What’s Really Important for 2016

Pitt fans love to hate to be the underdog.

That all I can think of when I look at our 2016 football schedule and see the Penn state game on Sept 10th … and I know that every Pitt fan has circled that date on his wall calendar also just as I have.

I read, talk and listen to Pitt fans every day who feel that the season will be a loss if the Nittany Lions come into Heinz Field and walk out with a win that afternoon.  And I have to ask “Why?

I truly believe the one thing Narduzzi has to do right off the bat this season is drum into his kids’ heads that the PSU game is not the most important game of the season. I know that sounds sacrilegious and that fans don’t want to hear it or think that way but it isn’t.  At ground truth it is an out of conference game that would be great to win for old-time sake.

The only people who believe it isn’t just that – who think the PSU game is the end all be all – are the Pitt fans who are old enough to really understand the old antagonism. I say old because it Pitt vs Penn State rivalry is  pretty much dead and buried regardless of if we play them a few times in the future or not.  The reality is that we hadn’t played them in 15 years and that is a lifetime in college football.

This administration has zero ties to the old rivalry, neither does this HC or his staff or any of the players. Narduzzi doesn’t really look at PSU in any other way but as a hired hand thinking that “Boy, the fans really want this...” regardless of what he says in public – and you notice it is all the media talking about the PSU game with any emotion – not him so much.

I believe the extent of his public utterances on the series was done by tweeting “I think it should be played every year. It just makes sense to me.”  That is because he knows that he needs to be concentrating on a conference championship above all else.  Past rivalries are for the fans – he needs to beat the better ACC teams and create new conference rivalries that mean something at the end of the season.

If he doesn’t take that stance this year,  goes all in for PSU and puts the team’s emotional eggs all in one game’s basket, and then PSU comes in and beats us, which is a valid 50/50 chance folks, then forget about the rest of the season being a championship one. He’s nowhere good enough of a HC yet to beat that depressed situation week after week.

Fans are, at this point in reading this, frothing at the mouth.  I get that.

We have a lot of myths built up around these games but that is what they are, stories and legends passed down through generations that aren’t necessarily true, or put more succinctly, valid any longer.

One myth is about PA State dominance and the recruiting that follows.

But the truth is that winning that game never really had all that much to do about recruiting – the two completely different type of universities, the campuses, and style of football played did a lot more of that then a win did.  I’ve followed Pitt for a long time and can’t remember one time that a recruit said that he picked either Pitt or PSU because one team beat the other that year.

I’ve heard a lot of recruits say they want to go to PSU and play in front of 110 thousand people and others say because they love the Pitt campus and education they’d get here, etc… or because of the great football traditions both schools have… but never because one team beat the other in any given year.

Besides, we recruit nationally now and need to worry more about beating out other Power Five schools for top shelf recruits rather than just the PA kids.  We get our share and PSU  get theirs and that isn’t going to change if we win on 9/10/16 or not.  You want local recruits?  Then win a lot more games than you lose, get conference championships and put kids in the NFL.  That is way more effective and proven then beating one team on your schedule.

Another myth is the state bragging rights and path to a better bowl game – That’s the PA State dominance part.  Which was true a long time ago when we were both Independents and fighting for the Lambert Trophy given to the best Eastern college team.  That was a huge deal right up until we joined the Big East.

The fact is that now since both Pitt and PSU have been in conferences (Big Ten and now our ACC) the game became less and less important until it died out.  You can point fingers at Joe Paterno for that if we want, I think that is a bit overarching, but the game just flat-out lost its meaning and importance to the world of college football.

Of course the fact that Pitt sucked at football for the 15 years before that last game in 2000 had heaps to do with its death also.  We were 64-87 over those year. That is a 42% winning record averaging 4.3 wins per year… plus PSU beat eight out of 11 times over that span. Even then we didn’t play every year.

Decision makers determine the time had come to shut it down and we hated that.

We hated it because in so many years a win over PSU made everything else feel OK… even when we were getting the crap kicked out of us by every other team on that year’s schedule.  In 1984, a disappointing year for sure for Pitt especially after the Marino years, we sat at 2-7-1 and rolled into State College and whipped them by a fine score of 31-11.  Hey, all of a sudden we felt much better when the season ended.  Let’s hope we don’t have to replicate that this season.

Back during the zenith of the rivalry It was a fun time to be a Pitt fan and yes, we loved the excitement of playing Penn State under any circumstances.  But I remember well what it was like back in the 1960s and 70s when the two teams met.  It was important but it also wasn’t the end of the world if we lost. It really wasn’t like that at all.  Yeah, we fans (and our parents) drank a bit more that evening but it wasn’t that Big Deal, fan’s ego-driven, “Oh My God we lost the game!!” that it turned into later on.

And that I fear some are making it out to be now also.

So,  to bring this forward, most importantly in my mind is that I’m worried that fans and alumni will turn south if we lose to Penn State this season.  That somehow, because of our expectations of a win, the luster and excitement Narduzzi and Co. have generated with the program up to this point will dissipate because we lost one game.

We can’t afford to let that happen fellow fans.  Why? Since that is just when he and the kids on the team will need us the most.

As a head coach Narduzzi hasn’t shown he can win anything except games we are supposed to win and I’m not sure he has the chops to pull out of a disappointing loss like that…yet.  And it will become a major disappointment if he lets that singular game get blown so out of proportion in the clubhouse that it becomes the whole season to them. He needs to make those kids understand that while we want to win every game, and especially a fan’s favorite like PSU, the ultimate goal is bigger than just that one win.

He need to lead them through that big game win or lose. But especially if we lose.

I have heard many fans state with certainty that Narduzzi wouldn’t let a downward spiral happen if we lose to PSU and that ‘he gets kids up to play the hard games’. But we saw exactly the opposite in the latter half of 2016 when we lost four out of the last six games. We didn’t just get beaten in those four losses – we got soundly thumped. We had a valid shot at a very good season, that being 9-10 wins, and missed out on it four times.

Those last two games were truly horrible and we were woefully unprepared even with loads of time to get ready. I have to say that my jury is still out on exactly how good a HC Narduzzi is when it comes to actual playing of football. He does all the periphery stuff very well but the fact that he won one more game than Chryst did in 2014 doesn’t make me jump up and think he’s ready to be called a great HC by any means.

But he can rectify that by doing two things this season.  First is to beat PSU and then keep winning conference games.  That speaks for itself, and the ‘keep winning conference games’ is key there.

But more importantly in my eyes is that should we lose to PSU he gets the team right back on its feet to meet OK State, North Carolina and Marshall at full strength.  Do not underestimate Marshall especially if we are stumbling through the schedule at that point.

That will be much easier to do if he keeps his players on an even keel the whole time and doesn’t put the burden of the fan’s expectations and the fan’s hatred of PSU onto the team’s shoulders and thus make the players responsible for that as their own.

Because it isn’t theirs.  It is ours.  It is our madness and importance we put on this PSU game.  For the team it has to be one of 12 games to fight to win.

There will be a lot of pomp and circumstance on game day and I’m all for that and raring to go.  I’ll be excited to be in the stands, or the press box depending on if I want to drink beer or not, and I’ll cheer our guys on like crazy because I want us to beat PSU too!

