PITT (3-4, 2-1 ACC) vs. DUKE (5-2, 1-2 ACC)

October 27, 2018 • 3:30 p.m., ET

Heinz Field (68,400/Natural Grass) • Pittsburgh, Pa.

RSN (AT&T SportsNet) • Pitt IMG Sports Radio Network

PittsburghPanthers.com • @Pitt_FB

LINK (PDF): Pitt Game Notes (vs. Duke)


  • Pitt opens the final stretch of the 2018 season by hosting Duke for a crucial ACC Coastal Division encounter. The Panthers are 2-1 in ACC play and looking to keep pace with Virginia Tech, which enters the week atop the Coastal at 3-0. Pitt finishes the season with five consecutive ACC games.
  • Duke also remains a viable contender in the Coastal race despite last week’s 28-14 setback to Virginia. The Blue Devils are 5-2 overall and 1-2 in ACC play. Duke has gone bowling five of the past six years under David Cutcliffe.
  • Since 2013, the Panthers own a 4-1 series advantage over Duke in ACC play. (Pitt leads the overall series, 13-9.) Three of the five ACC games have been decided by single digits, including Pitt’s 24-17 victory in Durham last year.
  • The Blue Devils’ last win in the series occurred in 2014, a 51-48 double-overtime triumph at Heinz Field that came despite a 263-yard rushing day by the Panthers’ James Conner.
  • With 646 total rushing yards this season, Qadree Ollison ranks third among ACC ball carriers. (His average of 92.3 yards per game ranks second.) Ollison is striving to become only the sixth player in Pitt history to achieve multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
  • The Panthers boast one of college football’s most dangerous return men in junior Maurice Ffrench. Named a “Midseason All-American” by multiple outlets, Ffrench is tied for the national lead with two kickoff return touchdowns.
  • Maurice Ffrench also ranks second nationally (first in the ACC) with a 33.8-yard kickoff return average. Duke is yielding just 17.82 yards per kickoff return, the third lowest in the ACC.
  • During the Pat Narduzzi era (since 2015), Pitt ranks second nationally and first among ACC teams in total kick return touchdowns with 12 (seven on kickoffs and five via punt).


This is the 23rd meeting between Pitt and Duke in a series that dates back to 1929…it is also the sixth Atlantic Coast Conference matchup between the two schools…Pitt and Duke meet annually as members of the ACC’s Coastal Division…the Panthers lead the overall series, 13-9, and have won seven of the past eight meetings…Pitt leads the ACC series, 4-1, and triumphed at Wallace Wade Stadium last year, 24-17…in the last game played in Pittsburgh (2016), the Panthers rolled, 56-14…Pat Narduzzi is undefeated in three games against Duke…in addition to the 2016 and ’17 contests, Pitt also defeated the host Blue Devils, 31-13, in 2015, Narduzzi’s initial year as head coach…Duke’s last victory over Pitt occurred in 2014, a 51-48 decision in double overtime at Heinz Field…the 2014 game snapped a four-game series losing streak for Duke and marked its first win over Pitt since 1966…there have been some milestone moments in the Pitt-Duke series…on Sept. 29, 1951, Duke defeated Pitt, 19-14, in the first live nationwide telecast of a sporting event…NBC was responsible for the landmark broadcast…the inaugural game of the series was on Oct. 5, 1929, when Pitt defeated host Duke, 52-7, in the first game ever played at “Duke Outdoor Stadium,” later renamed Wallace Wade Stadium…the 1937 and 1938 games featured two of the nation’s very best teams and a pair of legendary coaches in Pitt’s Jock Sutherland and Duke’s Wallace Wade…on Nov. 27, 1937, the No.1-ranked Panthers defeated the No. 18 Blue Devils, 10-0…Pitt would finish 9-0-1 to claim the national title (Duke finished 7-2-1)…on Nov. 26, 1938, the No. 3 Blue Devils blanked the No. 4 Panthers, 7-0, in what would be Sutherland’s final game as Pitt’s coach…Duke finished the 1938 regular season unbeaten (9-0), untied and unscored upon, but lost to Southern California in the Rose Bowl, 7-3…Pitt, which did not go to a bowl, finished 8-2.


