Another week, another loss that can be chalked up to mistake filled play and an impotent offense. Call me pessimistic but I don’t think #3 Notre Dame is going to be the tonic that Pat Narduzzi’s team needs. Here’s the text of his Monday presser, and of course what he really meant to say.
PAT NARDUZZI: Obviously another tough weekend. Game of football, my dad always said half the teams win and half the teams lose every weekend. Always have to keep that perspective.
And look, we are now three and three so the math kind of works out, right?
Our kids are obviously looking forward to a great Notre Dame team this week. We didn’t play as well as we would have liked to play on the road against a really good Miami football team. There’s no doubt about their athleticism, size, obviously the way they’re coached.
But there is a lot of doubt about ours…
We made some mistakes in really all phases for that matter, things that hurt you as the game goes on. I really don’t feel any different from what I felt like on game day. A couple calls, obviously questionable, as far as penalties, those discipline things that drive you nuts as a coach.
I mean, there is only so much I can do as the leader of this football team around the discipline. Right?
We’ve got to do a better job coaching them. Disappointing things coaching-wise, just things we know how to do. It’s more preparation for what you might see, not necessarily what you saw on tape. Sometimes you fall into that loophole, this is what they do. When they do something different…
Yes I’ll admit that Miami had a better gameplan.
We’ve got to know some of the weaknesses we have, especially when you’re playing with a young guy out there. Voss (SirVocea Dennis) being a new starter, saw some things really I don’t think we practiced enough or emphasized enough. That’s on us as coaches when things like that happen.
Not blaming injuries, not blaming injuries. But hey, I’d like to blame some of the injuries.
Start off defensively Saturday, again solid performance. Three of Miami’s four touchdowns were 45 yards or less. We gave up some of those pop passes to their tight ends up through the middle, which we work enough. Really ran four of them. You guys don’t notice that we stopped one of them. Cam Bright did a nice job when he was in there. Cam wasn’t in there enough because he’s still a little bit banged up. Hopefully 100% this week. He does it the way you’re supposed to, a veteran guy.
And look, who am I kidding, we haven’t been able to stop the Tight End down the seam since Spring Ball.
Voss is maybe one of the smartest linebackers we have. I know that will never happen to him again. We had one come through the line of scrimmage. Seven or eight yards down the field on the second touchdown that was disappointing to see. RPO style.
Actually the school of hard knocks is my preferred coaching style.
Offensively Joey (Yellen), heck of a first start for him. Didn’t know what you were going to get out of him. Happy with the way he performed overall. Obviously the fumble creates one of those short fields for our defense. Another one was on a fake punt that obviously I called. We thought we had a good thing going as far as that fake goes. Just don’t clean up a block, which I think we can get 10 yards. You’re taking a risk any time you do that. We took the risk, thought it was worth it. We came up short.
I mean, I think in a lot of ways blocking on special teams is a lot like blocking on offense. We kind of practice it, kind of emphasize and and on game day I just kinda close my eyes and hope that they can do it.
I don’t look back and say anything. I don’t question the call at all. I want to be aggressive. I want to give our kids chances to make plays. You find out if they’re going to make them or not, then you move on.
Speaking of school of hard knocks. Don’t look for me to call any more fake punts this year.
Offensively we’ve got to run the football. Twenty-two yards, disappointing there. There’s some details that we haven’t cleaned up. I don’t think our O-line did a great job of blocking them. Give those guys credit on the other side of the ball. They’re an athletic crew that did some things up front.
And by details, I mean fundamentals, like firing out low, knowing your assignment and getting a hat on a hat. Leverage. You know, basic stuff.
Special teams, our kicking game for the most part has been as good as it’s been in the last several years, in my opinion. Punt team, Kess (Alex Kessman) is continually kicking them in the end zone. Four for four (on field goals), we have to turn two of them into touchdowns instead of kicking them.
What I mean to say is that at this rate Kirk is going to be our offensive MVP.
We face a great Notre Dame team, No. 3 in the country, coming into our house, coming to Pittsburgh. We know it’s always been a good game, a game our kids will look forward to. Their talent across the board, offensively, defensively, haven’t watched a lot of special teams at this point. They are big, strong, physical. A typical Notre Dame football team.
Because, as you probably figured out in my comments about the fake punt, I don’t actually care about special teams.
They base offensively out of two tight ends. They’re going to put their two tight ends, Tremble kid, a physical, great blocker, their starter. They got three tight ends that do a lot of work in there. Obviously run by Ian Book. Tommy Rees, former quarterback I faced several times in the past, is their offensive coordinator. Has really done a nice job putting things together on offense. They’re 4-0, No. 3 ranking.
