PITT (4-4, 3-1 ACC) vs. No. 23/22 VIRGINIA (6-2, 4-1 ACC)
November 2, 2018 • 7:30 p.m., ET
Scott Stadium (61,500/Prescription Athletic Turf) • Charlottesville, Va.
ESPN2 • Pitt IMG Sports Radio Network
PittsburghPanthers.com • @Pitt_FB
LINK (PDF): Pitt Game Notes (vs. Virginia)
- Another crucial Coastal Division encounter is in store for the Panthers when they play at Virginia Friday night. The game will have significant championship implications. The Cavs are atop the Coastal with a 4-1 ACC record, while Pitt and Virginia Tech are tied for second with 3-1 marks.
- No. 23/22 Virginia is riding a three-game winning streak, defeating North Carolina last week, 31-21, to gain bowl eligibility with a 6-2 mark. The Panthers evened their record at 4-4 following a 54-45 victory over Duke.
- Since 2013, the Panthers own a 4-1 series advantage over Virginia in ACC play. (Pitt leads the overall series, 7-3.) The Cavaliers’ last victory over Pitt was a 24-19 decision under the lights at Scott Stadium in 2014.
- Against Duke, the Panthers literally ran to victory, amassing 484 yards on the ground. The rushing total marked Pitt’s highest since the Tony Dorsett era when it had a record 530 vs. Army in 1975.
- Freshman V’Lique Carter was dazzling in his college debut last week against Duke. Carter ran for 137 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries, an incredible average of 19.6 per rush.
- With 795 total rushing yards this season, Qadree Ollison ranks third among ACC ball carriers. (His average of 99.4 yards per game also ranks third.) Ollison is striving to become only the sixth player in Pitt history to achieve multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
- Pitt is averaging 227.9 rushing yards per game to rank 22nd nationally and fourth among ACC teams. The Cavs are surrendering only 113.0 yards on the ground to rank 20th in the nation and fourth in the ACC.
- Only a sophomore, placekicker Alex Kessman has the most 50-yard field goals in Pitt history with five. Three of those kicks occurred this season, including a critical 54-yarder in last week’s Duke victory.
This is the 11th meeting between Pitt and Virginia in a series that dates back to 1953…Pitt leads the overall series, 7-3, and has won the last three encounters with the Cavaliers…the Panthers claimed a 31-14 decision at Heinz Field last year…Virginia’s last win in the series occurred in 2014 at Scott Stadium, 24-19…the Panthers lead the ACC series, 4-1…Pitt is 5-0 against the Cavaliers in Pittsburgh and 2-2 in Charlottesville…Virginia won the lone neutral site contest, a 23-16 decision in the 2003 Continental Tire Bowl, played in the Carolina Panthers’ Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, N.C.)…that postseason contest featured all-time great Pitt wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and UVA standouts Matt Schaub at quarterback and Heath Miller at tight end.
Television • ESPN2
Clay Matvick (play-by-play), Dan Orlovsky (analyst), Paul Carcaterra (reporter)
SiriusXM Satellite Radio
Sirius Channel 108, XM Channel 193, Internet Channel
And some more fodder for discussion…
Pat Narduzzi Press Conference
PAT NARDUZZI: It’s good to be here on a Monday as scheduled. A little different Monday for us. It’s really a Tuesday. We’re kind of obviously one day ahead and got done with a Tuesday practice this morning. We just got off the field just a little bit ago.
Had a great team win Saturday. I think any time you can get a win, doesn’t matter how it was, again, there’s obviously a lot of good things when you watch the tape on Saturday night or Sunday morning. A lot of great things to take from it. There’s a lot of things we need to get a lot better if we expect to continue to move on and win games in this league, win in the ACC.
Some of the things you look at when you watch the tape is some of the positives. We can always focus on the negatives. Our defense made some big stops at the end when they needed to. That big sack at the end with Chase Pine and Amir Watts getting it done. Stocker’s PBU. Great things there defensively that weren’t so good in the first and second. Our kids stuck together, finished that off.
Offensively and special teams-wise, special teams with Kessman coming back, going three for three again, we know how special that is. I heard yesterday he’s got three of the four longest field goals in college football right now for this season. I thought that was pretty special on his part.
I think he will continue to get stronger. He’s got to go prove he can do it on the road. That’s the challenge this week.
