everybody locked in and have an opportunity to talk to people."

Rest assured, though. He has been calling every committed Pitt recruit, as well as a few new targets. Since it's a dead period, though, he can only call each prospect once a week, which sort of limits just how much he can dive into recruiting. I will say, though, just based on my conversation with him, that recruiting is really something that Narduzzi is excited about. Granted, he seems excited about most things, but it's clear he understands how important it is and really does seem to enjoy the recruiting process.

Here are a few other notes from today...

- Pitt safety Ray Vinopal had some fun during the team's press conference today when he said that Narduzzi's "going to do a great job, even though he's a Ursuline guy." Cardinal Mooney and Ursuline High School are two big rivals in Youngstown, Ohio. Vinopal went to Cardinal Mooney, and Narduzzi went to Ursuline. Vinopal said Narduzzi even took a playful shot at Cardinal Mooney when he met Vinopal for the first time Friday night. When someone noted that Narduzzi had a big win over Cardinal Mooney his senior year of high school, Vinopal shot back "yeah, one time" and noted that he was 3-1 against Ursuline in his high school career.
"We all know who owns the series," he said.
Despite the rivalry, there is a bond amongst the Youngstown football community that Vinopal and Narduzzi share.
"It's old-school, tough, disciplined, accountable, smart football," Vinopal said. "People back home take it real seriously. It's important to them and whatever they're doing, they pride themselves on it."

- Defensive coordinator Matt House said he's not worrying about his job status right now. That's something that'll come after the bowl game's over.
"Just like the kids, I'm a competitor, too," House said. "And I want to go out winning our last game. It's a hell of a lot different finishing 7-6 than 6-7. The only thing we're worrying about is [the bowl game] January 2nd."

- House also had an interesting comment when he said Pitt could play a decent amount of dime defense against Houston Friday. A true dime package with six defensive backs (assuming Terrish Webb and Ryan Lewis don't play, apparently both are questionable) would be Lafayette Pitts, Avonte Maddox at cornerback, Patrick Amara and Ray Vinopal at nickel and Reggie Mitchell and Jevonte Pitts as the extra DBs. When I noted to House that that alignment would involve just about all of Pitt's healthy defensive backs, he responded "You never know, we might pull something out." So I don't know if House has something up his sleeve in (most likely) his final game at Pitt, or if he was just joking with me. We'll find out.

- Quarterback Chad Voytik gave us his initial impressions of Narduzzi today: "I think he's going to be an intense coach. I've heard from other guys who know guys that have played under him [and they've said] he's going to push you and bring intensity. I think he showed that a little bit in our meeting."

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Yearbook Awkwardness: Ben vs. Flacco

Written by Dan Gigler on .

The gem below, which surfaced in the comments section of a Gawker thread today about celebrities-in-your-high-school-yearbook, depicts a 10th grade Prince Valium -- err, Joe Flacco -- looking every bit as excitable as he is today (quite literally as the photo on the right was taken by PG reporter Audrey Snyder at a Ravens press conference this afternoon):

flacco then now 

To be fair, underclassman Big Ben doesn't exactly scream 'field general' but jeeze, at least he can smile. 

ben HS

His senior picture is less geeky. Then again, maybe not

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New state basketball rankings

Written by Mike White on .

Pennlive.com has released its new boys and girls state basketball rankings.

On the boys side, the WPIAL has one team ranked No. 1 - Lincoln Park in Class AA. In fact, the top three teams in Class AA are from the WPIAL. The other two are Aliquippa and Seton-LaSalle.

For the girls, two WPIAL teams are ranked No. 1 - Blackhawk in Class AAA and Vincentian in Class A.

Here are the rankings:

BOYS

CLASS AAAA - 1. Roman Catholic. 2. LaSalle College. 3. Martin Luther King. 4. George Washington. 5. Chester.  6. Parkland. 7. Pennsbury. 8. North Allegheny. 9. Pine-Richland. 10. Plymouth-Whitemarsh.

CLASS AAA - 1. Neumann-Goretti. 2. Archbishop Carroll. 3. Indiana. 4. Uniontown. 5. Susquehanna Township. 6. Imhotep Charter. 7. Mars. 8. Pottsville. 9. Hampton. 10. Beaver Falls.

CLASS AA - 1. Lincoln Park. 2. Aliquiooa. 3. Seton-LaSalle. 4. Conwell-Egan. 5. Loyalsock. 6. West Middlesex. 7. Church Farm. 8. Greensburg Central Catholic. 9. Fairview. 10. Mid Valley.