Television • RSN (AT&T SportsNet in Pittsburgh)

Wes Durham (play-by-play), James Bates (analyst), Rebecca Kaple (reporter)

Pitt Radio • 93.7 The Fan & the Pitt IMG Sports Network

Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play), Pat Bostick (analyst), Larry Richert (reporter)

SiriusXM Satellite Radio

Sirius Channel 98, XM Channel 193, Internet Channel 955

WPTS Radio (Pitt Student Station) • 92.1 FM

Pitt IMG Sports Network Online Audio Options


Pitt Panthers Gameday App

TuneIn (free live and on-demand content)

27 thoughts on “Duke Week Game Notes 2018

  1. Feeling good about this game…ouija board said so.
    Hope to see some of yinz at the tailgate.


  2. October 22, 2018

    Pat Narduzzi Press Conference

    Duke Week



    PAT NARDUZZI: After a week of absence, we had a nice open week last week. A good time just for the players to get fresh, get in the weight room, get their body back together. Opportunity for our coaches to evaluate really what we’re doing well, what we need work on, where do we make improvements. I won’t really get into that. You guys probably know before me. Just things we need to improve on in the open week.

    You have a little extra time to prepare for a really good Duke football team that’s coming in here Saturday 3:30. Had a tough loss at home against Virginia, another good football team in the Coastal Division, which every year is a battle.

    With that I’ll open it up for the questions.

    Q. Genesis of the punt play you used. Is that something you had seen other teams do in the past before?

    PAT NARDUZZI: Changing of numbers. Just getting similar numbers. If we ran Kenny Pickett, maybe they would know it was a fake. Similar number that most people don’t check that. We thought we had a good play. We didn’t execute like we needed to. Obviously we did a poor job as coaches making sure we got it done the right way. Goes on us.

    Q. Where did that come from? Had you come across it before in your career, filed it away?

    PAT NARDUZZI: It’s very similar to what we did against Syracuse to win the game up in Syracuse a couple years ago, 2015. A similar play that was executed properly. You saw it Saturday where you take chances. Would have been nice to get a first down there and keep the sticks moving.

    The part that really disappoints you, it was a run-pass option. He should have just punted the ball down the field. Whatever. That’s our fault as coaches. We didn’t coach that good enough. If he’s not doing it, it’s because we didn’t make him do it, so…

    Should have been a punt anyway. Nothing was open, punt it.

    Q. You have faced a lot of good quarterbacks this year. What is it about Jones that maybe has garnered him that next-level buzz?

    PAT NARDUZZI: I think what makes him maybe a top 10 pick, all those things, is he is 6’5″. He has Dave (Cutcliffe) as his quarterback coach. Got a gun arm. He can also move in the pocket. He’s elusive. Not as elusive as some guys we faced this year. Has the ability to make you miss in the pocket.

    He’s a big pro-style quarterback. Not a lot of them out there. A lot of 6’2″ guys that can run and throw. He’s a pro-type quarterback. With the quarterbacks that Coach Cutcliffe has mentored through the years, I think people trust his word, the coaching he’s getting there.

    He’s a dang good quarterback.

    Q. With the tight end position, did you consider Carson Van Lynn playing tackle or are you moving him to tight end?

    PAT NARDUZZI: We’ll find out. Only time will tell. We’ll just see how he does. He’s a big, athletic guy that is really a backup left tackle. We’re just trying to get our best 11 players on the field. Carson becomes one of those best 11 at times based on personnel groupings, what we want to do based on down and distance and field position.

    Q. Has he run routes for you guys?

    PAT NARDUZZI: Yes. He can catch. A good athlete.