Three tight ends…. <wipes drool from chin>
Defensively Clark Lea, ACC linebacker coach at Syracuse, based out of a 4-3. Up front, sound across the board. Safeties are active like our safeties are. They make a lot of tackles. We’re going to have to play our best to get a ‘W’ on Saturday.
In other words don’t look for much more than 22 rushing yards.
Q. Last week you had Davis Beville and Joey Yellen vying for that quarterback job. Do you go in this week knowing Joey is the guy?
PAT NARDUZZI: Right now I do. We’re going to go in like we normally do. A lot of confidence in Davis. Liked what I saw with Joey. Coach Whipple did as well. We missed a couple throws. I love his patience in the pocket.
That one pass attempt from Beville? I really really liked that. Protected the football. Even managed to get a yard. I mean it was 3rd and 8 but whatever. And he was very very good at handing off the ball.
Davis is only going to get better. He’s going to have a better week of practice this week than last week just getting those reps.
And lets face it he needs to get a lot better.
You know how it is as a backup now. First five games of the season, Kenny (Pickett) is taking all those reps. Last week Kenny didn’t take a rep. Those backup quarterbacks, what happened last year with the backup quarterback with the Pittsburgh Steelers, when Big Ben is out there all by himself running the show, backups don’t get many reps. Probably a few more reps than in the NFL.
But they are taking mental reps. Mental reps every day…
Those guys are going to get better every week as we move on. We’ll see where Kenny is. We didn’t travel Kenny because it was the best thing for him to just rehab. Sitting on a plane for two hours, swelling, all that stuff, was not going to be the best thing for him. We wanted to bring Captain Pickett with us, but it was the best thing to leave him here, which he made a lot of headway over the weekend instead of standing four hours during the game.
The thing is if Kenny had traveled, the minute I’d have turned my back on the sideline he’d be out there trying to take the snap – in a walking boot! Remember when I said it would be hard to keep Kenny off the field? It’s really freaking hard.
We’ll see how they practice this week as far as quarterbacks.
But yea, it’s going to be Joey.
Q. Is that an advantage, where Joey has to win the job, stay sharp, have some competition?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think any time you have competition at any position. At some positions we don’t have as much competition as we like. D-line, a lot of competition, could be a different starter out there every week. You saw Deslin Alexandre play a three technique. He looked as good as he looked at end. Certain positions you have that competition. Some you don’t.
Look, I actually don’t know all that much about these quarterbacks, so just going to tie it back to a defensive analogy. So please stop asking.
Really through the first five games, Davis and Joey were splitting reps with the twos. Trying to get three quarterbacks ready because you’re not sure who that guy is. Last week we were able to see what full practice with more reps for both of them looked like. I think the competition is good.
There’s no freaking competition.
Q. You’ve been wanting to run the ball all year. How much more difficult is it when you have a new kid back there under center, the defense is thinking they’re going to run the ball? How much harder is it?
PAT NARDUZZI: You’re kind of breaking up a little bit so I hope I’m answering the question.
The run game has to get better. I don’t think we blocked very well. For the first game, we didn’t win a lot of scrimmage (battles) at all. We had decent games run-wise. Two previous games we out-rushed the opponent. This game we obviously didn’t, which was disappointing.
We didn’t block them very good up front. Didn’t give our tailbacks a whole lot of time. Sibley early had some lanes to run through, lanes that my old butt could probably run through. Did a nice job carrying up through there. But the holes closed fast as the game went on. We didn’t do a great job blocking. I think it will be a wake-up call in that room that we got to block them.
Yea, Todd Sibley, actually not that good. Who cares if he led the team in rushing with four carries for 23 yards and a 5.3 average? He had huge holes to run through. And who cares if he led the team with 3.5 a per yards after contact average? Huge holes I tell you. And who cares if he was the only running back to pop off a run longer than ten yards? It was the hole! And who cares if he led the team with three avoided tackles on just four carries? With those giant size holes even Jerry DiPaola could have avoided those tackles. Look, I’m not trying to improve the running game here, I’m trying to be loyal to VINCE DAVIS. Also please disregard Sibley’s complete physical domination of three defenders below.
Again, not going to be an easy task against one of the top defenses in the country. They’re big, physical. We’re more of an attack team. They’re more of a read, react up front with their D-line. They’re going to make it hard to rush the ball as well. We’re going to have to be really good up front.
And we aren’t going to play Sibley so that isn’t going to help either.
Q. I understand that Notre Dame was recruiting Jordan Addison as a defensive back. I understand why you wanted him at wide receiver. Do you think he’d become a go-to wide receiver halfway through his freshman year?