CLASS A - 1. Constitution. 2. Math, Civices & Sciences. 3. Farrell. 4. Vincentian. 5. Monessen. 6. Mansfield. 7. Elk County Catholic. 8. Ridgway. 9. Bishop Carroll. 10. Kennedy Catholic.

GIRLS

CLASS AAAA - 1. Cumberland Valley. 2. Central Bucks West. 3. Penn-Trafford. 4. Cardinal O'Hara. 5. North Allegheny. 6. Central Dauphin East. 7. Abington. 8.. Mt. Lebanon. 9. Spring-Ford. 10. Boyertown.

CLASS AAA - 1. Blackhawk. 2. Archbishop Wood. 3. Bethlehem Catholic. 4. Scranton Prep.  5. Hickory.  6. Bonner-Prendergast. 7. Villa Maria. 8. Allentown Central Catholic. 9. West Perry. 10. Mercyhurst Prep.

CLASS AA - 1. Neumann-Goretti. 2. Seton-LaSalle. 3. Burrell.  4. Holy Redeemer. 5. Neshannock. 6. Greensburg Central Catholic. 7. Dunmore. 8. Delone Catholic. 9. York Catholic. 10. Mount Carmel.

CLASS A - 1. Vincentian. 2. Bishop Guilfoyle. 3. Phil-Mont Christian. 4. Kennedy Christian. 5. Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic. 6. Port Allegany. 7. Blairsville. 8. Tussey Mountain. 9. Halifax. 10. Elk County Catholic.

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Empty Netter Assists - 12-30-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-The Post-Gazette's recap from last night's game. “We just have to get back to creating a little more offensively and scoring some more goals and giving up fewer chances defensively. And the wins will take care of themselves.” - Brandon Sutter.

-The Bergen (N.J.) Record's recap. “He was the No. 1 star for sure. He changed the game, no question about it. We kind of knew, everybody knew it’s coming. It’s not an accident that after his fights we scored the goals. It was the perfect timing and we took advantage of that.” - Devils forward and former Penguins captain Jaromir Jagr on teammate Jordin Tootoo fighting Robert Bortuzzo twice (above).

-The Associated Press' recap. "It's a tough place to play. Once they got the lead, they shut it down on us. I don't understand it. It's just a tough place for us to play." Marc-Andre Fleury on his team's fifth consecutive road loss to the Devils.

-Highlights:

-Mike Lange's goal calls call.

-Tootoo versus Bortuzzo round one:

-Tootoo versus Bortuzzo round two:

-New Jersey's Cory Schneider was all over this puck:

-From left to right, the Devils' three-headed coaching moster, Scott Stevens, Lou Lamoriello and Adam Oates:

-Jagr directed things from the bench:

-Mike Johnston speaks:

-“I told you. Where’s Mike Lange? Then, the breakaway was a bad cigar from my side.” - Jagr joking about Lange after Lange had playfully asked Jagr following the morning skate if he planned on "smoking the Penguins like a bad cigar." Jagr had a failed breakaway attempt in the third period.

-Devils forward Stephen Gionta left last night's game due to a broken hand suffered after blocking a shot by Kris Letang.

-The Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

-Eric Hartzell made 38 saves for the Wheeling Nailers in a 3-1 win against the Gwinnett Gladiators.

-The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins assigned Hartzell and forward Tyler Murovich, a native of Mt. Lebanon, to the Nailers.

 

-Happy 36th birthday to current Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi. A fifth-round draft pick in 1998, Scuderi has spent parts of sixh seasons with the Penguins in two different stints. As a rookie in 2003-04, Scuderi saw action in 13 games and scored three points. Following the 2004-05 lockout, Scuderi broke through as an NHL regular in 2005-06 by appearing in 57 games and recording four assists. He followed that up in 2006-07 by playing in 78 games and scoring 11 points. That spring's playoffs saw him appear in in five games and fail to record a point. In 2007-08, Scuderi saw action in 71 games while recording fives assists. He helped the franchise return to its third Stanley Cup final appearance that spring by playing in 20 games and recording three assists. During 2008-09, Scuderi established career highs in games (81) and points (16). In the 2009 postseason, he stepped up in a defensive role while playing in 24 games and contributing five points. His biggest contribution during the postseason came in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final when he came through with a series of blocked shots which preserved a 2-1 victory (below). The team would advance to Game 7 where it won the third Stanley Cup title in franchise history. During the 2009 offseason, Scuderi joined the Kings as a free agent. In 2013, Scuderi rejoined the Penguinas as a free agent. Last season, an ankle injury limited Scuderi to 53 games and four assists. He appeared in 13 postseason games and had no points. This season, Scuderi has played in 36 games and has five assists. In 389 regular season games with the Penguins, Scuderi scored 48 points. In 62 playoff games, he collected eight points.