I want Pitt to beat PSU for old times sake. But for the future strength of the football program it is many, many times more important that we win an ACC Conference Championship as soon as possible.  That is what is going to cement us as a team to be reckoned with in the ACC and thus in the eyes of college football… and that is what is going to open up the fertile recruiting grounds outside of PA.

Pat Narduzzi gets paid $2M a year to win championships, not single games, even if that game is Penn State.  He is charged with pushing and pulling his players through three hard weeks of fall camp and then a three month, 12 game schedule to accomplish that goal.  Not to pin his and his player’s hopes on one game.  What we fans want and what he is paid to do are sometimes two different things.

He can do both of course,and I’m rooting for him to do so.  I think he’s capable of championships here – if he keeps his eye on the real prize. But we fans can’t put all of our emotional eggs in one game basket and then fade away because what we wanted to happen didn’t.  We need to be in this for the long haul just as the team does, regardless of what happens on Sept 10th.

 

62 thoughts on “What’s Really Important for 2016

  1. You know whats really important for 2016.

    -Nate staying healthy. Stocker is far from a D1 QB
    -End this season better down the stretch compared to last season(talking regular season here)
    -Getting off to much better starts in games, last year we were constantly digging a hole to start games
    -Defensive takeways….we were terrible last year
    -Defense has to cut down on some of the big plays against us
    -Red zone D has to be better
    -On offense, stay away from turnovers…in a ball control offense…turnovers are more magnified
    -Narduzzi beating someone he’s not suppose to beat
    -Find the hot RB in games and ride him….don’t try to please to many
    -The passing game will have to win some games with a big throw here and there
    -So much hype with our OL, they have to play like rock stars…sometimes when everybody is thinking one thing…it doesn’t always work out that way. that is the way of college football

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  2. –Like him or not, I think the departure of the OC when the regular season ended had a lot to do with Pitt’s miserable showing in the bowl game. Still would have lost, but the game would have been much more competitive. Peterman looked completely out of sorts that game and made some mysterious throws.

    –Coach Duzz is ultra competitive and I think part of the “bigness” of the UPS game for him is his desire to beat Franklin. I would not discount that as motivation for Coach Duzz in that game.

    –Excellent list in bj’s post — except I’d prefer not to see our OL playing like rock stars — even Springsteen ain’t blockin’ anybody.

    Go Pitt.

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  3. Reed, I preempt my comments with the phrase, “with all due respect” since I have a high regard for your opinion usually. Also, like me you are very opinionated and have no qualms with debating your POV which I also appreciate. I therefore anticipate your reply as I now fulfill your request to not to “hold back” on my own opinion of your thread thoughts stated above.

    First off, your entire premise reeks of the mindset of a losing attitude. If you were my coach and promoted that hogwash stated above to me as a player, I would not be motivated to play my heart out for you because in so many words you have subconsciously conveyed to me that you are preparing for the potential of a loss. That is a prescription for defeat if I ever heard one.

    Second, downplaying the importance of this penn state game is wrong on so many levels. the most obvious being that you are simply wrong in your assumption that this is not the most important game of the season, because it is. This game IS the most important game of the season from the minute the Villanova game concludes until the final gun sounds at Heinz Field the following week at the end of the penn state game,,,,,,,PERIOD! A good coach knows how to prepare his team for the competition, a good coach is adept at focusing his players to the task at hand. a good coach motivates his players to perform at the peak of their potential in critical game situations and a great coach takes his team into battle after having previously convinced them that they WILLl win if all of those previous boxes have been checked off. To go into a game with any other attitude handicaps your team.

    Narduzzi will have another “most important game of the season” to deal with immedaitely after we beat penn state on 9/10, irrespective of the outcome of that game, win or lose, but he knows that it is his responsibility to take them into that penn state game with the mindset that he expects them to win! If the Panthers fail in that endeavor, then and only then, does he deal with the fallout of that loss, never, ever address that potential prior to the battle being fought.

    College football is played by a bunch of kids that don’t even know what their potentials are yet. Some will become superstars, others will never see the field in meaningful play for their teams, but Coach Narduzzi fully understands that if he truly wants to instill a Championship Spirit into this Panther squad, that he must first win the minds of his players. Rarely do championship teams win team every game, but I assure you that those teams go into every contest expecting to win. Narduzzi is teaching this team how to win championships, and he is doing it now.

    Thirdly, the penn state game is going to mean just as much to this Panther squad as it means to us old dinosaur fans who recall the old rivalry. Why because the smoultering embers of this rivalry have never been extinguished and the reason for them to remain hot will reignite it to it’s full glory with just this one game. It is for local bragging rights, the loser will have to listen to the victors BS for a solid 12 months and it will have a pyschological affect on both the winning and losing teams going forward. The young men that play the game are impressionable, they build their self confidence on the momentum created by their successes and winning is success. The momentum created by winning creates more of the same and although this penn state game means nothing as it relates to Pitt winning the goal of an ACC Coastal Crown, indirectly the outcome of that early season game will affect the confidence and the momentm of this team when it enters that conference slate of opponents later in their schedule. This game is what college football is all about. Don’t dare to minimize it’s importance, rather “rival” in it, that is why this game is the “rivalry” that it is!

    But we are way ahead of ourselves in even discussing this contest because there is a much more important game to prepare for first. It is the “most important game of the season”. It’s the Panthers next game. And it’s Coach Narduzzi’s job to prepare these kids to go into that game prepared, totally focused and sincerely believing that come Saturday afternoon on Sept. 3rd that they will emerge as victors, accomplishing anything less for this coach is unacceptable in his mind, I assure you.

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  4. When I became a man I learned in life that there are six things God hates, seven that are detestable to Him in our every day lives (Proverbs 6:16-19):
    1. haughty eyes
    2. a lying tongue
    3. hands that shed innocent blood
    4. a heart that devises wicked schemes
    5. feet that are quick to rush into evil
    6. a false witness
    7. a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

    When I was a boy my Dad taught me there are two things he hates, no, three that are detestable to him every single living day:
    1.} *Penn State
    1.} *Notre Dame
    *(virtual tie)
    3). West Virginia

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  5. Still stuck on the media blackout, so I looked back at the activity for the previous 2 years on Pitt Blather vs POV. Certainly not scientific, but number of posts and posters seems to be way down. Maybe some of this is due to the change in sites, maybe a lot, but there just doesn’t seem to be the enthusiasm of the last two years.

    OK, I’ll try to move on now.

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  6. It is not mutually exclusive …. we can beat PSU and still be successful in the ACC.

    If we win the games we should (and currently we are favored vs PSU), we can do well otherwise losing at Ok St, UNC, Clemson and Miami. Maybe we don’t win the Coastal but 8 and 4 is nothing to sneeze at and IMO a successful season.

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  7. Tom, where in the world did you read that I suggest he let his players think anything but a win is acceptable? I didn’t at all. The article was directed only at Narduzzi’s mindset and ours as fan.

    I disagree about your importance on the rivalry. .. I talk with many fans and stick by what I write. In my conversations a conference championship is by far the thing wanted.

    You doth protest too much and skip over much of what I write because you have already formulated a response without reading, and understanding all the points I make.

