October 1, 2018
Pat Narduzzi Press Conference
PAT NARDUZZI: Obviously a tough weekend for the Panthers down south. Our guys competed. I always kind of evaluate with what we did back there (points to back wall with ‘ATTITUDE,’ ‘EFFORT’ and ‘TOUGHNESS’ graphics). Our kids had a great attitude, still got a great attitude. I think they played with great effort. You put the tape on, our guys played hard. We played tough I would say 90 percent of the time. There’s some fits with some linebackers — there’s always like some nasty part of the game that you’d like to see done better. When I talk toughness, and we’re by far not a soft team; not even close. I don’t even want to use that word. But our kids play tough. Could we have played tougher, yes.
There’s a couple plays out there — Connor Dintino is doing some great — a great job chopping some people. I wish everybody were doing that. He knocks a couple linebackers on their tails, and they’re like this holding their back.
So to me that’s part of the game, and something I’d still like to see a little bit more of that. But our kids are playing hard. There was a lot of good, and there was some bad.
One-hundred, eighty-one plays down south, I think it was 91 plays defensively, on the field too long, got to get off, got to help be off the field with some sustained drives on offense. I think defensively — offensively we were on the field for 53 plays or something like that, and then special teams about 28 snaps. But 181 snaps, and you take two or three special teams plays, you take 12 on offense and 12 on defense, there’s a lot of things we can improve in. There’s a lot of times it’s really not what they did, it’s what we did.
Those are the things we talked about last night. We said, discipline and details, and details are all over the place, and I know we’re not going to be perfect. As coaches, there’s details as coaches. We had one substitution problem all day, and it wasn’t the kids’ fault, it was our fault because you can’t sub if they don’t sub. We tried to sub on a 3rd down. That’s the only problem we had the entire day. Details.
Even our kids on defense last night, Dennis Briggs sits where you do, thanked the rocks (scout team), because he said, Coach the game was slower — okay, the game was slower than what we had in practice last week, so that’s a good thing, so we got the right tempo. We’re going to see it again this weekend.
We had no problem with the tempo. We had one substitution problem, and again, that’s on us as coaches. It was not on our kids. You didn’t have time; they saw it, they saw us subbing, and they just were going to snap it real quick and get a freebie.
But our kids had no problem with the tempo. With all those plays, and obviously the heat and humidity down there, we know what that was. So there was always those issues there.
But there’s plays that we’ve got to fix, and it comes down to me, and the details and discipline, and I don’t care what it is, we’ve got to clean those up. You make that many mistakes against a good football team, it’s not going to be a pretty sight.
We’ve got a great Syracuse team coming in that’s going to come, again, with that tempo. Dino Babers does a great job. As I look at them on offense, defense, special teams, as solid a football team as you’re going to face.
You look at beating Florida State in their house, going down and giving Clemson all they wanted last weekend, and we know how hard that is down in Death Valley. They were this far away, maybe you say should have got it done. But they’re a good football team, and they’re a really good football team.
Eric Dungey, the quarterback, I think is phenomenal. I can’t believe he’s still there. He’s a senior. And he’s been a good football player for years. I think he’s a better quarterback — I think he’s even better now than he was. I think he’s running smarter. I think he’s taking care of his body, which is smart on his part, and so they’ve done a great job coaching him, and he’s throwing the ball with more efficiency, I think.
In the D-line, it starts with all those guys up front. They’ve got four returning starters up front, and they’re nasty up front. I know the D-line coach very well. He’s doing a heck of a job up there, and it starts with those guys. It starts up front, so our O-line has got to control those guys up front to have a successful day. It’s going to be a battle. It’s homecoming, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.
Q. Speaking of the tempo that you guys dealt with Saturday, UCF’s coach and players said afterward that they thought some of the cramping issues you guys had throughout were more gamesmanship than legitimate. Do you have any response to that?
PAT NARDUZZI: Not a whole lot. You know, again, I don’t care what they say, I don’t care what we say. It doesn’t really matter. Put it this way. I’ll just leave it at this. We didn’t have a problem with the tempo. It was multiple IV’s given even before halftime, during halftime, and then in the third quarter. That speaks for itself. We don’t just give IV’s to people for nothing. It’s not even worth addressing to be honest with you. I’ve cramped in a recliner before after some yard work. What are we talking about? It’s all about the players’ safety. I’m never going to question the guys’ health. And again, it wasn’t all cramping issues, either. Is that good? Does that answer you? I hate to be short, but it’s not…
Q. You had a couple plays where the running back got loose against a linebacker. Is that something where it was just a tough match-up? Is there something you’d like to see your guys do differently?
PAT NARDUZZI: You said a running back get loose versus some of the —
Q. The two pass plays against — one was against Wirginis.
PAT NARDUZZI: Let’s start with the one with Wirginis. It’s Wirginis’s guy. You get beat with some of those T-shoots, so he’s kind of worried about the T-shoot, then the guy comes off and breaks an out, just looking at that play fundamentally. Number one, he’s an electric dude. The guy can fly. And so I understand what Quintin is worried about that T shoot, as we’ve talked about, and they’ve run those, as well, so he’s kind of leveraging from the inside out, and then I think it was maybe Zeise out there or was it — was it Zeise on that play where he just had his back turned, and he’s got to keep some vision and turn it back.
To me those two guys got to funnel that thing together. They just got outside.
And we also had a bad pass rush which left a lane for that quarterback to throw it right there. So I mean, it kind of — you look at the coverage and you look at, okay, why did he have a clear lane to see that tailback. I wish there was somebody right in that gap to his right, right where he threw the football.
So there’s so many things — again, those are the details that we’re missing, and I forget even what the pass rush was. I’ve seen so many plays and have moved on to the next game here yesterday afternoon and today.
And then the other one was on a wheel route, right, which, guys, we see it all the time, and it was a boundary safety, kind of off the hash, a different guy, but we’ve seen it before. We call it superman, and it’s the lead back going out and someone coming across his face. He hung with that guy, and that guy got outside of him, but they’ve got to push it over and fit it. Our offense runs that play, and it’s just a detail.
Q. Dungey didn’t play against you guys two years ago, but can you maybe compare his progression as a sophomore or a younger player to what Kenny Pickett is doing in his sophomore year? What is holding Kenny back?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, again, game experience, game experience and having all the weapons there, doing all the right things and detailed out, as well. You look at the details, and he throws a ball, it’s a pretty good ball Saturday, and Maurice is running down the field waiting for it to be put here. Well, how about we turn around and go take it off that guy’s head that it bounced off of. It’s just making those plays, and we’ve got to go make plays and jump for the ball.
You would think you wouldn’t have to coach that; you hope he would just go get the ball and high point the ball, but it’s a little bit of everything. It’s protection number one, we’re going to have to protect him this weekend. But Kenny, again — asked the question, is he where you thought he’d be. That’s what I said; expectations coming off that Miami game a year ago, he’s still a young guy.
I’m happy with where Kenny is. I love that kid, and it’s a process. I think quarterback Pat Bostick (former Pitt QB and current radio analyst) can probably tell you about the process better than anybody. Right now the game is moving fast for him, okay, and I think once you start to get multiple games under your belt and feel those pressures and all those things that the game eventually, Pat Bostick, will slow down for him, and I think that’s what you’ve got to wait for.
I don’t know when that’s going to happen. But it’s not easy sitting back in that pocket. I wouldn’t want to be that dude back there. He’s got a lot of things — he puts a lot of stress on himself. The last thing he needs is for me to put stress on him. He’s doing a solid job. He’s got 10 other guys around him that got to do their job, too.
Q. Did you see the same thing from Dungey two years ago?
PAT NARDUZZI: A little bit. I don’t see that guy every day in practice. I see Kenny every day in practice. But yeah, there’s some times where he would bail and pull out of the pocket and run and then throw his head down and run somebody over. I’ve seen some of Kenny do that early in the year. We’ve kind of maybe got some of that fixed a little bit, and he’s wearing his knee brace, so yeah, I think it’s all young quarterbacks. I think it’s part of the process that you’re going to have to go through with a young quarterback, a young safety, a young corner, a young Mike linebacker, a young first-year left guard.
Q. Do you feel like Kenny is putting too much on his shoulders?
PAT NARDUZZI: He’s that type of guy. You know, it’s hard to measure that because he’s a guy — hey, Kenny, everything okay. Everything is great, Coach, everything is great. But I’m sure he does. I mean, who doesn’t. I do, too. It’s all — starts with me. I mean, he’s that type of guy that’s going to say, that’s my fault, I’ve got to do better. I should have done this. Those things pile up at times. But there’s guys around him that should be saying, Kenny, that’s my fault, I should have gone up and got the ball. That ain’t your fault, that’s my fault.
Even with Darrin Hall, that pick he throws, when he’s got Shocky wide open over here, if you watch it, he looks, that guy, I think he’s covered, then he looks over — I mean, he looks to Shocky, there’s not anybody within 20 yards of him on a — that same thing that they scored on, and then he decides to take it deep to go make a play. I need to spark something. Well, hey, just play within the framework of the defense, and that’s what young quarterbacks are going to do. I want to go throw it down there, but Darrin Hall can go get the ball, too. Go play defense now, it’s a little bit underthrown, come back and knock that ball out, and those are details.
Q. How much do you think the defensive struggles are actually affecting the offense, given you’ve got a young quarterback? Your running game is one of your strengths. When you get down in an early hole, how much does that sort of change the game plan?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I don’t know if it changes the game plan, but it changes minds, and I’ve always said this: Offense sits over here, the offense is going to feed off the defense, and the defense is going to feed off the offense. But when nobody is making a spark and making something happen, you start that game off, we defer, probably people are looking at us, and that was the right coin toss, too, by the way. People were probably going, holy cow.
But like I said, we felt comfortable with going out there and doing what we did, we felt good with the game plan, and we go three-and-out. Okay, now what do you like to do? Have that offense spark something and go. And then all of a sudden — but it just kind of goes back and forth, and when you’re out on that field for 91 plays — the defense did some nice things and then we did some just — just some — just not very intelligent stuff, and we’ve got smart guys, so that shouldn’t be a case. But the late hits on the quarterback — we got two interceptions that get called back for penalties. We got another hands — I don’t know if it was hands to face on one play or it was late hit on the quarterback on the backwards pass, which should be a scoop-and-score, but sometimes we’ve got to have a little bit of luck, too, and I think it’s all caved in on us with execution details, discipline, and maybe no luck at all, either, because there’s two balls on the ground that we don’t get, and sometimes that comes to getting balls and being lucky.
Q. What was different about UCF that made you want to come out and play so much nickel, and how do you evaluate how that went?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, I think it went good, to be honest with you. I think we gave up — we went back and forth with some nickel, with some base stuff, with putting that fifth DB in there. We go back to base, and they hit us on a seven route for a touchdown with no reroute because there’s so much RPO going on that that RPO is that run-pass conflict, and there was some misfits by the linebackers in there, and again, some good stuff they were doing — they do a good job, they know what they’re doing. They know what you’re in. They run so few formations really fast, so you’re kind of stuck in whatever you’re going to be in, and you can’t change up too much, and that’s the beauty of what they do offensively.
But there is no run-pass conflict when you put a nickel out on that guy that’s going to get the throw. So it’s putting — again, I think our guys did — Jason Pinnock had a heck of a football game out there, matching up on the inside slot receiver. Yeah, I think he played a heck of a game, and that’s kind of what we were waiting for from him. I know he was banged up earlier in the year, but he needed that. And then you watch him run down on special teams. That did some — that helped us. It didn’t hurt us.
But obviously we’re going to have to do some different things this week with the same stuff. So we’ll see, game plan wise, what we do, but we’ve just got to be better in some of the fits inside.
There’s a lot of carryover from our base to what you call a nickel package.
Q. You mentioned a couple times this season how you work on things in practice but you get hurt by the same things in games. Is it not so much scheme and preparation as it might be just personnel?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, it’s a little bit of both. I mean, sometimes there’s a mismatch somewhere where, wow, we’re not fast enough to cover that guy or take that guy out of the backfield, but it’s football. I mean, that’s what — I don’t care what stage it is. It’s football. Sometimes it’s scheme, sometimes it’s personnel, mismatches, and sometimes it’s coaching. We’ve got to — it’s our job as coaches to put our kids in position to make a play. And when you look at it, is it structurally, is it physical, is it mental, and there’s a little bit of everything, which there is in every game. I’ve graded offenses and defenses for years as far as what happened here. Okay, that’s a structural. They had to do something wrong, and we’ve got them all over the place, and it just takes one guy out of the 11 on the field at that time not to make the right block, and there was offensively some of those situations and defensively that same situation.
Q. Your first 10 losses you had came by 84 points. The past 10 have come by a combined 184 points. A stat like that, what do you feel like that says about the direction of this program?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, that’s — you can evaluate. I think the program is going in the right direction. That’s not my job. My job is to get ready for Syracuse. You can write what you want to write because I know you will, but you can’t look at the points. You look at the wins and losses. The points don’t matter. That’s all stats. Is it the offense not scoring enough, defense giving up big points? Is it who you played, as we’ve talked about earlier, whether it’s an Oklahoma State? Can’t worry about that. I worry about wins and losses, and we want more wins, and we want less losses, and we’ve got to work to get to that point.
Q. I know you haven’t faulted the guys’ effort on game day at all, but in terms of throughout the week when you talk about these routes that you guys covered and then something breaks down, are you getting the buy-in and the focus and the attention to the little details throughout the week that you need from these guys?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, it’s a matter of going out there in a game and doing it, but if you’re doing it on Tuesday and Wednesday in practice and Thursday, again, there’s busts, it’s not like we’re perfect in practice. That’s why you practice. If we were perfect in practice, we wouldn’t have to do it, but there’s things that happen at a high rate out there and a different look and a different guy getting that look, and every kid can’t get the physical rep on the field. Sometimes there’s the mental reps that you’ve got to see, oh, yeah, I saw that, I didn’t get that play, but Phil got it, Stocker didn’t get it, but you’ve just got to take mental reps. That’s why we have film sessions. There’s plenty of that.
Q. You guys played a ridiculous game against Syracuse two years ago. Last year at least defensively it was more like what you guys are used to. Do you feel like there was some sort of lesson learned or something you took from that game two years ago that you were able to have so much success against them defensively?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, again it goes back to sometimes it’s the Xs and Os and sometimes it’s the personnel. Two years ago, I’ll never forget that game for a long time. But we had a lot of missing pieces in the back end that day, and it was structurally and it was physical because of our lack of depth back there and the amount of plays, 126 plays that day, compared to 91 last weekend, because — and our offense scored every — they scored in one play and then we’re back out there, Gatorade to-go, there’s just so many factors. I hope we have that problem this weekend, scoring really fast. I think. I hope for that.
But when you look at those factors, with personnel, and then sometimes it’s us doing something different because of the personnel, so we’re playing off coverage, which we don’t really like to do, so I think it was a little bit of both.
Q. With Syracuse’s tempo and the quarterback, how similar is your preparation defensively compared to how it was last week?PAT NARDUZZI: The preparation is going to be almost exactly the same. The defenses are going to vary. We’re going to obviously do some things different. But the preparation — for our kids, I told them watching that tape, that side of the ball especially, that side is a little bit different as far as what they do defensively. They’re four down, a lot of cover three principles, but for the defensive side of the ball, them watching that tape is just kind of a make your corrections, learn from your mistakes and let’s fix them for Saturday. That’s really what it comes down to because they’re going to do some of the same things that Central Florida did, and then they’re going to make their adjustments, okay, they’re doing this, so there will be a lot of back and forth.
You know, for them, they’ve got to be excited that we played Central Florida the last game. For us, we’re saying, hey, at least it got us prepared for the tempo. Our guys know that’s not going to be a problem coming in. We’re going to be able to get lined up. You put on tape against Central Florida, and probably the most proud thing is our guys got lined up. There was not times — I told you that one substitution problem was ours, but our guys were lined up in position to make plays, and that’s half the battle is getting your home spot.
I could throw a tape on; you couldn’t tell what a front and coverage it is because Syracuse or Central Florida is going quick, and guys aren’t even lined up. I don’t know how you identify a front because there’s nobody lined up and people are just running to the other side, and the ball is being snapped. We didn’t have any of that. That’s a good thing. So our guys should be prepared for that.
Q. How is Taysir?
PAT NARDUZZI: Taysir is doing great. He’s a great kid. He’s doing great.
Q. What did you think of the call on Wirginis?
PAT NARDUZZI: I don’t know, I don’t get into officials or injuries, Mr. Controversy over there. I’ll leave you to do that. You guys do that job. That’s not me. I learned my lesson. See, I learn from my lessons. You ain’t getting me.