With five seconds to go, the biggest play of the game (the final kickoff), that’s not easy. You guys have seen those games where the ball gets tossed all over the place. The way Coach Powell and the kickoff squad executed what we call that, I won’t tell you what we call that, we’ve done that before against Clemson, had a lot of success at the end of a game. So just the details of what we did there.
They want to throw back, they can’t throw back. So I think our guys have really taken to that, understand what we’re doing.
Offensively, again, they’re explosive as they’ve been all year. 17 explosive runs and passes, rushing for 480 yards, plus-one in the turnover ratio. Offensively we don’t turn it over. We get one, make big plays when we need to make plays. I think that’s really what you take from the game Saturday.
We move on really quick, as fast as you’re going to move on to a 6-2 Virginia team that is playing really well. Put my first vote in for Bronco Mendenhall to be Coach of the Year in the ACC. Count me in. Number one, he’s a great guy. He’s a great coach. He’s done a great job really turning that program around.
Bryce Perkins is a guy that makes things go on offense. I think he’s rushed for 600 yards, thrown for 1600, 15 TDs. He gets it done. Zane Zandier, a local product, tough dude, physical football player, whether he starts at the Mike or they get their returner back, Jordan Mack, who has been out for a couple weeks.
They got Peace and Snowden on the edge. A 3-4 defense, so they create a lot of different problems with their different stuff. They’re a top 20 defense. Our offense will have to be consistent with what they did last week, try to do it again, go back-to-back, back-to-back playing really good. Our defense has to make a step up, try to stop an explosive offense and a confident offense.
You guys got any questions after I gave you all that?
Q. A lot of the attention was about the running game Saturday. That two-minute drill, is that something that can build confidence going forward?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I think so. We work two-minute a lot during camp. It’s hard to work it during the season because you’re working on different stuff, trying to service each other. We’ll do a two-minute tomorrow afternoon, try to build off of that with confidence, what we did there.
I think it builds everybody’s confidence, builds everybody. Builds the offensive coordinator’s confidence that you had success, we did it, we can do it again. I think it gives everybody confidence, not only in two-minute, but in other opportunities when we have to throw the ball on third down.
Q. You’ve played a lot of nickel against teams, Duke not till the third drive. What can you do better to stop the run in that formation?
PAT NARDUZZI: We get into it, we don’t really stop the run. It’s like, you know, here is what it is. We talked a lot today just about being consistent. We got a lot of players that are consistent. I told them after practice today, “Listen, come ask me if you want to know if you’re consistent. I’ll tell you if you’re 100% consistent, 75% consistent. I know exactly. I know where every one of you are. I can tell you where you are in the practice, I can tell you where you are in the game.”
If you’re inconsistent in practice, you’re going to be inconsistent in the game. If you’re consistent in practice — I can go name them, I won’t name them for you or for them. Won’t tell you who they are.
So not one guy asked me. So they probably know where they are and I guess they didn’t need to know. It comes down to consistency. I don’t think it came down to “Oh, Nickel, we can’t stop the run,” because we’ve proven we can stop the run in nickel or sub-personnel.
It’s a matter of being consistent and doing your job, okay? When you watch the tape, look at the negative part of it, it’s guys wanting to do somebody else’s job. The quarterback takes a play, you can go back and watch it, quarterback takes a zone play, fakes a jet sweep, regardless of who is reading, he runs it inside zone, rushes for 15 yards in nickel, okay? But we got two guys, a middle linebacker and nose tackle, that want to stop the jet sweep. Well, Mike linebacker and nose tackle have no business stopping the run there.
We lined them up right over the football, you might want to take care over the football. When you have guys that want to make a play, they’re hungry, God bless them, they want to make plays, but you have to do it within the framework of the defense. Run the same play next play, it’s a gain of one. There’s your consistency right there.
Whoever they are, it doesn’t matter, it’s just a matter of being consistent. If you’re consistent, you have a chance. If you’re not, you’re going to be like this (up and down). Depends what you want to be.
It’s not a matter of the defense, the structure. Sometimes it’s structure. We had one bust in the back end where it’s poor communication on a big screen pass, tailback down their sideline. It’s a total flat miscommunication where 10 guys are doing the right thing, one guy makes the wrong call to a corner, you have a big play.
There’s a lot of little things that need to be done better and consistently.