    I have watched seasons tank on a pivot of a game or two… I want Narduzzi to make sure that doesn’t happen this season.

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  8. Blasphemy! Reed stop trying to confuse us with the facts.

    I do agree that a loss vs PSU could put a damper on the whole season.

    But that is why it is so important. If you work in greater Pittsburgh, your co-workers are probably evenly split between the teams. That is why it is not just us old farts that care. Either way half the fans will have to eat $%#^ for a whole year. That is why this is a rivalry, that will never end, no matter the conference.

    How much tougher will it be to win the Coastal if we start out 1-2. I would say quite a bit. It is easier to keep winning than to start winning after losing.

    How long has it been since we beat a big ten team?

    This is a huge game.

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  9. Well Reed I think you missed your boat here. Not good for a coast guard guy and I agree with the two posters above. Why in the world wouldn’t Narduzzi preach daily to these guys that they need to get ready to beat Villanova to create momentum for the hated psu guys? I’m an older PITT fan and I don’t get that the rivalry is dead. imo it will never die. As far as recruiting, yes you may never hear a young man stating that the winning team in the game swings his choice but that is just an unspoken common sense factor. PITT already has to overcome the 106,000 fan day experience but to lose to them this year could have big time implications. Not so much for Jeter and Wade. (imo PITT commits) but to recruits left out there for next year. The thing is, PITT played it right getting this first game at home and they need to take full advantage. I’m sorry but my distain for that school boiled over the top when we all found out that paterno did know and those creeps still want to restore the statue and his wins, sickening. Plus along with ND and wvu a win will go along ways. Narduuzi needs to let you into practices so you won’t have to reach so far to write a story. 🙂

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  10. I believe Narduzzi is going to be challenged this year by the performance of his defense, and the last four games the defense was unacceptable. I don’t understand his reliance on players like Galambos, Maddox, Caprara, Soto and expecting different results. Maddox is equal to Elijah Pitts, and he’s not going to get better. Same with Soto and the rest. Play the FR. The defense got worse last year and not better. That’s on the coach. Hard to say but needs to be said. Too much mediocrity going on around here.

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  11. 1st post, great site Reed.
    I think the analysis of the importance of any game has to include the actual schedule. If Pitt loses the PSU, they could very well be 1-3 by the time they return home to face Marshall.
    I’m in Oklahoma & can tell you that OSU is pointing to the Pitt game to prove the OLine & running game are improved. OSU will be playing SE Louisiana & Central Michigan at home prior to Pitt, so it will be their 1st real challenge.
    UNC will be favored at home & coming off of playing James Madison at home, after opening against UGA & Illinois both on the road. They will either be 2-1 or 3-0 & starting defense of their Costal division championship. Their new QB will likely have settled in the starting position (I assume he’s going to struggle against GA) and Gene Chizic is as good of a defensive coach as anyone in the country.
    Thus, Pitt is going to face 2 quality opponents on the road who have reasons to be motivated and focused on the game. In isolation the PSU game carries much less weight than the conference games, but in context of the schedule and the momentum the program needs for attendance, recruiting, etc., the game holds a much higher importance.

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  12. HCPN was just on the Fan, talking with Paul Zeise (who is in Ron Cook’s slot today) … and Coach sounded real positive with the following observations

    team is practicing well with very few mistakes in recent scrimmage — on offense, defense and special teams
    everyone is pretty healthy and great shape, and thinks the team overall is in much better shape this year
    about 1/2 dozen freshmen will likely see PT this year and not redshirt
    the first team and top reserves who will see much PT are pretty well set with only a few position battles not finalized

    No names were mentioned at all, just generalities, but again, Coach seemed really pleased.

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  13. tsd, Narduzzi doesn’t have the talent in house as of yet to replace the names you detailed above. He’s got to go with the best he has currently. And yes we are all hoping for some freshman contributions particularly the defensive side of the ball. But very few freshman come in on D, especially in the line and contribute to any great degree.

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    1. Reed I completely disagree with that sentiment. There are always better options, but coaches are used to traditional methods of coaching And that means sticking with someone they know, even when that player is not any good– think Tino or Elijah Pitts or Maddox, etc. There are plenty of young recruits– make a conscious effort to plug those players and RS FR into the mix. There are too many good recruits to say we need to stick with Briggs and Lewis and Maddox.

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  14. I hear you Reed,but a win over Penn State and James Franklin is very much needed..this would be a signature win for Duzz and help him continue to grow into his HC position…and it will always be a rivalry game for the players as many have played against each other or have followed each other just by the the commonalitiy of being Pennsylvanians…
    Only ingredient missing for me will be no Keith Jackson calling the game on the TV..saw where club seats are going for 1500 bucks even with beer now being served to all who need an adult beverage…Still a game of great interest maybe with lesser impact unless its ther only blemish on what otherwise would be an undefeated season and a shot at the NC game…I can dream can’t I…

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  15. Last two videos I’ve watched w/Narduzzi he’s not happy answering Jerry D’s questions. One, when Jerry asked him if a player was going to be on the field today, Jerry followed up and said but is he going to practice, Narduzzi walked off. Then today I watched a video and Jerry asked a question about who was starting in the scrimmage with Officer and Bookser from Friday, Narduzzi replied that he couldn’t remember. He is not happy with Jerry D.

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  16. Yeah, and this upcoming election isn’t important either!!

    RUFKM!!

    If anything, this Ped State game is one of the most important in modern Pitt Football history post 1983.

    Everything should be on the line for Pitt! Losing is unacceptable!

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  17. mmmm. 2 club seats and a Saturday night reservation at the Renaissance maybe can get me around 5 grand? Tempting. Really would like a kamato smoker/grill. The game to me is just too dam big to miss. See ya at the game!

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  18. Fox Sports has an article naming the Top 10 pass rushers in the NCAA this year — thought you might enjoy this one, especially on how he is different than the other ones named:

    Ejuan Price, DE, Pittsburgh
    It’s amazing really, because the further you get down this list, the more obvious one thing becomes: It’s filled almost entirely with former five-star recruits, future NFL stars and can’t-miss prospects. Price is none of the three, making what he’s done at Pitt that much more fascinating. Instead, he is quite literally the exact opposite: a sixth-year senior who missed two separate full seasons to injuries and played in just six games total from 2012 to 2014, before breaking out last year. Finally healthy, he had a season to remember, tallying 19.5 tackles for loss, to go along with 11.5 sacks, which ranked him 10th nationally. In his second and final year under Pat Narduzzi, expect an even better 2016 for Price. He might not be college football’s biggest star, but just might be the sport’s biggest inspiration.

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  19. If for no other reasons than 1) Pitt is ranked above PS pre season and it would be a severe blow to loose to a lower ranked team 2) it is important to get the season off on the right foot 3) a loss would lead the national sports press to start feeling sandbagged by Pitt again just as they start giving Pitt some decent news space 4)this is a young team and it would boost them in a way that can not be duplicated.On the other side win or loose the remaining 10 games must be played could still win the coastal.It is always better to win.