    Q. Reverse Brian O’Neill?

    PAT NARDUZZI: Reverse Brian O’Neill. Grant Carrigan had a nice game as well. If they had a bag over their heads, you don’t know who is who. Both same size, run well, athletic, can play tight end, both can play offensive tackle.

    Q. Who would be your backup quarterback right now?

    PAT NARDUZZI: Right now it would be Jeff George I believe, yeah. Right now Jeff would be the guy. We know we have confidence in Ricky, as well. Jeff has come in and really picked stuff up well, so…

    Q. You look at the Coastal Division standings, is that something you can point to your team? We’re right there, 2-1, a lot of teams in that same mix?

    PAT NARDUZZI: I think it is. That’s kind of what you want to do, take one game at a time in the ACC. We have five to go. A lot to look forward to. We can’t look too far ahead.

    Really the standings mean nothing. The only thing that matters is what we do this weekend against Duke. After a week, if you don’t get your job done, standings don’t mean as much.

    All the focus is on Duke, what can we do to beat them on Saturday. Yeah, it is a positive. You can look at it and say, doesn’t matter what happened at Notre Dame, UCF. Still have your goals in front of you. I don’t think anybody is blind to that.

    Q. The open week, any specific area of shortcomings that became a point of emphasis?

    PAT NARDUZZI: Obviously you’re going to find stuff offensively, defensively, even special teams, fake punt execution, coaching. But there’s going to be something on offense and defense. Not going to get into the details of that. There’s always stuff you have time to look at and self-evaluate what we’re doing as a football team, coaching staff, how can we make things better.

    Q. Generally when you look at why the passing game hasn’t really gotten on track, is there any concern that you maybe have been too conservative?

    PAT NARDUZZI: Sometimes. I mean, there’s no doubt about it. Like I said, it’s player, it’s coaches. We’ve talked about that, as well, about putting up — last week or two weeks ago, Maurice Ffrench got chased, goes down the field, attracts a PI. We don’t even get those because we don’t take those, you know, very conservative.

    But it’s also what you do, what Kenny feels comfortable doing, too. It’s a little bit of everything, period. It’s 11 guys out there. It’s protection, feeling comfortable, who is in the game at receiver, are they making plays, are they open, on time. It’s a lot.

    Q. Kenny has talked about that he welcomes the pressure. When the passing isn’t as efficient as you want it to be, how do you walk the line about not having him feel like the whole world is coming down on his shoulders?

    PAT NARDUZZI: I mean, what is he going to tell you, he doesn’t welcome pressure? We all welcome pressure. You want to get your job done.

    But first thing is we’re going to stand on the run. That’s what we do well right now. We’re going to run the football and set the pass up with the run. That’s Pittsburgh to begin with. That’s tough football. We certainly have to throw the ball better than we are, period.

    Q. Seems like Aaron Matthews has played pretty well the last two games. What do you feel like has been the difference maker, separating himself from the other guys?

    PAT NARDUZZI: First of all, it’s opportunity. Probably at the point five or six weeks ago where he was all disappointed. I just said, Keep fighting, keep fighting. Taysir Mack was in at that time. I’m not sure when he’ll be back. Really an opportunity to go out there.

    He’s practiced better. I look at guys that want to play. You better practice better. He’s practiced better. It’s translated onto the football field. I’m happy for Aaron. He’s had some opportunities, made some catches, too. But he can still get better.

    Q. Where does Tre Tipton stand?
    PAT NARDUZZI: Again, if you practice better, you play better, you get opportunities. Tre is a guy that’s going to get opportunities. He’s done some good things. He’s got to make more plays for us. He’s a guy that’s got the ability to make plays. We need to get him out there, period.

    Q. Knee not an issue any longer?
    PAT NARDUZZI: I don’t know. Is it? I don’t know. C’mon. (Smiles)

    Q. You faced a lot of mobile quarterbacks this year. Jones is more of a 6’5″, stand in the pocket passer. What challenges does he bring to the defense?