Q. How tough is it to make sure they stay within that framework?
PAT NARDUZZI: Some guys figure it out quicker than others. Some guys figure it out. The quicker they figure it out, the better it is. The guys who don’t figure it out will see less time. The nature of the beast.
But unfortunately we need two deep. You’d like to be able to rotate guys and keep them fresh because then you end up being in the tired mode of, “Coach, I was gassed, I couldn’t do it.” Then you have mental mistakes because of that.
Whatever it is, guys got to fix it. They can do it. It’s called laser focus. We have to have laser focus.
Q. Carter was a huge part of your win over the weekend. How do you plan to use him this weekend?
PAT NARDUZZI: I don’t know. We only get so many games with him. We got to pick and choose when it’s important to use him. I’m not going to obviously reveal whether we’re using him this weekend or not. We’ll find out.
But it just depends on the matchups, what we feel like we have. They’re a little different defense with the 3-4, Peace hanging off the edge doesn’t make it easy to do much. It will be a matchup. Every week it will be a matchup as we go.
Q. Does Carter work with the wide receivers or running backs?
PAT NARDUZZI: He works with the wide receivers, sometimes the running backs, sometimes the DBs. Haven’t put him at linebacker yet, but probably will put him there, too.
Q. Doing their own job, is that always a problem with college football players to focus like that?
PAT NARDUZZI: Focus is hard. These kids lose focus for whatever reason. Obviously Saturday was not an easy day to focus on football, I don’t think, for a lot of people. When you get out there, who knows what they’re thinking about before, all that stuff. Rough day, rough week. That’s no excuse. One side has focus, one side doesn’t.
But different guys want to make plays. They want [sportswriter] Jerry [DiPaola] to frickin’ write about them in the newspaper. Twitter: Look what he did, look what he did. They want to go make plays. Like I said, it’s a good thing they want to make plays.
You got to wait for your opportunity, do your job. I think that’s why they’re anxious to get more favorites on Twitter, liked more if they make a play. It’s not always good. Coaches don’t like them when they do that.
Un-follow a couple guys maybe (smiling).
Q. The new redshirt rule that allows you to play four games. How difficult is it to keep younger guys who aren’t playing much, keep their head in the game and stay engaged even if they aren’t playing this time of year?
PAT NARDUZZI: It’s not easy. It’s not easy at all. I think it gets harder every year, to be honest with you. Everybody wants instant gratification. I think kids think they’re entitled because of who they are to be able to be there and do that. They’ve never been that guy that hasn’t played much, whoever it is, whether they’re getting four games.
We have another guy come out this week, have another guy that might play that you haven’t seen before. I guarantee you, they’re going to see another guy that hasn’t played this week, a little special. You haven’t seen his jersey out there at all. You guys got to figure out who it is, like Waldo.
So it’s not easy, really isn’t. Like I said, it gets harder because they have people in their ears asking “How come [you aren’t playing]?” It ain’t easy. It’s a hard thing and you better have focus to get it done.
Q. With V’Lique Carter, how much of a priority is there for preserving the redshirt for him or is there a situation that if he keeps doing well on Saturday that just doesn’t come?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I guess you maybe wait, not this week, but the week after, kind of see where you are, see what you’re doing. Certainly when you watch him play, maybe could have played since game one, you’d like to preserve it if you could. I think we got other good players that can make plays happen.
Was he lucky? Is he good? I don’t know. Maybe he just got lucky that day. I don’t know. Maybe just set up perfectly for him. I think some other guys can do the same thing.
You’d like to preserve it because I think I’d like to see him play 12 or 13 or 14 games next year.
Q. Kenny Pickett ran more against Duke than he has in any game this year. Was that part of the game plan from the beginning or more of what Duke’s defense was showing you? Will it still be a bigger part of the game plan going forward?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think as you get near the end of the season, you start to do some different things. Certainly ACC games are more important. Certainly you don’t want to get your quarterback smashed. Bryce Perkins does a nice job. They’ve done a nice job coaching that guy, rushing for 600 yards.
As you watch him, he’s going to get down. He doesn’t take hits, which is really smart on their part. That’s why they’ve been able to keep him healthy, keep him on the field, because they’re a different team when he’s on the field compared to when he wouldn’t be on the field.
We obviously want Kenny in the game. As you get closer to the end, you start to maybe take a little more risks. Obviously he wants the ball. Sometimes it’s what they’re giving you, sometimes it’s what we’re going to take. Sometimes you read it, sometimes you don’t.