-After the Jump: Derek Roy heads to Edmonton.

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Steelers-Ravens first meeting: Sept. 8, 1996

Written by Dan Gigler on .

When the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers met for the first time ever on Sept. 8, 1996 at Three Rivers Stadium, the game was less notable for who the Ravens were rather than weren’t – the Cleveland Browns.

Just as Charm City lost its beloved Colts when the Irsay family abruptly moved the team to Indianapolis in 1983, it was equally shocking when the announcement came in 1995 that Art Modell would move the Browns to Baltimore for the 1996 season. They would become the Ravens, thereby putting an end to what was once among the greatest rivalries in sports – Steelers/Browns.

Pittsburgh would win six of the first seven meetings, but since then its been the proverbial war of attrition and in bal-ravens96aphotoJerome Bettis runs against the Baltimore Ravens in the teams' first-ever meeting on Sept. 8, 1996 at Three Rivers Stadium.less than 20 years has become a rivalry far superior.

But in 1996, it was all new and just kinda … weird.

Below are a few stories including the game story and some color pieces from around the stadium, which was still covered by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

Big Back Attack: Steelers bounce back from opener to ravage the Ravens

By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

They came dressed in purple and black, sported a funky new logo, called themselves the Ravens and flew back to Baltimore after the game.

The packaging was different, but they were the same old Cleveland Browns, and they arrived just in the nick of time to soothe the ailing Steelers again.

Nothing changed much on the field when these two franchises got together. The Steelers’ overcame a tumultuous start to their season by whipping up on their division rivals, 31-17 – their 24th victory over the Ravens/Browns in 28 meetings at Three Rivers Stadium, and their seventh straight overall.

“That,” halfback Jerome Bettis said, “was fun out there today.”

It wasn’t much fun for the Steelers in the past week as they waded through a quarterback controversy and the emotions of losing linebacker Greg Lloyd for the season to a knee injury.

“We’ve been under a lot of scrutiny,” Coach Bill Cowher said. “Most of its been deserved.”

But cornerback Rod Woodson intercepted Vinny Testeverde’s first pass on the second play of the game and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown, quarterback Mike Tomczak played a near-perfect first half and Jerome Bettis and Erric Pegram gouged out huge chunks of yardage to pull the Steelers (1-1) back on solid ground.

Read the rest of the story and the jump

Loss of Browns means less fun, the fans agree

By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Who would’ve thought we’d miss the fights? Or the taunting? Or the name calling? Or the rocking of cars with Ohio license plates?

There was none of that at the sun-splashed black-and-gold garden party yesterday outside Three Rivers Stadium for the Steelers home opener.

… All that was missing for Steelers fans was an opponent they could hate.

“The Ravens should still be the Browns. I don’t want to learn to hate the Baltimore Ravens,” said John Laws, 29, of Baldwin Borough …

Dale Humphries, Three Rivers Stadium event supervisor for the last eight years, said that judging by yesterday’s crowd, the rivalry didn’t follow Art Modell’s team from Cleveland to Baltimore.

“This doesn’t seem like a Cleveland game. They always brought some fans in. Those were always a real good time,” Humphries said …

Read the entire story.

Baltimore Sun

If opening day was a gift from the football gods, yesterday was a gift from the Dawg Pound.

A 31-17 bone for Art Modell to chew on.

Even that two-touchdown margin was misleading. After winning three of four exhibition games and beating the Raiders last week, the Ravens discovered where they really stand in the NFL’s order.

They stand a long way from top teams such as the Steelers.

Tony Grossi / The Plain Dealer

Same old Ravens.

They can change their uniforms, change their coaches and change their address. But they can’t change their performance in Three Rivers Stadium.

The public address announcer added to the identity crisis with 3:34 left in the game.

“Timeout Cleveland,” he announced.

The 57,241 in attendance roared their approval.

“Correction. Timeout, Baltimore.”

The crowd booed.

Brian E. Albrecht / The Plain Dealer

Scanning the parking lot from his tailgate perch, Phil Ward, 40, of Pittsburgh sighed: “It’s just not the same. If this was a Cleveland game, they’d be burning Cleveland flags and everything. This place would’ve been nuts. I feel like we’re playing Tampa Bay. I mean, look at me: I’m reading the paper, and I’ve only had two beers.” 

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