PAT NARDUZZI: Isn’t he already a go-to receiver? Sometimes you can target them without four DBs covering him. Seems like a lot of time in that game they weren’t pressing him. They pressed everybody else except Jordan as the game went on for whatever reason.
And thank God they weren’t pressing him, or then our offense REALLY would have sucked.
Jordan is a go-to guy right now. We’ll continue to try to get him the ball without wearing him out either. Some other guys have to step up. We have a lot of confidence in Taysir (Mack) and Jared (Wayne), DJ Turner. We have to spread the ball out. If you’ve got one guy you’re throwing it to all day, you’ve got problems.
So yea, we have problems.
Joey has the ability to do that, so does Davis, as far as spreading it out, looking at what they’re supposed to coverage-wise.
You know that Whipple is going to feed it to Addison until he breaks.
Q. You mentioned the problem with the offensive line, you need to do better. What are some things you identified specifically as a group they have to do better or specific guys that this spot has to be better?
PAT NARDUZZI: I’m not going to talk about certain guys. Every play might be one breakdown. We have to get more movement up front, stay on blocks. We have to sustain blocks, is a big thing, sustaining blocks. You can be on a guy, but you have to finish the block. We didn’t do a good job finishing.
Not going to talk about certain guys but since you asked it was basically everyone except Warren and Morrissey.
Again, give those other guys credit. They’re being coached on the other side to disengage, get off of blocks. Good job by them. We want to be better than that.
Q. Defensively you talked last week about trying to get a little more rotation at cornerback. How do you feel your staff did this week with that? A.J. Woods got more time on the field.
PAT NARDUZZI: I was happy with A.J. Woods. He really came in. I think he took 41 snaps. Again, every week you’re plugging a hole here or there. Like I said, he had a great week of practice. I think he was kind of the weeks before thinking he wasn’t going to get in the game, maybe just wasn’t motivated. When we said you have to, we need you, we have to have three corners, he really stepped up. Great tackle on an outside run in space that I thought was outstanding. Did a good job in coverage.
He’s going to get better every week. It’s hard as a defense, you want to keep your best guys out there as long as you can. We have to keep them fresh. The rotation at cornerback went well. Going to make us better as we move on throughout the rest of the ACC.
Okay so here’s a dirty little secret: Woods actually played better than Pinnock last weekend. I’m not going to say this out loud but Pinnock is dealing with some kind of injury that I’m not going to tell you about. Didn’t you notice his lack of burst when trying to defend to the outside on that one play? I mean it’s pretty obvious that every receiver he’s facing consistently has a couple of steps on him. Anyway I’m going to continue to cover it up and hope that our opponent’s grad assistants miss it when breaking down the game film. (Editor’s note: like all comments in italics, I completely made this up, but based on the eye test it could very well be true)
Q. Ten penalties on Saturday, 10 different kinds. How do you coach that situation up?
PAT NARDUZZI: We’ve got to do a good job detail-wise. I can go through each one of them. Some of them aren’t penalties, I can tell you that. We had hands in the face. We got called for it. You guys go back and watch the tape. I watched the video pretty good. It’s tough to make all those calls out there. I’m not whining. Some things that set us back, shouldn’t have been 10 penalties.
Look, you could have had PJ Fleck. You could have. He’s a guy that makes his living on coaching mistake free football. You ever heard his crazy “row the boat” philosophy? Crazy I tell you. Well not crazy, but boring as hell. I was reading an article in the Minnesoooota Star Tribune last year during the bye week and look at this crazy sh– that Fleck is preaching:
1. turnover margin; 2. margin between your offensive players breaking tackles against your defenders missing them; 3. accruing more explosive plays (25 yards or more the offense, 20 yards or more for defense); 4. both teams punting from within their own 4-yard line.
“If you win all four (categories), which we have, we’ve won games,” Fleck said. “We’ve lost all four and lost games. You can have a mixture and then the 22 percent is how hard you play.”
The day after games, the Gophers tabulate how they did in those areas, and with the players, relate those figures back to a win or a loss.
With me it’s all excitement all the time. Passion. Emotion baby. We don’t need that discipline crap. And I’m not going to change the way I coach defense. Limiting explosive plays? Our D-Backs just have to play better.
When we chop a three technique, when he comes through, we have a high-low on him, you don’t expect to do that. Those are things you expect freshmen to do stuff like that. We’ve just got to be cleaner.
Actually that really was a mistake.
We get too close. Shocky is busting his tail down the field. He just gets too close to the returner one time. Things like that that we’ll continue to coach. It’s something different every week. You have a roughing the passer one time last week. All of a sudden this week John (Morgan) has a chance to take his head off, he held up. Those we’ve got to learn from. We’ve got to do a better job coaching it, making sure that doesn’t happen.
I mean Shockey is a Junior…so yea.
Sometimes you don’t see it in practice. Three technique on the scout team, not screaming through the line of scrimmage, not fully blocked. You hope your tailback is not in that position, but he was. There’s some things that happen like that, whether it’s running down on a punt team. I thought Damar Hamlin, a trip-up. There’s not a better cover guy back there than Damar Hamlin, had a couple PBUs. They tripped up feet there. I don’t know what happened. That’s how the ball rolls sometimes.
Damar gets a free pass. You know that.
Q. With Keyshon Camp not traveling two weeks in a row, how frustrating is that for him, for you guys, given he had that injury last week?
PAT NARDUZZI: It’s obviously frustrating for him. Luckily we have some guys there. Deandre Jules played a lot more football. He’s a baby. He’s just learning what to do in there. Hopefully he gets better every week.
Editor’s Note: Jules played 22 snaps to Calijah Kancey’s 44 and Tyler Bentley’s 34. PFF graded Jules the highest of the three at 72.5. (Kancey 65, Bentley 53).
Keyshon right now is day by day. I will give you a little bit. I will tell you when somebody is out. I will tell you he is out. Carrigan will be out for the year with a shoulder. Nate Temple, as well, was really coming on as a defensive end. Got hurt a week ago with the kickoff team. Not sure what was going to happen with it. Late in the week they got fixing of their shoulders. We’ll lose those two guys for the year.
I mean Keyshon and Tipton are going to be looking at their 7th year of eligibility next season so yea, it’s all good.
Tight end spot, it’s hard to run the ball when you don’t have tight ends. Danny Moraga has done an outstanding job, physical guy. He’s getting better every week because he’s getting all the reps from practice. A little short on the tight end thing. Wish we could go get a free agent.
Actually I heard of this thing once, Coach Bates told me about it. Called the “spread”. Said they used to run it up at Northwestern, with all those smart guys. The philosophy was really weird. Turns out you can space your wide receivers out across the field and it creates all these gaps for your running backs to run through. I told him that was crazy talk and the only way to run the ball it with two or three tight ends that could really block. I mean we don’t really even have one of them any more, but that’s what you have to do, just ask Mark Dantonio.
Q. Wendell Davis and Lucas Krull, not seasoning-ending territory yet?
PAT NARDUZZI: Not season-ending right now. It is taking a while. I’ve been told it’s not season-ending. We’ll continue to say our prayers at night before we go to bed and hope those guys get healthy quick.
If we are 3-7 going into the last game and they come back, I wouldn’t have lied to you.
Q. Sixteen days ago you’re undefeated, up late, NC State goes down the field, now you’re 3-3. You sound visibly frustrated. It’s not like you’re getting blown out. How do you keep a team mentally up when things sort of shift like that?
PAT NARDUZZI: You got that 24-hour rule where you got to let it go. Our guys love to play the game. I think we got great kids. Again, they’ve come back every time so far. I don’t expect it to be any different.
Just keeping them locked into what the task at hand is. You’ve got a No. 3 team in the country coming into your house. You’re actually going to have some parents that will get to see you in Heinz Field. I know it’s not a big crowd, but it’s something. Better than nothing that we’ve had for three home games. I don’t know what we’ve had at home.
That will be a motivation for our kids I think just to be able to have their families there, be with their families after a game. Again, play for your people. I think that’s always a big-time motivation when your family can come watch you play. You want to put on a show when that happens.
You’ve all seen how historically well Pitt does on Senior day, right?
Q. Jordan Addison, when you were recruiting him, what did you see in his personality and mental makeup that made you think he could be a quick learner and a contributor as a freshman?
PAT NARDUZZI: You never know. We knew he was a talented player. You don’t know about all the external things about the way he learns. You only have so many visits with a prospect. You don’t have a whole lot of time to talk football, get him on the board. It’s different guys. Even SirVocea on defense, young guys have done it before.
He’s just a special kid. He’s humble. You never see that guy get too high or get too low. He stays the same, even keel. Very similar to what Joey Yellen is. That guy is like this. He can turn the ball over, he’s going to come right back and go. Jordan is the same way.
He’s just got to continue to do what he’s doing, just focus on what his job is. That’s what he’s done so far.
I’m going to be really sad when he leaves early for the NFL. If I’m still here that is.
Q. You lamented the lack of competition in some position groups. Is the offensive line one of those where you don’t have as much competition as you would like?
PAT NARDUZZI: Sometimes. Maybe we’ve just got to do a better job playing those guys. Matthew Goncalves is a guy. You saw it with (Owen) Drexel a week ago. Wish he would have got more snaps just to get him going. Jake (Kradel) really had a couple days off, he wasn’t as clean as we wanted him to be. That’s tough when you play a front four like you’re going to play in Miami or like you’re going to face this weekend. Cannot be 100% or practice enough to get really good and be sound and solid inside.
Editor’s Note: PFF Graded Kradel out at a dismal 40.9 with a 10.9 pass blocking grade and a 49 run blocking grade. Clearly rusty as Duzz points out. Likely also not playing at 100%. Based on how Drexel played against NC State, Morrissey at Guard probably would have made a lot more sense. But that’s the benefit of hindsight I suppose.
But, no, offensive line, we have some guys we feel comfortable with. There’s some young guys, it’s one of those things, it’s a cohesive group. If there’s one position you can rotate receivers and tailbacks, but if I pick two positions you really don’t want to rotate too much is that quarterback position and your offensive line. Those guys get used to playing together. You like to ride your horse all the way to the end with your five hogs.
We’ve got some guys that can go in and do some things. You sometimes see it in some of our extra packages, whether it is Blake Zubovic last week (who) looked really good during practice with what he was doing. There’s some young guys that are just going to learn. You give them roles where they can partake in certain situations, gain confidence, give the coaches some confidence in what they are doing as well.
So yea, no, we don’t have a lot of competition.
Q. Will Todd Sibley get more reps on Saturday?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think so. We’ll see how he practices this week. We know that position, the running back position, has been by committee. He obviously started the game off. We’ll see how he practices this week.
In other words, I don’t have a reason why he isn’t playing so I’m going to make something up that you’ll never be able to disprove.
I’m happy with Todd, his cuts, the way he’s reading stuff. We’ll see. Next week you’ll be like why is he in there too much. We’ll see how they practice this week. We’re still looking for guys to step up and make something happen, not only at the line of scrimmage but as we break into the secondary.
Vince Davis does it in practice all the time!!!
Q. You’ve had some pretty notable successes against some top-5 type opponents in your time here. Outside of X’s and O’s, maybe from a mindset or motivational standpoint, what is it that’s allowed you to have some of that success?
PAT NARDUZZI: I wish I could tell you I had my magic wand underneath here. It’s not here today.
I mean, there’s no magic to it. It’s getting your guys prepared mentally, physically. That’s my job every week. As I told my guys yesterday, I guess I didn’t have you prepared mentally, physically to get that win on the road. We know an ACC road game is a tough deal, they’re never easy. We have to play better on the road.
Really, we just have to play better everywhere.
The motivation, I hope they are all self-motivated, intrinsic motivation if you want to call it, where they’re playing for somebody, playing for a cause. They want to be able to put good stuff on tape. I think that’s the biggest motivation, go out and win, you be the guy that got things done structurally, fundamentally and production-wise.
Biggest motivation? Being 3-4 really sucks.
Q. I wanted to ask you about the two local kids that are starting for Notre Dame, Robert Hainsey and Josh Lugg. How are they playing from what you’ve seen on video?
PAT NARDUZZI: Really good. Hainsey obviously played the right tackle spot. He’s physical. I think his backup is Josh Lugg, who has five starts. I might add this, their O-line is about as good of an O-line as you’re going to face. 129 career starts up front. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen 129 combined career starts.
I certainly haven’t seen it here at Pittsburgh…
They have a veteran O-line, and that’s why they are running it a little bit more. I am sure we will see some RPO and pop passes as talented as their tight ends are on some of the run game, run play-action pass. We’ll work our tail off this week, make sure that stuff doesn’t happen.
It will surely happen.
Hainsey is a good football player. Lugg is a good football player. Josh Lugg, as good as he is, he’s backing up over there, which is amazing. Then (Kurt) Hinish is doing a nice job at the D tackle spot. They rotate a lot of guys up front, but he’s a starter. He’s tough and physical, smart, reads blocks well. He’s a really good football player. They got a bunch of four- and five-star football players on that team.
I told Lugg he’d be starting for Pitt… Some kids just don’t listen. Pretty happy with our D-Tackles so if Hinish wants to play all that read-and-react stuff, let him.
I added up the 129 starts, you should add up all the stars they got. But they’re deep and physical. Like I said, they’re big. I look at some of the depth chart, I think they have all their freshmen, freshmen year in high school heights and weights. That guy ain’t 6’2″, he’s 6’4″. See if Kelly will give us some exact heights and weights on these guys because sometimes they look bigger than the numbers will tell you.
But remember…stars don’t matter!