It will be based on the situation, based on what they’re playing defensively, what we want to do offensively.
Q. Did the absence of Keyshon Camp in the middle of your defense have a detrimental impact on your efforts to defend Duke?
PAT NARDUZZI: I’m glad you mentioned that. I was going to tell you anyway. Obviously Keyshon is out for the season. I meant to mention it to you. You guys ask all the questions. Thanks for bringing it up.
Keyshon suffered an injury against Notre Dame. We’re hoping he’d come through, but he wasn’t able to go. He’ll probably be out for the season I’d imagine. That’s usually the only time I’m telling you anything.
Jerry’s eyes are so big like he got some juice (smiling).
That did affect it a lot. He’s penetrator, he causes havoc in the backfield. That didn’t help us at all. As a matter of fact, you might see two new guys [playing] this week. I said one, you might see two.
PAT NARDUZZI: Upper body deal.
Q. You mentioned Zandier. How much did you recruit him out of high school? Are you surprised all the success he’s having?
PAT NARDUZZI: No, not really. Came down to really needs. We took two athletic guys like him that kind of committed before he did. We really liked him. We wanted to see him in camp.
He’s a good football player. I mean, you really love his toughness. He’s really smart. You can tell he’s a smart football player. He’ll play the weak side linebacker when Jordan went out. He moved to the Mike. He’s obviously really intelligent, which is sometimes something you can’t tell when you recruit them.
Bronco got a great player in him. Now we got to play against him for the next few years. But he’s a good football player. We did recruit him pretty heavily, obviously with the connection over there.
Q. Virginia came in with a similar record last year.
PAT NARDUZZI: They did?
Q. 5-2 last year.
PAT NARDUZZI: I didn’t know that.
Q. What would you say is the big difference between last year’s Virginia team and this year’s?
PAT NARDUZZI: They’re able to run the football. The quarterback is a runner compared to last year, he was a thrower. Another year that Bronco has been able to develop him.
I believe they’re a tough football team. You watch their offensive line, defensive line, they’re tough. They’re stopping the run, they’re active, flying around, playing with a lot of confidence, and they’re physical.
They’re playing with a lot of emotion. We’re going to have to match that emotion down in Charlottesville this weekend. They play with emotion. I think that’s all a big, big part of it. You can’t measure the emotion they’ve got.
Q. Is the emotion something that Bronco brought there?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think so. I’ve never coached with him, but I’m guessing it’s something that he’s brought to their football team. I think they’re taking on that personality.
I don’t know how emotional Bronco gets. I don’t know that part of him. He doesn’t jump up and down. Kind of a laid-back dude in meetings when you get to spend a lot of time with him. He likes to go surf. He’s a good man.
Q. The weekly tradition of asking you a question you don’t like. Three votes in the coach’s poll this week. Coaching buddies who voted for you?
PAT NARDUZZI: No, I don’t care.
Q. Was it you? Was it E.J.?
PAT NARDUZZI: No, I guarantee you that. First of all, I do it myself. Those will be all — they get published later on, right? You’ll never see that I voted for myself, guaranteed.
Q. Other coaches probably don’t talk about it at all.
PAT NARDUZZI: To be honest with you, kids didn’t say a word. I didn’t know. Coaches didn’t talk about it. E.J. didn’t tell me. Thanks, E.J.
What does it matter, we got three points, congratulations? What does Alabama have, like 2,000? Doesn’t matter. Just worry about what we can control: Virginia Friday night.
End like that? Somebody give me a good question before we leave.
Q. Does a dual threat quarterback stress the defense and change what you have to try to do?
PAT NARDUZZI: It changes a bunch. Even last week with Jones, him eating away at 5 yards, 10 yards… The one time we wanted to play the jet sweep, he’s rushing for 10, 15. It’s defending.
It’s crazy. The officials did a nice job Saturday. We’re on the sideline, “Hey, coach, can I do anything for you?” I won’t mention his name.
I said, “Yeah, you can get me a stop here.”
He said, “Coach, nobody plays defense any more.”
Golly, that’s the attitude. It’s hard to play, defend 11. They got 11, you got 11. Used to like those big, stiff quarterbacks who used to line up under the center, drop back, that’s all you got. A different deal. We can defend it a heck of a lot better than what we did. That’s for sure.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports