November 20, 2017
Pat Narduzzi Press Conference
PRESS CONFERENCE VIDEO: Narduzzi Miami Preview
PAT NARDUZZI: Big week in Pittsburgh, obviously, with bringing a playoff team here to Pittsburgh, a team that’s in the top four. It’s senior day for all of our seniors, which as you look at this wall out here, there’s not a lot of them, but there’s some very meaningful guys that will play their last football game at home and at Heinz Field, so I think it’ll be a great, emotional day, not only for the players but for the coaches and for all the underclassmen that have grown attached to these guys.
Had them stand up yesterday and turn around and look at their teammates; it’s going to be the last time that 2017 football team plays together. It’s kind of a sad, really sad deal when you’re playing your last football game, and there will be a lot of emotions [Friday] that go into also playing a tremendous football team with a ton of speed, a ton of confidence, and obviously playing at a high level right now.
It’ll be a great challenge, and we’ll use Miami as a measuring stick to find out where we are as a football team, how far we’ve grown and learned through the entire year. Looking forward to it.
For me, today and our staff and our kids really, you guys, it’s Monday, but for us it’s a Tuesday. The coaches crammed in Sunday, working some longer, longer, longer hours, and yesterday was really a Sunday and a Monday for the staff because it was putting to rest the Virginia Tech game. You really got over it even faster as tough a loss as it was, you got over it a little bit faster than you normally would because you had to. My spirits were a lot better because you got into Miami quicker and you move forward quicker, and I think our kids feel the same thing with going out to practice today.
Q. The last play the other day, it looked like nobody on their team respected the possibility that Pickett could pull it back and run and he might have walked in there —
PAT NARDUZZI: The play before, too.
Q. Was it built into that play, that he had that option?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, sometimes it is. I’m not going to give you what we have in, just talking schematics, but sometimes that option is in there, and we’ll kind of leave it at that. Sometimes it’s not. But you can look back at those four plays and we can dissect it as much as you want. It’s a coaching thing. You can say — you can always change the plays and different formations and different personnel, you can pull it, you can throw it four downs in a row and you can do that, but we could have run a quarterback sneak. There’s a lot of things you can do.
But the big thing to understand is you’re playing one of the top run defenses in the country that we rushed for 50 yards that day and we were hoping to get that much, and we weren’t able to get it.
Q. Why did you think those plays would work?
PAT NARDUZZI: We got yards. Emotion was with us. We had momentum going in there. You get a big long run after a catch, and I think our kids think they’re going to work. I think our coaches think they’re going to work, and I think the momentum was going our way. We wouldn’t be the first team to ever have a goal-line stand not get in. You always think you have confidence in what you do, and you think you can get in.
Q. Did you do anything differently with Kenny in there that you would have with Ben?
PAT NARDUZZI: Probably not. It wouldn’t be much of a difference I don’t think.
Q. I saw a lot of good things from the defense looking at the package of the total game.
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, there were some great things, really on both sides of the ball. When you look at it, go to that last series, just getting the ball back to our offense, we talked about it after the game, just calling that time-out and getting your punt team out there and getting a chance to get the game, if we go for it on 4th and 10 and don’t get it, the game is over.
Everybody gets to watch the end of the game, take a few knees, but when you look at the people we had on the field. You look at where we came from, gosh, what game, North Carolina State, where we give up a big run and we’ve got Elias Reynolds out there and Chase Pine, and those guys made some big plays and played significant time, so we’re developing our guys for the future.
You look at Phil Campbell, some of the great things he did out there. Phil Campbell was — he’s a guy that’s got no patience, and his patience finally paid off. He had his opportunity, and it worked out for him. I’m happy for him, and there’s a lot of guys. Jordan Whitehead played to the field and did some really good things.
Up front I thought we did some pretty good things. Across the board, you look at it, it was a good football team, and we were an inch short, maybe a foot short, maybe a yard short.
Q. You talked about getting over the loss. The fact that you do have Miami, is that sort of good timing where it could be a down moment for your team after — having the opportunity to play a really good team that impacts what’s going to happen nationally?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I mean, I think we’ve just got to focus on what we’re doing. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing Miami or playing whoever, Rhode Island, I’ll use that. Doesn’t matter who we’re going to play. We’ve got one more opportunity to go out. It’s going to be a senior day, and obviously we get to play one of the top teams in the country that’s coming into our house and a talented football team, I can tell you that. So I think it makes for more — but I don’t think our reaction is going to be any different. It’s a Friday game. It’s a new schedule. It’s a changing schedule for our kids, and they’ve got to come ready to play, and we will.
Q. You said you’re not the first team that’s ever had goal-line stands. For a lot of kids in this group in their short time here, this is maybe probably the toughest result. How do you — is this a maturity test for them, for those young guys?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think every week is, whether you fumble on the 1 going in the week before. I mean, it’s every week there’s something. It didn’t come down to that goal-line stand, guys. Pull it up; we have two turnovers, they get 10 points from it, and we get one turnover, we miss a field goal. So we can put it all into the goal-line stand. We could have finished it off way before that.
We got a chance when they threw that duck ball up there to take it down and intercept it, and we don’t, we slip, we fall, the coverage wasn’t as perfect as we want. We’d like Avonte underneath that thing and Jordan on top. We really had two guys behind the ball, we wanted one underneath and one on top for that jump ball that he threw up. So I mean, there’s — we can go play after play after play to pull it out. It’s not one play, it’s not one series, it’s not one yard.
We’re going to find the inches throughout the entire game that we missed, and that’s the important thing. It’s not one play. It’s not one guy. It’s not pulling the quarterback and all of a sudden we — let’s not even go to goal line, let’s score, let’s get it in.
Q. Does Miami change how you view whether you start Kenny or Ben this week, depending on that match-up?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, it’s match-ups, it’s how we feel we can run the football, the whole deal. It’s your run game versus your pass game, and we’ve got to get a run game going, period, and those are all things we’ll look at with practice, as well, what we do there.
Q. Have you made a decision as to what you’re going to do?
PAT NARDUZZI: Play it by ear, see practice, and go with that way. I think if we don’t practice good, it’s hard to start a guy that doesn’t practice. There’s constant competition. I don’t care what the position is. You’ve seen a revolving door at the D-end position this year, from the beginning of the year if you look at the depth charts, at least our depth chart, maybe not yours.
The ‘Or’s’, whatever it may be, it’s changed. I think it’s at every position. We’ve got to continue to compete, and competition makes people better. Ben had a heck of a day out there today, I can tell you that.
Q. You talk a lot about situational placement of players. Isn’t it maybe better to have kind of one guy at that position, even though it is the last game of the season?
PAT NARDUZZI: Maybe. Maybe.
Q. Wouldn’t it be better to have a guy and have trust in him?
PAT NARDUZZI: Maybe.
Q. Still trying to gain that trust?
PAT NARDUZZI: Still trying to gain it, and it’s competition. When is the time? I don’t know. We’ll find out.
Q. What did you think of what you saw on tape from Kenny?
PAT NARDUZZI: Kenny did a nice job. Kenny threw the ball well, which we thought he could, but you never know in a game. He just gave us a chance. He threw — even in the two-minute drill, go back to those inches, the first one he doesn’t throw a great ball and the first play of the last drive with 1:34 on the clock and then comes right back to the same play and puts it right there on Jester’s hands and we can’t pull it down, which might have been another 15-, 20-yard gain, which then when you hit the next one, it’s going to be in the end zone. We don’t have to go whatever that was, 60 yards, we’ve only got to go 40 yards. So there’s so many things that happened.