    PAT NARDUZZI: He can also scramble and throw it as well. He’ll scramble for a first. Out only two weeks with a broken collarbone. Tough guy. A drop-back guy that can run for the ball.

    We have to be good at disguising coverages, getting re-routes on people. He’s going to throw RPOs as well. He does everything well as far as getting guys the ball. He can deliver it a bunch of different ways.

    Q. You want to try to get the tight end position more involved. Grant, Carson, different types of players than Will Gragg. In the off week have you looked at that position?

    PAT NARDUZZI: I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe we did. Maybe we didn’t. I wish I could tell you, but I’m not. (Smiles)

    Q. I had a chance to talk to Dennis Briggs at length. Coaching a married player, do coaches like having guys with that maturity going on there?

    PAT NARDUZZI: Does anybody get married any more? I mean, Dennis is a special kid. He’s a loyal guy. Nothing is different about coaching a married player. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty nice. You don’t have to worry about them going out at night, worry about what he’s doing on Thursday or Friday night.

    He’s a different kid. He’s special. He’s become a better leader through really the last two years. He’s a captain. I think, you know, having a steady wife, steady girlfriend, can benefit some guys. Maybe it can hurt some guys. I think it’s to each his own.

    Q. He mentioned that he didn’t have the year last year he wanted to have on the field. What is it about his personality?

    PAT NARDUZZI: Just the way he presents himself. I think guys respect him for who he is, how he acts off the field. Dennis Briggs, when you look at the player he was a year ago and now, it’s night and day really. He is a much, much better football player. Even though he was a leader a year ago, he’s a much better football player right now than he was a year ago. He’s making a lot of plays. Playing with confidence. I’m happy for what he’s doing.

    Q. In what ways is he better?

    PAT NARDUZZI: He’s a better tackler, cover guy, where he needs to be faster. Just everything really. He’s playing at a high level right now, I think. Better than he ever has.

    Q. How did the linebackers respond to the loss of Quintin Wirginis, especially Elias Reynolds?

    PAT NARDUZZI: I think Elias did okay. You lose one guy in the middle, he’s the heart of the defense really. He gets everything controlled. Elias did some nice things in there as far as getting everybody lined up. He’s pretty cool. He wasn’t in a panic, being the first start of his career.

    Again, Seun is another guy. You have Zeise as well. Two older guys out there with him that can help make sure things are right. I think Reynolds did a good job.

    Q. How has Kessman responded to going from hero against Syracuse to missing two field goals at Notre Dame?

    PAT NARDUZZI: That’s how the game of football is. That’s the game of life. It’s the game of life for everybody in this room really. One week you’re the hero, you can’t do anything wrong. The next week things just don’t go your way. Every week someone wins and somebody loses.

    My mom always reminds me of that. Hey, half the teams win and half lose every week. Wow, you’re right. Someone is going to miss a field goal, someone is going to make one.

    I think he’ll respond, but we’ll find out Saturday. That’s when you’re really going to find out. If he puts the first one up through, just one of those days.

    Maybe again he didn’t handle success very well. I don’t know. Everybody patting him on the back from the week before hurt him. Those are only things he knows inside what happened. I think he’s a tough kid. I trust he will respond the right way, the way we want him to respond.

    Q. Generally speaking, not specifics, what did you find out about your team this week that you didn’t like?

    PAT NARDUZZI: I didn’t find anything I don’t like. I like this football team. I like how they work. We went out and had two great practices last week, went a lot of good-on-good. Did some two-minute against each other, team periods, inside against each other, just becoming a better football team fundamentally. We just figured it was a good time. It was physical, too.

    The thing I like is they’re resilient, they’re going to come play, period. They love the game of football. They love what they’re doing every day, coming to the office, playing ball. That’s the thing you love about them, they’re going to come out every day and give you everything they’ve got. They do. I don’t dislike anything.

    Q. Have you ever not liked something about your team?

    PAT NARDUZZI: Sometimes. Not here, though.

    Q. Last Tuesday was the first day the new transfer rules kicked in. As coaches, have you looked at that thing one way or another?

    PAT NARDUZZI: Not really. It’s not the time to be looking for transfers. I think it is what it is. It’s something that after the season, if you have a need, you’re going to look at it. I mean, it’s almost too much from what I hear from the recruiting office. It’s already probably three pages by now. I think people are using it in the wrong way. That’s what they got to do.

    Q. What do you mean ‘the wrong way’?

    PAT NARDUZZI: There’s some guys that have redshirted the year before. When you look at things that are happening, they’ve already redshirted. They play four games. Think you can do it again. You’re not going to get the year back.

    If you already redshirted, just continue to play the rest of the season. What are you doing? That’s the way I look at it. Play the season. You never know what happens game five, six, seven, eight, 10, 12, bowl game.

    Q. You face the team right behind you in the standings this week, and then you have upcoming the three teams in front of you. Do you emphasize that at all, you control your own destiny?

    PAT NARDUZZI: I don’t think I have to emphasize that. They all have cell phones, look at the standings, I’m sure, besides other things on Twitter, the Internet. They understand where they are. I don’t have to emphasize it.

    I think they understand it is one at a time. Next three are here. Doesn’t matter. Only one that matters is Duke. The games get bigger if you win them. If you don’t win them, they get smaller. Got to make them bigger.

    Q. Why has the Coastal race annually been so wide open?

    PAT NARDUZZI: When you look at the other division, you have Clemson there. They’ve been the ‘Big Daddy’ of the Atlantic Division. Coastal has a lot of great football teams. Anybody can win every week. That’s the difference there.

    There’s not one team in the Coastal that’s going to defend another one and say that’s an easy win. There’s a dominant team over on the other side of the division. In our division, it’s a lot of great football teams that you are going to win by three or lose by three. Come down to the wire.

    I think every game the rest of the way is going to come down to the wire, it’s going to be a four-quarter focus football game. Got to be disciplined to get it done.

    Q. How would you feel if the roles were reversed and you had a game this week after a team that had a bye?

    PAT NARDUZZI: That happens all the time. Other teams have byes. I know it happened earlier in the year where somebody had an open week prior to us. I don’t know who it was.

    Q. Carolina.

    PAT NARDUZZI: UNC had the hurricane, open week. You get healthy. I don’t know if it matters.

    Q. Is it an advantage for you?

    PAT NARDUZZI: If we win, I’ll say yes. If we lose, it was a disadvantage. I mean, you don’t know. It’s hard to say.

    Q. Coaches don’t think about that kind of stuff?

    PAT NARDUZZI: You like to guess on these things. I wish I could tell you there’s a stat. I don’t think there’s a stat. Sometimes people feel you have an open week, you lose your rhythm. You’re back to the first game of the season.

    I think it’s just another game. I try not to look at it as anything different than a chance to get fresh, evaluate what you’re doing, start to look into your fundamentals a little bit more because you have more time to do that, this week lock in the game plan.

    Q. Back in the day there weren’t any open weeks, were there?

    PAT NARDUZZI: I think there was, yeah. I don’t remember. That’s a long time ago.


  3. Sounds weird but this is probably the most important game of the season. A loss means we are truly Same Old Pitt and we’ll probably finish just where Reed predicts at 5-7, maybe even 4-8. A win means we have grown as a team during the season and we can at least hold our own against a decent spread offense and against decent ACC Atlantic Division play. This gives us a shot at 6-7 wins for the regular season and some semblance of respectability. Yes I know, we should be talking about 8-9 win regular seasons as the norm, and with the right scheduling that can be our reality. But hey we just aren’t there yet. #Sadbuttrue #H2P


  4. Still seeing if I qualify for membership. If Pitt’s offense is bad in the first half, I think KP is benched in the third quarter for George. At least for a series or two.


  5. It will be extremely interesting to see if HCPN actually makes some adjustments in his schemes after the bye week. Obviously can’t change everything but some new wrinkles would show me something positive about the coaching staff.



  6. Still in Pitt’s bag of tricks? Pass from Boyd to Peterman for a score several years ago from a wildcat or end around type formation? How about the successful two-point PAT conversion by the kicker or the holder against maybe Clemson? Hope those are real memories and not wishful dreams of a hazy past.


  7. The coaches were on the road recruiting most of last week. I think we will see exactly what we have seen the first 7 weeks. And from what I saw last week in the Duke Va game Pitt will be facing a very good QB this week. I’d give the points and take Duke if your betting.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Jeff George II moving up is an interesting development. Since he does have some experience, it is possible he plays if KP falters. As was said this is a must win game but so was UNC. Hopefully the line gives KP a little more time and we see more completions. It does sound like Mack is still out so that doesn’t help. Since Duke is good against the run going to need more completions. However, I don’t think they should give up on the run to soon, keep pounding it up the middle until they break.


  9. Pitt will have to PASS to win this one. If Pickett comes out struggling again, why not let George take some snaps?

    Let’s find out what the REAL problem is… Watson, O-Line, Receivers or maybe just “Mr. Sophomore Football Player who THINKS the Press and Pitt Fans have NO BUSINESS second guessing the Head Coach.”

    In any case… No College Quarterback should ever have a stranglehold on a Starting Job.


  10. Does anyone know if it is illegal to pull the old switch of jersey numbers. Yesterday on The Fan they were saying Notre Dame could have protested the game if Pitt would have ended up winning.


  11. I’m of the belief that you just can’t bench Pickett.. and definitely not at this point. Unfortunately, QB is different than any other position. You’re asking your offense, in some cases your entire team, to follow a leader. When the team senses any lack of confidence from the coaching staff toward the QB, it really limits his chances to come back and be effective in the future– especially after starting the last 8 games.

    Additionally, kids these days rarely fight through adversity and we could face Pickett transferring after the season if he’s benched. At some schools that wouldn’t be an issue but Narduzzi hasn’t recruited QB’s much better than Wannstedt. (Reed has already covered the Peterman transfer issue as not being a “recruit” so let’s not do THAT again.) We’d be looking at George, Town or Patti as the starter next year.. Uggh!


  12. I agree with you Jay91. THe problem isn’t KP, it’s the lack of time in the pocket and the lack of counter tactics by Watson, like quick throws and screen passes, to try to compensate…

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I must have screwed up somewhere, because every time I try to comment I have to go thru about seven screens and go back and get an email message go-ahead from WordPress. I will probably be reading but not doing much commenting.

    I guess I’m too old for this newfangled stuff…

    Go Pitt.


  14. Narduzzi still has an attitude in his pressers. Can’t stand the snarky responses to media who are just trying to do their jobs.


  15. Love all the Gravatars. Funny how the word Gravatar comes up misspelled.

    Special guest at Frans tailgate this weekend. From North Carolina and it’s not Bernie but brought to you by the BigB or rather sent by…..


  16. Just testing I am now soccergramps a change from dirtyrich because someone on word press already has that name. Everything seems to be working now. Have any of you been having trouble with aol today? I did for several hours and aol said they were having a problem.


  17. I heard a rumor that tower assignments had a direct correlation to gpa? LOL with Upitt!! How you doin brother? We should connect soon.

    As they say in law school. Those that got the A’s were hired as researchers at the big firms and burn out. The B’s get to be the judges and the C’s make the money!!


  18. PITT was a 2 point underdog for Saturday as of a couple of days ago. Has anyone heard of any change in the line recently ?


  19. If there is a change to the line, I hope it is to our offensive line.

    Last I read it was 2.5 points so the trend is going in Dukes favor as the week grows longer if the original line was only 2 points.

    Maybe our defense scores one this week. Sloppy track and sloppy ball handling may lead to a good break.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.