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  20. Big surprise. In an ESPN Pre-Season All-American team, you will find this guy listed on the 1st team:

    OG: Dorian Johnson, Pitt

    Johnson has been a stalwart on the Pitt offensive line since his freshman year, with 27 straight starts entering the season. He is a big reason many believe Pitt has the best offensive line in the ACC. — Andrea Adelson

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  21. When Pitt beat nd at Heinz in 2013 some nd jagoff said that Pitt just won their national championship. I told him they were only the 9th most important game on the schedule that year. His nd smugness wouldn’t allow him to understand, but non conference games aren’t as important. You still want to stick it to the nd’s & psu’s of the world, but losses to them don’t matter as much as conference games.

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  22. Great article Reed!

    I have PSU siblings, so the Pitt v PSU game is important for family bragging rights and really nothing more (to me). I think that PSU has more talent overall (most notably at WR and LB) but,also has more coaching question marks… so, I believe that this game will be close.

    I’ve lived in three States outside of PA, have attended the in-state rivalry games in these states and all were a lot of fun. Glad that Pitt/PSU is back!! At least for four years… I hope that the schools can figure out a way to schedule this game every year.

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  23. WWB – Going off the top of my head (meaning that I’m probably wrong), wasn’t Price a 4 star middle linebacker prospect heading for Ohio State before he transferred/flipped to Pitt? We moved him to DE (not his natural position) due to lack of depth at that position etc. So, I would expect that he’d be really good, though I expected him to be a MLB and not DE. I could be wrong though.

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  24. The Penn State game is not important?!?! Such Blasphemy! As an “old” Pitt graduate, it is very important. I no longer live in the Commonwealth Keystone state, but bragging rights to the state is still very important. Given all the verbal sparring between the two coaching staffs on social media it is very important to both coaching staffs as well. Many of the players from both teams have friends on the other team, more so than any other opponent Pitt has faced in several years. Every time you talk to a Nittany Lions fan they tell you how they really don’t care if they play Pitt. In the next breathe they tell you about some significant game they attended against Pitt and how Penn State won said game. This game is very important! Is it as important as beating UNC or Miami? Yes. Will it help Pitt win the ACC Coastal? No! Why does winning the ACC Coastal and beating PSU have to be mutually exclusive for a game to be important? Both hold the same importance to me. Will the season be considered a success if we beat PSU and not win the ACC Coastal? Yes so long as we have a winning record.

    As an aside, my Lenovo, piece of crap, computer crashed twice while I was trying to type this comment!!

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  25. Can’t agree more Reed.

    Only one thing is important about the PSU game, pleasing a sell out crowd with a win. That keeps people coming back.

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  26. Pitt fans care about beating PSU. All I hear from the football team is Coastal championship and Villanova. The only thing I hear about PSU from the team is fun and rivalry’s are good for the sport. They’re approaching this one game at a time.

    Pitt’s been the favorite since the first spreads came out. Pitt’s received votes for both polls. PSU hasn’t. Pitt’s at home. Not sure about the underdog part.

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  27. Upitt, I think you are dead wrong about PSU. They won’t have a statue standing back there at QB this year. And if we don’t get pressure on the QB this game will be a tossup at best.

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  28. Upitt – they might be atrocious and then again they might not be. New coordinators up there might help them. My concern is that they have two really good WRs going up against our DBs. I don’t like this match-up. Plus they have a RB that’s got the speed to take it to the house on any given play. We don’t have the speed on D to match him. And, they now have a running QB, and that can cover up a lot of O-line deficiencies. Our offense should do okay against the PSU D, but Pitt doesn’t ever seem to put up a ton of points. This one will be a close game for sure.

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  29. This is Reed

    I never once said the PSU game ‘wasn’t important’… that is you guys saying that. I said it wasn’t the most important game.

    The intent of this season, and any Pitt season, has to be a conference championship. If not, then why even play the other games or have seasons where we don’t play PSU?

    Again, I’ll say that these kids have no emotional ties to PSU anymore than what the coaches tell them. They will treat that game exactly like any other ‘important’ game…no more and no less.

    Pitt fans are much more emotional about that game than anyone else is and for good reasons… they don’t have to actually play it and then play 10 more right afterward and be expected to put 100% effort in every week.

    My whole point, which I apparently didn’t get across, is that it is the coaches job to make sure his players don’t fall into the trap that the fans are and that is believing the season hinges on this one game.

    Fail to do that and Narduzzi loses the team if the team loses that game.

    Sorry about typos – sent from a tablet.

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  30. @ Anonymous, who I assume is Reed based on his reply to my post. I protest too much? I protest not in the least, I just called you out on your losing attitude, as I see it. Conversely, you apparently missed my acceptance of the fact, that with a loss to psu that our season is not irrevocably lost but will need the coaches attention for damage control that would be caused by losing a game that we will be favored to win.

    I suggest that you go back and reread your own article prior to proposing that I failed to read and comprehend your article in total prior to my own post. That is an inaccurate claim to begin with and more importantly, your reader’s perception of your content, at least to them personally, is their own reality, and the jest of that article as I read it is, “let’s not put too much emphasis on this Pitt vs. penn state game, since if we lose it, it will result in far reaching negative repercussions further down the road. If that was not your intent, sorry but that was my interpretation & in IMHO, that’s a BS loser attitude.

    I’m not “protesting” that you presented such an attitude, I’m just informing you that I don’t feel that such a notion will ever even enter into Narduzzi’s consciousness because he is all about winning. And in my estimation, I think he actually feels that his team can beat every single team on our schedule if things just goes Pitt’s way, and that includes the Clemson game in Death Valley.

    That by comparison is a winning attitude that I think is a characteristic of Coach Naduzzi that just might make a positive difference in some of the close games going forward.

    One game at a time though. 1st, let’s beat the Wildcats. Hail to Pitt!

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  31. Reed, I think we die hard Pitt fans realize the season doesn’t hing on the PSU game. But I think it’s important to try and level the playing field when it comes to recruiting in Western Pa at least. I win against PSU may help. However, I’m not sure we could ever level the playing field against Notre Dame anytime soon.

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  32. Cerebrally, yes, winning Coastal, having a great record, maybe playing Clemson or FSU in the championship game would go a long way for Pitt.

    Emotionally, the Penn State game is absolutely HUGE!! For everyone, not just the fans. The players and coaches all know what is out there. They’re saying the right things, but they know.

    A loss itself, could damage, just from the point of the next two are against Okie St and UNC. Would be reeling at 1-3. Hard to keep the fans interest if that happens. Beat Ped St. and have a couple good games against Okie St and UNC, even if losses, at 2-2 and playing well, you still have a shot to keeping the fans. Maybe pick one of those games on the road off, would set up for a very good year.

    I’m not saying this team or this coach, but as a fan of college football for over 40 years, and betting a few chocolate chip cookies here and there…..

    A loss to Penn State would set up nicely for getting blown out at Okie State. Seen it happen over and over and so have many of you in college football in general.

    So, the game itself is important to win, to keep some momentum going into OSU and UNC, regardless of the fans reactions.

    It’s just another game………..actually, it’s not for so many reasons. Fans, coaches, team, hell, merchandising, Pitt re-branding, how they’re looked at (fairly or not) by the media and the casual PItt fan (who we need to be welcomed at Pitt games and come to games).

    Games a biggie!!

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  33. I concur with Dr Tom again and it’s not about what you wanted to present but how different people interrupt your message. Once again it sounded a lot like you don’t think the psu game is as important as conference games. I really can’t understand that you didn’t say that? Actually, I began to think that maybe you just wrote the story to create a stir among the bloggers for traffic the premise was so far off the beaten path.

    On a side note Reedster. You wanted my real identity but have received bupkus, not that I expected anything but thought you should know if you sent anything my way. Your blog is plenty fine with me and I see you are still the hard head with a sense of humor.

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  34. Kind of funny. The fans who would be emotionally wallowing the most after a loss to PSU (me included), are as you correctly stated, some of us old guard that grew up with the Penn St rivalry.

    The funny thing about that though, is that those are mostly the die hards, that will still be at
    the Duke and Syracuse game in late November regardless of outcome.

    We’ll still be there. Need to win to show you’re the better team in Pa.. Sophomoric as it may be, and we could all explain to someone that it’s just one game, there are thousands of fans that are going to judge Pitt on this one game. We can say that’s not fair. Well, too bad, the casual fan doesn’t care to hear explanations, they want to see who is going to win the game.

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  35. As an old Pitt grad, I place lots of importance on the PSU game. I understand why HCPN doesn’t since he likely gets a bonus based on ACC placement but not that game.

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  36. @Upitt, I like your thoughts, but I’d hardly call them atrocious. At this point, Pitt coaches, players and fans are in no position to look past anyone.

    They’ve had several top 20 recruiting classes. They aren’t playing with junk. Coaching, questionable, and certainly with a new OC and DC, could take awhile for them. However, those coordinators may end up being good. May through wrinkles at Pitt we didn’t see coming.

    Hope you are correct, but although not a powerhouse, they were 7-6 last year. Out of 128 div 1 teams, they’re in the middle, not down at 126,7 and 8 with Army, Rice and Georgia Southern.

    Hell, I’m not looking past Villanova. They better come out fired up for that game as well.

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  37. @ Reed I struggled to comprehend your mindset on the PS Who game….

    First off— it’s about our Pitt Panthers putting a Hurt-On each and every game, not some fixation on ACC and ACC Coastal games.

    **** Case in point, last year: North Carolina, no-tiebreakers, won the ACC Coastal last year. Guess what? Unless you get into the playoff that means nothing, except for you can go buy a tee-shirt that says “ACC Coastal Champs” or something. North Carolina won 10 regular season games, won the ACC Coastal…..then they go get smashed by Baylor in a ho-hum Bowl game. You know what affected how good of a bowl game they got to go to, and what so many North Carolina fans remember?? How in their first game they lost to a garbage South Carolina gamecocks in their rivalry game.

    How good of a bowl game we get to, our overall ranking at the end of the year, and how excited recruits get about Pitt right now is about our Nationally Televised, Big-Money games Exactly like PITT v. PSU on ESPN — where people will be watching from Washington State to SoCal to Florida to Wisconsin.

    Pitt vs. Georgia Tech, Pitt vs. Virginia, heck even Pitt vs. North Carolina, those games are huge to Our Pitt fanbase+supporters as well as the opposing Universities for that week, but that’s it. If we’re trying to Build Pitt into an Elite Power these Big-Time games mean Everything.

    Putting on a show in the big-time games is where you make your name.

    @ Reed what you’re saying is like only caring about a PGA Tour Golfer’s overall standings based on weekly performance or something — that’s great if you’re their relative or whatever —- but all Anyone cares about is those *** Majors ***. Who won that Augusta Golden Jacket at Master?? Who won The US Open???

    —-> Majors for Pitt are our Nationally Televised, Big-Money Games vs. Big-Time Opponents. PSU, Pitt’s in-state, fellow Power 5 rival, is the biggest-Money game on the schedule this entire year!

    No one cares who in NASCAR won the year’s overall point standings, or overall who won the most races etc. —- who won that Dayona 500???!!! Lol, “If you’re not first, you’re last!!!”

    I am not misinterpreting your points: I just don’t get why some adopt a straight-up fearful, double-down mentality on this topic. I feel like this article is the mindset of Dave Wannstedt and Steve Pederson —- the Cult of Disappointment —– the sad, irrelevant, old Pitt —-> Not “New Pitt”.

    …… That’s honestly so, “Same Old Pitt”. Chancellor Gallagher, and us Pitt fans have already taken “Same Old Pitt” out back, doused it in lighter fluid, and tossed a match on it. For Pitt Football it’s time to Be BO$$ES, and be Fierce and Ferocious in every game, Period.

    How bout Pitt Football, Narduzzi & his assistants and players, and Chancellor Gallagher truly believe and will fight for Pitt to be #1, and we should smash every team on our schedule in the mouth. Let’s STOMP PSU at home, humiliate them, laugh at the overwhelmed, horrified, and helpless James Franklin on the Heinz sideline and relish watching as he has zero idea how to stop the bleeding. Let’s bask in those high-def shots of him totally overwhelmed and impotent posted-up on the ESPN broadcast, and on the Heinz Jumbo-tron.

    Then guess what? Let’s go smash Oklahoma State in the mouth at their pad on National TV, and make it known Nationwide that Pitt is a new force to be reckoned with.

    Fast Forward: Undefeated, #1 or #2 Clemson seems like an utter lock for the Playoff, and Deshaun Watson is wayyy ahead in the Heisman Race over his next closest competitor, Stanford’s Christian Mccaffrey. Clemson is still favored by 2-touchdowns over a now very-tough looking Pitt team, however many National Pundits are starting to warm to Pitt and are very impressed by Pat Narduzzi’s new culture. Some ‘talking heads’ are even tepidly saying Pitt might not be such an easy out for Clemson…..

    Guess what?? Pitt’s surging 2016 defense absolutely comes-alive in the game — especially the front seven. Final year players Matt Caprapa and Matt Galambos each get a solo-sack on Deshaun Watson on blitzes. Dewayne Hendrix is just a Monster in this game along with sleeper- Allen Edwards, and they harass Watson from the edges all night. Clemson just Cannot stop Pitt’s running game, with James Conner, Rachid Ibrahim, and Quadree Ollison Gashing Clemson’s defense all game. And Pitt’s new Favorite Son, Jester Weah (@ Reed lol it’s: Weeee-Aaaaahhhh) has over 100 yards receiving and 2 tds, taking a short bubble screen 50 yards to the house, then beating Clemson’s #1 corner mono-y-mono and pulling in a Nathan Peterman Heave. Pitt upsets Clemson in ‘Death Valley’.

    Lol see, @ Reed, it’s much more fun this way. For the fans believing + feeling pride in their team, It’s all about the swagger, the attitude, and heart. Not saying it’s okay to lose and “keeping expectations low” to not feel disappointed later. If win, you win! If you lose, you lose! But for Pitt it’s about being All-In, 110% in preparing, and then giving it all in the real event, every single week.

    I’m on team @Dr. Tom and other posters who feel contrary to the article.

    @ Reed, no lol, not gonna back-down and concede @lpha-Status to PS “Who???” , by saying, “Oh, it’s okay if we lose because we’re not Conference rivals so it’s no biggie if PSU bangs-on Pitt at Heinz.” That’s what it sounded like!

    Urgh, Pat Narduzzi (>Franklin) is a BO$$, and Pitt fans May Not accept this Clown Jamsie Franks coming up into Heinz with his lame blue-and-white, black shoed inferior-squad and not leaving with his lil-tail tucked between his legs lol.

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  38. ^^^^^^^ Psshhh, You think ‘Bama Tide fans are out there saying, “Well, we might lose to USC in game one but if we do it’s okay, we can still do okay in SEC play. We can rationalize before the game has even been played to lower our expectations.”

    No way!! Get outta here —- Pitt is IT

    …. PS “Who”?? …. Oh yeah, that school where that one football coach did all that awful stuff and their really famous head coach and president and athletic director totally covered it up right? lol, and they’re plain-A$$ uniforms are ugly as heck. 9/10 !!!

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  39. Dark Knight, see you still have some left in that baggie! You’re carrying that eternal optimist banner high & strong! But I’m not dissing on you, by contrast, I’m feeling you. We’re still undefeated aren’t we? Hail to Pitt!

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  40. Walts – I have things on order that I will send to you and others when I get them. Be patient – it will be a fun thing to have.

    Also, the day I write something just for site traffic will be the day I stop doing this. I stated my thoughts and opinions and impressions this morning, as I have done over 500 times now and fully expected people to agree and disagree with what I say.

    I kind of thought that whomever has been reading my stuff for five + years would know I’m not in this for $$ especially as it’s draining my wallet as we speak. You might be shocked to know how much out of pocket money I have put out in the time I have been writing on the Blather and now on here. I’m not complaining – I do it freely and because it is fun for me and for the readers and commenters but rest assured that’s the extent of what I want to get out of this.

    Except for free drinks at tailgates – I expect and deserve that in bulk.

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  41. Its not the most important game to how the season will play out or Pitt’s hunt to win the Coastal but it can help kick start the team and is good for us old timers. I’m still one that believes that any season is salvaged with a win against the Nitters.

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  42. Good comments and thanks even though you are all misguided. 🙂

    I think I hold a bit of a different opinion about Pat Narduzzi then some of you do… maybe even the majority of you do. I keep hearing from you all that all he wants to do is win; that he’s dedicated to doing everything he can to win games; that he’s a driven coach who values winning above all else.

    If so I will ask one simple question then.

    Why didn’t he have another QB, namely the ex-starting QB Chad Voytik, warming up on the sidelines at any point in the two final games where Nate Peterman was playing so poorly we were almost ensured a loss if changes weren’t made?

    I’m serious. He didn’t even get Voytik or any other QB off the bench to start throwing the ball. Everyone knew Peterman wasn’t going to pull those games out and we desperately needed a change to shake up the offense. But he didn’t do squat.

    In that Miami game we scored a total of three points in the first half when we were down 17-0. We had five drives and NP did this. INT on 1st drive. Went 5/11 with two sacks after that and on the final drive of the half while scoreless Peterman was playing so poorly we ran the ball 7 straight times before allowing one pass play… then ran again for setting up a FG.

    Peterman sucked terribly and not once did Narduzzi look in Voytik’s direction. Peterman ended that game with a 18.7 QB rating!!… yet when he came out in the bowl game and and again started throwing INTs and incompletions right off the bat it was the same there. No back up warming up to relieve.

    Sorry folks, that isn’t the decision making of a coach who values winning above all else. That is the decision making of a HC who was so pissed off at his back up QB he stayed with a starter that was killing us out on the field pretty much knowing that action would lose us those games. At least he should have know that.

    This coach does not walk on water folks and that is why I said my jury is still out on his game day coaching and why I try to get across that Narduzzi is a inexperienced HC who is also a human being and makes mistakes in judgement – because that is what I think his not warming up a relief QB was writ large….

    This ties into what I wrote above also – that is that Narduzzi better think long and hard about how he presents this PSU game to those kids because if he makes them think it is a win or bust game then that’s what we’ll get if we happen to lose it. Sating things like that is taken literally by young players (workers, sailors, etc…).

    the PSU game is an important game, I believe that and said it before – but at the same time, and this is what I also said, I don’t think it is THE most important game of the year. That game will come later in the season when we are hopefully fighting for a conference championship.

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  43. ^^^ Finally, a Jester Weee-AHHH interview. He’s got the fire in his eyes — dude is straight-up ready. Any worries about Pitt’s ‘Receiving Core’ will soon be mooted against the poor FCS Villanova Wild-Kitty-Cats. The other receivers can just go up to yellow seats with the other students, and the older 21 year olds can even enjoy some cold beer. Because Jester Weah is going to blow the top-off this thing come 9/3.

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  44. @ Reed —> Haven’t we been down this “Chad Voytik Road” before??

    Wasn’t it a “good riddance” moment when he left, and now who knows if he’s even starting at Arkansas State.

    I believe he came in and threw a pick 6 against Youngstown State to start the season, then was flaccid against Akron and that was that.

    Knowing that Nate Peterman was returning in 2016, and that he was not going to welcome-back Voytik for a 5th year, it would essentially have been an utter empty-gesture by Narduzzi at all to bring-in a player the coaches had zero faith in to play good football.

    This is all I remember of Chad Voytik and his very brief career at Pitt:

    If you said that Narduzzi should have gone Full-Abandon and just put in Tyler Boyd as a Wildcat QB — or Heck! selling out and putting Jordan Whitehead in as Wildcat QB and just going straight-up Sandlot-option offense —- at that point to win against Miami and Navy (a la Shady McCoy basically playing wildcat QB all game and benching Pat Bostick in 2007 to beat Notre Dame at Notre Dame in double OT) well then I might think you were onto something.

    But Chad Voytik was Done at Pitt after that pick 6 against Youngstown State, taking sacks, and only being remotely effective when handing off the ball. Then lo and behold he even got a chance again against Akron in 2015, and was just so Tino Sunseri-level Flaccid and Ineffective Pat Narduzzi knew he was done at Pitt.

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  45. No worry Reed you know what I say. Not to be taken seriously.. Some of that was tongue in cheek. I didn’t come here for anything but good football talk and hanging out with good PITT football people which I feel right at home doing.

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  46. Hmm, a win vs PSU or our ACC conference opponents…. Sure logic dictates that the ACC schedule is more important but the heart wants what it wants…Those of us old guard PITT fans have had to eat $h!T from our central PA brethren for a long time, even with winning the last meeting AND the hideous events there over the last few years. The PSU cult still carries an air of superiority about them, so as much as I want añ ACC championship , beating the dairy farm U is still of HUGE importance!!!!

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  47. In my opinion, Narduzzi does want to win, but he has a plan in order to execute it. Voytik was not his guy. He didn’t recruit him. They recruited Peterman. Narduzzi has a pass for his first two years. He was not going to waste them on Voytik, just to start year three with a rookie. In the Narduzzi mind, Peterman was the long term play. We will start to see Narduzzi’s recruits overtake the Chryst recruits if they are close in talent.

    This is a merger and acquisition scenario in private industry with a new ceo. New ceo brings in his people and correctly or incorrectly, the people in the program pre-merger are shat upon and passed up by new blood. That is life. That is why there is such negative recruiting when it comes to lame duck coaches. The players know that if they are not the stars, they will be shown the door.