But he had some good ball placement. Even his interception, just got to put a little more air on it. The corner came off the smash and bailed into the 7, which was a nice play by him. The same thing we do in our coverage, just got to get it up a little bit more. But it wasn’t a desperation, it wasn’t just slinging it down the field. He made the right read and just had a little bit better ball placement, and with time those things are going to be fixed. But I was impressed with what he did in there in that environment, too. …
The environment was not an easy environment for any quarterback to go into, and I thought both of them really handled it well.
Q. Was that a good throw in the end zone on the goal line? Did Kenny give Jester a decent chance to make that play?
PAT NARDUZZI: Not as good as you’d like it to be. There was two thoughts on it. We ran it on 2nd down, and that was just a fast ball, throw a fade for a young guy, maybe it was a little deep. Wish we could have got set a little faster. Coach Fuente was down about near the 15-yard line trying to tell somebody to go cover him.
We could have almost snapped it out and thrown it to him at the 3, but just the time and the guy ran out there, so it was a little bit different based on where that DB was when the ball was snapped because he was working his way out to get to that guy. But it was kind of a fast ball because of the clock. It was either that or kill it, kill it and then get your last down in, which would really be a waste. We had a chance at it.
Q. You mentioned Chase Pine. He moved to outside linebacker. Is he a guy you’re still trying to figure out where his best spot is moving forward?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think he can play Mike, he can play money. He’s athletic enough to play both of them. He’s physical; he played physical in the game. It’s good that he’s played both. It’s just really moving him around where our best — we could leave Elias at Mike and him, and then you’ve got three guys there that you want to get playing time to, and it’s really just kind of moving them around. It’s like when Wirginis is back, where is Saleem going to go? Now what do you do? There’s just — that’s a good problem that we’re developing some of these young guys, and you’re going to come into spring ball with some more competition because those guys are going to be hungry. They’ve got a little taste. It’s nice they’re getting a taste of what it’s like, and they’ve got game experience. It’s going to make us better for the future.
Q. Is there one part of the job that’s taking Chase longer to pick up than the others?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, I think it’s just consistency. With Chase and Elias, for any young guy, there’s times — things happen fast out there, for a quarterback, for a linebacker, for a DB, even for Phil Campbell, but it’s having your opportunity and taking advantage of your opportunity. We give you a couple plays and you mess it up, it’s hard to go, hey, go back in there, let’s see if you can do it again. But they’ve gone back to practice and have been more consistent in practice, and it’s focus every day. It’s not just focus on game day. You’ve got to focus on practice every day, and it’s not easy waking up at 6:30 in the morning coming to practice, having a meeting, going to meetings, going out there and staying locked and keeping 105 guys focused and locked in on what they need to do, and I think you start to figure out what the recipe is to be able to go out and be successful and not just thinking you’re a gamer. I mean, practice is important, and you’ve got to show us and let the coaches know you have confidence and you’re gonna — not only know what to do because they know what to do, but then you’ve got to go out and execute it at a high level, at a fast tempo.
Q. What has impressed you about Miami?
PAT NARDUZZI: Speed. They’ve got athletes all over the field. Rosier, obviously, at quarterback, I think he’s faster than the Jackson kid last week, very similar type guy, throws a nice ball, tight spiral. He can run. And then they’ve got skill everywhere. They’re going to line up in three wide outs just about every snap. They’ll get in a little bit of two tight end sets, but it’s going to be a tempo game, not a fast tempo like Syracuse but it’s the speed that they have, and Berrios at the slot receiver is not only an electric returner but heck of a receiver, too.
Q. Their defense, too, is that what leads to their turnover margin?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, they’ve got 11 returning starters on defense, and they’re fast. It does lead to it. Sometimes those things come in — they’ve got that chain going and the U and the whole deal. They’ve got confidence that they’re going to get turnovers every time they walk out on the field, so that’s going to certainly be a key to victory is don’t get them started.
They want to pass that chain around and have 10 or 12 guys have that chain around their neck, so we’ve got to make sure that thing stays wherever they keep it when they walk out on the field, we’ve got to try to keep it in that box.