    That’s the harsh realities. As far as the Dairy College being the most important game, I disagree completely. I always preach that the next game is the most important on the schedule. To me, the Clempson game is the most important. Clempson will come into the match undefeated and ranked 1 or 2. That is the measuring stick game. A win and it goes further than any Dairy College win. A real close game actually helps the blue and gold with restoring the swagger.

    For the star watchers, Pitt and Okie are similar from a star perspective over the last four years. Dairy College has better recruits, but an idiot as a coach! His seat gets hot if they lose to Pitt this year. Barkley is tough as nails!

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  48. Huff – I think you bolster my point that in that point in time Narduzzi put ‘any course to winning’ on a backseat when he refused to entertain the thought of playing Voytik – regardless of the reason.

    That was my point exactly. I think I get frustrated at some fan’s points of view that are 100% one way when the harsh reality is that Pitt football and Pat Narduzzi in a game played by humans with humans strengths, weaknesses and biases… but that is refused to be believed by some people.

    I truly believe that if you keep trying to pump up players by telling them “this is the most important game, this must be won, we really need this game… every week then that message ends up meaning absolutely nothing and even worse the will look at their leader and think 1) he’s a liar or 2) he’s an idiot.

    These kids are not stupid and believe it or not not every coach enters the locker room before the game and starts spouting fire and brimstone at the kids to try to get them to play better. There is a time and place for that – but use it too much and it become the Boy who cried “Wolf!” pretty quickly.

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  49. Dark – the comment wasn’t about the quality of Voytik’s play or whether or not he was ‘done’ at Pitt (which he was and I have written on extensively) but that Narduzzi’s non-action when the team was in extremis flew in the face of this big reputation of Narduzzi as a HC that will do anything to win football games (within bounds) that fans have put on him.

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  50. When you take a season one step at a time and concentrate on winning the next game as your sole directive for obtaining success, then every game is THE most important game of the year.

    I’m done talking penn state until the evening of 9/3. Until then, My question is how do we prepare best to beat Villanova? That’s what I’m focused on because that is THE most important game of the season,,,,,,, for right now.

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  51. Growing up in Bedford County in the 60’s, Penn State was the center of the universe to most of my family and neighbors. So I went to Pitt. Best decision of my life. Back then, I did respect PSU as an institution, so beating them was a real dream. Now, I care if we win, but really, since the molestation scandal, the Penn State aura is gone. It’s one game out of 12 and we need to smack them around like anyone else, hope we win, and move on to the next game. HTP!

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  52. Re: Weah interview…

    Jenn Menendez asks good questions in these interviews. But you can see from the overall questions that, in essence, the same question is asked over and over again. That’s one of the reasons I don’t stick around at the end of the practices but drive home instead.

    I’d ask questions that were way off-beat and that’s better done like at Media Day.

    Here is a really good interview with Brian O’Neill as he talks about the specifics of his one year turnaround from TE to OL plus what kind of work the unit has to do be cohesive.

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  53. Pitt Football Training Camp Quotes, Day 15

    Photo Gallery of Practice: http://www.pittsburghpanthers.com/view.gal?id=196255

    Head Coach Pat Narduzzi

    Opening statement:

    “Good morning. Camp started out like a heat wave and now it has kind of chilled out a little bit, which is what we like. We had a great day yesterday. We continue to be a healthy football team. I’m happy with where we are right now. It should be another great day today.”

    On giving the team the second practice off yesterday:

    “We gave them the afternoon off. Like I told you guys before, we want quality over quantity. It’s not how many practices you can get in, it’s how good those practices are. I think doubles are overrated to begin with. The NCAA as a whole has started to move away from a lot of two-a-days. Going back to even when I was in school I was like ‘what are we doing.’ I’d rather have the quality practices as opposed to the quantity. It keeps our guys fresh and lets them know that we care about them.”

    On evaluating a “quality” practice:

    “In a quality practice there is a lot of focus. There is attention to the little things. It’s about the offense’s execution, and the defense’s reaction to what they are doing. You have to be in position to make the play. If we’re just sloppy and things are wide open defensively, that’s not a very quality practice; you are wasting time, basically just out there going through the motions. Same thing on offense. If a couple guys aren’t executing—whether it’s catching, throwing or protecting the quarterback—then you’ve got problems. We’re looking for that focus. It’s difficult for these kids to sit out here for two hours a day. Remember, they are here in this building from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 at night. It’s a long day for them. So we’re trying to get that focus and attention.”

    On the optimism surrounding the team right now:

    “As coaches, you’re never satisfied. I feel good about this football team we have. I think this football team cares about each other. I think they are tight-knit right now. There is great chemistry. Now, does that equal wins? I don’t know, but it’s nothing to be disappointed about. I’m happy where we are as a football team, and I talk team, not individuals. So I’m happy with what we’ve got, but that doesn’t equal wins either. We’ll find that out on a weekly basis.”

    On Pitt’s experience playing a large factor on this team:

    “The seniors are involved; there is 20 of them. They have to be mature about what they do and how they do it.”

    On Defensive End Ejuan Price becoming a leader:

    “Ejuan [Price] has been explosive—more explosive than he has been in the past. He is playing with a lot more confidence. A year ago today, he wasn’t able to play. He’s confident, and he’s explosive in what he is doing. He is causing havoc in the backfield every day in practice. It’s hard to get him out of a game. Even in Saturday’s scrimmage, we were like ‘after about 15 plays, let’s get him out. We don’t need to see much more. Let’s make sure we’re smart and see what those other guys have.’ But he’s a guy that doesn’t want to come out of the game. He’s a guy that is having a lot of fun playing this game and understands how to do it effectively.”

    On redshirting freshmen:

    “Every freshman wants to play. I do think it’s important to redshirt the freshmen. If we could redshirt every guy, I would love to do it. But if they are ready to play, we’re going to play them. We are not going to save them for that fifth year, because they may be gone by that time. The landscape of college football and the NFL is if you have a great year after your third year, you go take the money. I’m all for that as long as you’re a first rounder. In an ideal world, if you could redshirt every one of them you would. They are 18 years old, they will be better at 20 [years old]. I always say to them ‘do you think you can be better next year at this time?’ And every one of them will say ‘yes.’ Why wouldn’t they wait until next year? I tell them ‘don’t get disappointed when you’re not playing.’ We’ve got a freshman class that I think is outstanding. Are they all ready right now? No. There is a lot of mental stuff that goes into it.”

    On how many freshmen will see the field:

    “We would anticipate playing four to six. But you might not know that until the third game. I don’t know if everybody is ready. There will be some that may be ready September 3rd. There are some that may be ready September 24th. We’re going to train them to be ready to go, and we’ll find out. There could be four to six, or there could be three. Right now it’s hard to know.”

    On having clarity early on as to who is starting on the offensive line:

    “It’s nice to say here are our guys that will be playing, but what happens when one guy goes down? That’s reality. Our guys can mix together and play. We have a lot of guys we can put in different spots. It’s a positive. You don’t want to be dealing with that the third game of the year. If all of a sudden the third game of the year there is an injury and you have to plug a guy in who hasn’t had any runs with the ones, then you’re in a tough spot. It’s a good situation where we’re at.”

    On what Dorian Johnson brings to the line and the locker room:

    “He’s a super, super kid. He’s a quiet guy. He isn’t someone who is a vocal leader, but he’s a guy that leads by example. He won’t miss a practice; he won’t miss a meeting; he doesn’t want to miss a thing. He’s a leader by example; he’s got a lot of class. He will anchor that offensive line.”

    Running Back James Conner

    On his health and getting back on the field:

    “I feel good. I have just been taking it day-by-day still. I’m going full speed, and everything is great. The couple live periods were good for me to get my feet back and get into the rhythm of things. It’s not getting rough. I need all the contact I can get to get back to my old self. So it’s been good.”

    On the feeling of running the ball again during the scrimmage at Heinz Field:

    “It was cool. It’s a great place—a lot of history at Heinz. It’s our home field, so getting to be back there is always special.”

    On the coaches monitoring his workload:

    “The coaches take good care of all of us. I can go for two hours straight if I had to. But they are being smart with everybody. They are the bosses; when they say that’s enough, that’s enough.”

    On the running back room:

    “Anybody who gets a carry is going to do some great things with the ball. It’s a very talented room. I feel like we have the most talented running back room in the nation. All of those guy’s run so hard and we just pick each other’s brains each day and compete. I’m excited for it.”

    On his reception coming out of the tunnel against Villanova:

    “I’m just going to embrace it all. I know we will have a great audience. It will be a memorable day. My doctor will be in the building, along with some of the nurses. My family and friends will be there, along with my friends from Erie, so it’s just going to be a great day.”

    On his emotions leading up to the Villanova game:

    “I’m excited to make my return. I take every game the same. There’s a job that needs to be done. Anytime we go out to Heinz, my emotions start flowing. There was a chance of me never playing football again, so I always get a little emotional thinking about it.”

    On moments in camp that he felt like he was “back”:

    “The first time I was being contacted again, getting wrapped up again by our great defense. Everybody over there has been roughing me up and getting me ready for the season. They are not taking it easy on me. Those are my boys though.”

    On handling the high expectations this season:

    “2014 was a long time ago. I don’t put any pressure on myself. I’m just going to go out there and compete. Every day, I give it everything I have. To me, God already has a plan for me and the numbers are already set. As long as I give everything that I’ve got, I have no regrets.”

    Quarterback Nathan Peterman

    On what it is like to have Offensive Linemen Dorian Johnson and Adam Bisnowaty in the huddle:

    “It’s awesome. I kind of spoke about Bis [Adam Bisnowaty] a little bit in my senior speech, just saying how he makes it easier out there. When we’re in the huddle, he just kind of eases things and cracks a few jokes here and there. It makes it really easy going out there and it kind of takes some stress away.”

    On the kind of leadership that Dorian Johnson provides in the huddle:

    “He leads by example. He goes and gets his job done; and if he doesn’t, he’s accountable to it. He’s not going to shy away that he messed up or anything. He’s had a lot of experience and he’s a very skilled player being there, being calm and ready to go. Everybody feeds off each other in that huddle.”

    On what they need to improve on from last season:

    “Scoring points—we definitely want to do that more this year obviously. We think that we can be a very high-scoring offense, and that’s our goal. We need to finish down there in the red zone. We need touchdowns—100 percent on touchdowns, no field goals. We’ve got to protect the ball always. We’ve got to keep working on those things and keep finding a way to punch it in.”

    On what it’s like to watch Running Back James Conner return this season:

    “He’s a lean, mean, fighting machine. Look at him over there. People are scared of him. He’s an intimidating guy. He’s been fun to have out there, and in all seriousness he’s brought a great attitude and really just a great mental approach to the whole game for the whole team to really rub off on. The guys feed off him like I said, and I’m excited for this season with him.”

    On if he would call Pitt’s offense a spread offense:

    “I think we do a little bit of everything. We’re just trying to score points out there. Coach [Matt] Canada is very creative. He does a very good job of mixing things up and making it hard for the defense. I think we’ll have opportunities to score out there this year.”

    Offensive Lineman Dorian Johnson

    On his preseason All-American recognition:

    “I think it’s an honor that people think so highly of me, personally. But it’s just all speculation. It’s a preseason award, so at the end of the day it doesn’t mean anything right now. I need to make it happen on the field.”

    On the optimism surrounding the team:

    “I feel like guys have completely bought in this year. We always talk about being ACC champions, and we talked about it last year too. I feel like some guys believed it, but not everyone had the same mentality. This year I feel like all the guys have bought in. We’re going to try and go out there and win every single game that we can. We have great coaches here; we have guys that care about us—from the head coach to position coaches and strength coaches. Everybody’s attitude has just changed. We have power. We have depth. Everybody wants to win. We’re tired of coming up short, so everybody is striving for the same goals.”

    On his humble approach and where it comes from:

    “Probably from just being an offensive lineman, to be honest. We never really get much recognition. I’ve been a lineman my entire life. That’s probably where it comes from. That and my family. My grandpa was a big role model in my life; he kind of has the same personality that I do. He played football at Belle Vernon as well, but didn’t go on to play in college.”

    On the offensive line being a strength of the team:

    “I think it should be. We have depth but we also have a lot of other great players. We have great depth at running back and quarterback. Nate [Peterman] is a great quarterback. We have great receivers and all-around the defense is great. I think that the line should be a great unit, but it’s coming from everywhere else too.”

    Offensive Line Coach John Peterson

    On what Adam Bisnowaty brings to position meetings and the locker room:

    “Bis [Adam Bisnowaty] is a very passionate player who has a lot of great game experience and leadership qualities. The neat thing is to watch Bis and Dorian [Johnson]; they’re experts at their position and now they are really coaches on the field.”

    On Adam Bisnowaty and Dorian Johnson having contrasting personalities:

    “That’s the fun thing about any position. Our offensive line always has a lot of characters.”

    On how Dorian Johnson leads by example during games:

    “Part of being an offensive lineman is to listen. He has to be focused in that huddle, listening to the quarterback and the details of what is being said, get to the line of scrimmage and dissect the defense. I look for more of their body language and how they’re carrying themselves. It’s a group that is confident and excited to get into the season.”

    On Jaryd Jones-Smith:

    “Jaryd is doing well. He’s a young guy still with a lot of talent. Every day and every period he gets better and better. I anticipate him to play a role and be very active.”

    On Alex Officer still competing for the starting job at center:

    “He’s still running with the No. 1s. He is a very versatile guy too. You see him play guard and center also.”

    Defensive Back Avonte Maddox

    On how he can improve as a cornerback:

    “Probably do more work at the line [of scrimmage]. Other than that, my speed is up there; but if I can win off the line, then I’ll be even better.”

    On how his success last season helped his confidence:

    “My confidence is always high no matter what happens. I have a lot of self-confidence, and it’s going to always be high. I can’t let it get too low and I can’t let it get too high.”

    On what has helped his development as a player besides his speed:

    “I think watching film. You can’t go wrong with watching film. You can always learn something new, unique and better by watching film both about yourself and someone else.”

    On playing with an edge because of his height:

    “Yeah, I do; I like it. Of course everyone wishes they could be 6-foot-3, but a lot of people aren’t blessed to be, and I don’t really care. I like to play with an edge. I’m smaller, so it makes me feel better when I beat you.”

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