Q. Your seniors are going to be playing their last game, but what are the chances that maybe one of your juniors is playing his last game and has a chance to play at the next level?
PAT NARDUZZI: That’s something we’ll evaluate after the season. I think it’s tough, anytime you win four games, there’s not a lot of NFL teams rolling down. Usually when you’ve got NFL guys that are — I think that’s been wherever I’ve been. You win eight or nine or ten or 11, 12 games. Thirteen games I’ve won before, some of those underclassmen say, okay, good. I think the chances are less when you win four or five games in my opinion. But is that how you want to finish this business is what I’ll talk about, but I’m sure there’s guys that are going to test the water, which they should. That’s their right. If that’s something they’re going to do, we certainly are going to push them — we want what’s best for them. It’s about getting their degree, do you have your degree, it’s about — it comes down to making money, and are your opportunities better now or later, and I think that’s what’s got to be evaluated for a couple guys.
Q. You lost seven games already; anything for you as far as — any personnel decisions with more of an eye towards the future?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think you naturally do that, but we want to win football games, so we’re not going to do anything to hurt our chances to win a football game. I think it’s giving coaches a little bit more leeway to say, hey, let’s see what this guy’s got, but I think that naturally happens if you’re not finding those inches with those 11 guys that are out there on one side of the ball or the other or special teams. They say, hey, what’s the difference, let’s see what this guy has got, and that’s the nice thing. You’ve seen some guys step up and make some plays.
Q. You haven’t been in position often in your career where it’s the end of the season and there’s nothing beyond this —
PAT NARDUZZI: You don’t know what to do.
Q. What are the challenges for a coaching staff when sort of this is it and it’s a definitive end for this group?
PAT NARDUZZI: I don’t think there’s any decisions we have to make as a staff to say, oh, now what do we do. We know what we do; we go right on the road recruiting on Sunday. We’ll be on the road recruiting, and it’s one of those years that is different than any other year that we’ve been around ever in that the signing date is on the 20th of December. I know there’s two signing dates, but that’s going to be the big one, so it does create different problems there, so it just gives us an earlier chance to get to there, get on the road and finish up business there because that’s so critical.
Q. Do you revisit anything — Miami has a lot to lose in this game. This program has at least one win that I can think of where they ruined plans. Did you revisit any of the history or opportunities where teams have ruined another team’s shot at something?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, we may, you could, maybe I’ll bring you in. (Laughter) But really we can focus on what happened back in whatever year that was that ruined your New Year’s, or we can focus on the now. Ultimately it comes down — kids like history lessons every once in a while, but it’s really right here, right now, what’s going on now, and the point is we’ve got a great Miami team walking into Pittsburgh on Friday, they’re going to spend their Thanksgiving evening right here in the beautiful city of Pittsburgh, and then we’re going to go out and give it everything we’ve got.
Q. What about the win last year against Clemson? Most of these guys were actually part of that.
PAT NARDUZZI: You mean the history of that game?
Q. Yeah, you talk about that in terms of ‘We did it a year ago..’
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I think our kids know that. I don’t know if I have to remind them. It’s one of those, ‘Okay, Coach, I’ve got you.’ We’ve got to focus on what we’re doing, whether it was the West Virginia win or the Clemson win. But it may — it’s really about right — it’s about Miami. We can’t lose focus and say, ‘Oh, yeah, we did it so it’s going to happen.’ It’s about working your tail off and believing that you can get the win and playing up to that level because it’s not going to take an average game, it’s going to take a big-time game out of a bunch of people to make plays.
Q. Did you watch the Pitt-West Virginia game back in 2007?
PAT NARDUZZI: I can’t remember.
Q. Do you make it a point of telling these guys you can determine college football lore?
PAT NARDUZZI: We’re just worried about getting a 1st down, trying to get a sack, trying to get off the field on 3rd down. We could tell stories and all that, but I won’t — let’s tell a story after Fridayafternoon. That’s the story I want to tell.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports