Reading Between the Lines: Pre Virginia Tech Edition

After a quiet weekend with no Pitt football, our crack football staff is back at it. Telling you what Head Coach Pat Narduzzi really meant to say.

COACH NARDUZZI: I thought we’d be coming in here on a Monday after a win down in Atlanta. Obviously we didn’t get to make that trip. And obviously disappointing as we sat there, I guess, last Thursday at noon or 1:00, whatever time we meet on Thursday, and you feel like everything’s good. And then you get reports.

I mean I don’t want to come off as arrogant or anything…

And the one thing I’ll say is I think people take it for granted out there like how impressive our kids have been for eight weeks, nine weeks, really with an open week. I said earlier, it’s like I’m talking to myself sometimes. It’s kind of like move on to the next question. But our kids did an incredible job for nine weeks, including that open week, of really having nothing at all, no issues.

These guys made the supreme sacrifice (for a college student) of having no lives. And if it wasn’t for a couple of one-point losses and an injury to Kenny they’d probably still be sheltering in place and toeing the line. But now? Heck…

And then when you least expect it, and you think you’re all good — and I talked to our guys all the time about keep your guard up. Don’t let your guard down. Just pretend that everybody’s got it out there. When you look at the numbers in Allegheny County, with COVID right now, the numbers just keep going up. It was in the five hundreds yesterday, keep an eye on it.

Actually after Florida State I was like “look fellas, we aren’t going to the ACC championship, and if there is one game you want to reschedule in December it’s the trip to Atlanta. Do whatever the hell you want this weekend, you’ve earned it.

The more people out there that have it the more chance you have as you’re moving around this city of getting it, whether it’s a doorknob, whether it’s a counter at McDonald’s. You don’t know where it’s going to be or in Tallahassee somewhere. Crazy thing is you don’t know where it came from.

No, no we don’t know where it came from, but if it didn’t come from the blowout party at Morrissey’s house two weekends ago, it absolutely most definitely came from the big tent at the Holiday Inn.

But we’ve been clean up until last week. And it’s obviously disappointing. I feel bad for Georgia Tech as well. And obviously us, our kids. We worked so hard. And nobody tries to get it on purpose, but sometimes it creeps up and gets you. And it got us last week. And we’re working hard on it. It’s serious. This is a serious deal.

And by creeping up on you I mean, like a dude in a leather coat in South Oakland late on a Saturday night after you’ve had too much to drink. I’m just happy he only took our wallet and nobody got hurt.

Like I said, I feel bad for our kids. Our kids are disappointed. I guess whatever it was, was it Thursday afternoon, I guess?

So we move on to the next. Obviously Georgia Tech was not canceled, it was postponed to December. And then we’ll work on Virginia Tech, great football team again. I think their seventh in the country in rushing offense, number one in the ACC probably. Hendon Hooker is running the show there for them. Played against them a year ago.

Yes we played them a year ago. <checks notes> Actually we play them every year according to these papers that EJ just gave me.

They know how to the run the football. They’re good at it. They’re good at scheming you up.

I tried to get that transfer tailback they have. I really tried. Look, I said, This is Pitt. We’re Grad Transfer U! Have you heard about Kylan Johnson? Have you heard about Nate Peterman? Have you heard about the seven grad-transfer Tight Ends we’ve had through here since 2016?” Yea, that didn’t work.

And defensively their front four is, get another ACC front four that our offensive line will have to handle. And that’s kind of with the new coordinator, obviously Bud Foster is not here. So that will be different than what we saw last year.

So I’m saying there’s a chance…

We ran into a buzz saw down in a storm down in Virginia Tech last year. So it’ll be a little different defense that we’ll have to deal with this year. First time, what are they going to do to us? We’ll have to find out there.

I don’t expect many rushing yards.

Their front four is really good. And Hendon Hooker and Khalil Herbert, their tailback, No. 21, as well as Tre Turner, their wideout, No. 11, goes up gets the ball, their leading receiver.

So lets see…from a matchup perspective… their front four beats our OL, Their quarterback beats our secondary, their tailback probably beats our linebackers, and you know that No. 11, he’s going to push off and not get called for it.

Q. Based on the number of absences you were anticipating for the Georgia Tech game — and maybe you can tell us how many that was — could you have played the game, physically played the game with those absences?

COACH NARDUZZI: I’m not going to get into numbers. I don’t make those decisions (on whether we play). Our chief medical officers make that decision, as far as whether you could or couldn’t.

I can tell you this: The numbers weren’t so bad that we probably couldn’t have played it. Okay. If we’ve got 22, we can play. We weren’t down to 21, I can tell you that.

Yea I mean the numbers weren’t too bad, buuttt… I wasn’t really comfortable putting freshmman walk-ons out there on the field.

But to me it doesn’t come down to whether — gosh, do we have 33, we could have played it, whatever. In the ACC we don’t have a number put on that thing because I don’t think you can put a number on our student-athletes. I think that’s a bad, bad deal when you start putting, well, if we have this many we can go.

Since the beginning, I’ve told our kids, I’m going to fight for them. In July and August it was about their safety and taking care of them — not taking care of me, taking care of them and making sure they’re safe.

There are two kinds of people out there. Those that understand exponential growth curves, and those that don’t.

The one thing I would say is I think it’s a lot different when you’re home than when you’re playing on the road. When you’ve got to go on the road, if you’re unsure what’s on that airplane, and we travel two hours on the airplane, which I told you I complained earlier in the year about how come Pitt has all these road games, and do we have a problem going down to Tallahassee? Was there a stewardess or bus driver? Who knows what happened, I don’t know. That’s the crazy thing with this whole deal, you don’t know.

But do we put our kids at risk on another airplane for two hours on new buses, in a new hotel, waiting all day in a hotel, so many things that you look at. But we just jeopardize the next week and next week, and we jeopardize our football team and our kids. And I’m not going to do that for them or the parents, if that makes sense. Again, it’s the chief medical people making those decisions obviously, but that’s how I feel at heart as well.

And say what you want about my coaching, I truly do care about the players on the team. It was the right decision to cancel.

Q. What’s your practice situation? Are you able to practice and have healthy guys out there? Is there a concern about that affecting your preparation if you are even somehow able to play on Saturday?

COACH NARDUZZI: We’ll find out later this afternoon, I hope. I don’t think I’ll tweet anything out. But our hope is that we tested on Sunday, which was yesterday around 1:00, 2:00. And all our kids are going through that process right now.

Great opportunity for the young guys to get reps…if we can practice that is.

We have no results from our Sunday test. We will find out where we are. I think that’s important. If we get bad news in those tests, which (knocking on wood) I hope we don’t, I pray we don’t, we’ve told our kids we plan on practicing Tuesday and so forth.

I told them you get one party and you get to have it as soon as you get back form Tallahassee, so I’m thinking we are good, but hey you never know.

But it all comes down to what happens on our Sunday tests as it does every week and then our Wednesday test and Friday test. But the best thing is that we don’t have to travel this week, so we’re not really putting our kids on an airplane for two hours.

I’m also going to say this, I told you guys we’d need HAZMAT suits when we went down to Florida and then Norvell recommended that cut-rate hotel, and look here we are. He did send me a picture of the meatball tat though, so I guess I got the last laugh.

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Q. Do you expect to play against Virginia Tech this Saturday? But at the same time I guess you don’t really know without those test results back, right?

COACH NARDUZZI: You don’t know. You don’t know until really Friday at midnight or Saturday morning when you wake up you get your text message that says, hey, everything’s good. And again it’s been that — we’ve gotten used to it. We’ve gotten spoiled that the results have been great.

So we expect to play Virginia Tech this weekend. That’s the expectations. Our kids were miserable this weekend. I was miserable sitting at home watching everybody else play. You prepare to play football games.

And really, none of the games were that good. I did enjoy watching Penn State lose though. We may have had a four game losing streak, but going 0 – 4 to start the season after opening up the Top 10? That’s unrivaled. Hey Jerry, got a quick question for you. Did you have Penn State in your top 25? How about you John McGonigal? <smiles> We are I guess. Right?

Our kids put all the work in. It’s like putting all the work in, you study your tail off for that English exam. All of a sudden the teacher at the last second, we’re not having that. You’re, like, wait a second. I did all that stuff for nothing?

Unless of course you didn’t put in the work and you skip like all your study halls, and then the teachers cancel the test and you are like “Hell Yea!” Wait. What am I talking about again?

That’s kind of where we are. We expect to play the Virginia Tech game. We hope we’re not let down again. It will be up to our team and players on how safe they are out there. And we talk constantly about wearing a mask, staying socially distanced and pretend everybody has got it. Everybody on your team has got it, and everybody in Oakland has got it. Everywhere you go you’ve got to be right here and wash your hands and be more accountable for that.

Look, right now we are bowl eligible at 4-4 and we got an ace in the hole on Dec 12th. Are we even going to play this game? I don’t know. But 5-5 gets us to El-Paso and that’s good enough for me.

Q. Wanted to ask about Virginia Tech’s running game, specifically you mentioned it in the opening. When you look at them, is that a product of how good Hooker and Herbert are? What do you see from the offensive line? What’s made it so effective?

COACH NARDUZZI: Again, it’s not just a quarterback, as you know, it’s not just a running back or offensive line. It takes 11 guys. Takes receivers blocking down the field to be explosive. But I might say this offensive line is the second best O line we’ve faced compared to Notre Dame. When you look at their career starts across the top I’ll give it to you.

But we stopped Notre Dame. Well stopped ’em on the ground. Book not much of a runner though, oh wait. Well he is. Hooker is better. What I’m not telling you is that the entire starting front four has the COVID so it’s probably going to be the long day. If we even play the game.

Christian, their left tackle, has 32 career starts. Lecitus Smith has 22 career starts. Hoffman, their center who transferred from Coastal Carolina, has 20 starts. Nester has 17 starts. And Tenuta has 11 starts. So they’ve got a ton of starts up front. They’ve got a lot of experience. They’re physical and they’re strong, and they know what they’re doing.

In other words, don’t look for us to get seven sacks. If we even play the game.

Add Hendon Hooker as their second leading rusher. Anytime you’ve got a quarterback who can rush the football, it’s the 11th man and that’s always a dangerous thing for any defense, period.

We are really really going to miss Paris Ford. If we even play the game.

Q. We talked to you on Thursday and you seemed upbeat about the Georgia Tech game and then a few hours later the team’s activities were paused. How quickly did that happen? How did you find out, and when did you realize you weren’t going?

COACH NARDUZZI: Like that, probably a couple hours after that you’re hoping to go. I don’t know when that release went out that night. But probably around 3:30, 4:00 is when — again, seems like sometime between probably 3:00 and 4:00 is the time when we get results back. That’s about when. Again, I don’t remember the exact time. But disappointing.

Geez. Dead horse, beaten. Any more COVID questions?

Q. In that timeframe, what happened? Did you keep kids out? Did they clean the whole facility? What were the steps taken immediately until you guys can get back together again?

COACH NARDUZZI: We deep clean it, I don’t know the exacts, but it gets deep cleaned a bunch. But even after that it got deep cleaned. We were slow to go in the locker room, make sure we’re showering in small groups like we normally do. Our protocol here in our facility we feel is pretty safe. We feel it’s pretty clean.

<rolls eyes> Look I’m pretty sure it didn’t happen on the Southside. I’m going say it again, going down there to Talatrashee is kinda liking going to the house of that girl that has a certain kind of reputation. Thankfully this is the kind of rash that goes away (mostly…) And that’s all I’m going say about that.

I don’t think anything’s happening here but you just don’t know how a guy gets into your bubble. There’s just so many unknowns, but what you look at as a staff is what happened and how do we fix it.

Also, one thing I have not mentioned in a while is that there are spies everywhere. Everywhere. Enemy agents and provocateurs. I caught one once. Threw him out of practice several years ago and I’ve been looking over my shoulder ever since. He had a really bad fake moustache and was way to tall to be a Pitt fan, and that’s how I knew he was a spy.

If there’s nothing broken we’re still looking to fix it. So we’ve got some other things we’re looking at doing just to make sure. But it gets cleaned quite often, probably three, four times a week. We have Billy that goes around, he wipes every doorknob, everything, all day long. This guy’s an angel that comes in here. I know there couldn’t be a cleaner place.

That Billy. Man the Holiday Inn could have used a Billy. Could have used a couple of them. And I’m not talking about Hillgrove.

Q. What’s been the reaction of the team?

COACH NARDUZZI: They’ve been good. They’ve been great. What are you going to do? Disappointed, obviously. But understanding, I guess, is probably the best way to put it. They understand. They know this thing is real.

We’ve talked about it. We talk about it every single day. We talk about earning those games. So we didn’t earn that one. We didn’t earn number nine. And to them it’s a loss. You feel like you lost this week. I felt like Saturday I felt like I lost. We lost that game. I’ve told you we’ve won a lot of them through the year. And every Saturday when we get to that game, it’s a win.

I had a high school coach and one of the guys asked him if he’d like to suit up and he he got all wistful and passionate, and he was like “Man I’m forty-three years old and you know what? I’d give my left nut to be out there playing high school football again. MY LEFT NUT. So better enjoy the HELL out of this because it’s going to be over before you know it, and you’re going to be some fat old guy like me wishing you were back on the field”. And that’s kind of what I say to the guys, because it’s true.

It’s a win to get there. And we lost this one. We didn’t get there. That’s disappointing. I didn’t want to let Georgia Tech down. Obviously they had some issues as well. Again there’s a lot of teams around the country that are having issues, NFL and college. But that’s what it is.

Man I can not wait until 2021…

Q. A lot of these postponements or cancellations have come as a result of certain position groups being affected, not having an offensive line or defensive line or whatever. I know you weren’t going to get into the numbers but with your team specifically was it the case one position group was really affected or were they spread out?

COACH NARDUZZI: I don’t know. We’ll find out Saturday, I guess, we’ll find out when we get to Saturday. We’ll find out.

Hah! You think I’m going to tell you that. HAH.

Q. How comfortable, how many times could you practice? What’s the least amount of times you could practice and feel comfortable playing on Saturday?

COACH NARDUZZI: We can practice once, to be honest with you. But you like to get two in. But the problem is we’re going to get these results, today, this afternoon sometime. And if they come out bad, then we probably aren’t going to practice on Tuesday and then our next test won’t be until Wednesday morning unless we have a new test on, I guess, my days are all messed up, Tuesday.

On the bright side, our legs are going to be really fresh. Really really fresh. A handful of guys might not be able to breathe but hey man those legs are going to be fresh.

So, it’s really a Sunday, Wednesday, Friday. And do we get a Tuesday? That’s all — I don’t know. Maybe we have another Tuesday test. Those are all the unknowns I can’t control. I wish I could control some of these things. But it’s out of my hands.

Q. Are you at a wiggle room schedule-wise, too? If for some reason you couldn’t play Saturday there would be no chance to reschedule, correct, just because of the way it looks?

COACH NARDUZZI: I don’t know that. Maybe we play on a Wednesday, then play somebody else on a Saturday. We’ve got three guaranteed games. We’d like to get them in. I know that.

And actually I’d like to get them in with more than one day of practice. Except Clemson. Man, signing up for that one did not age well.

Q. For the players that tested positive, how long will they have to remain isolated from the rest of the team? Is it 10 days or 14? And then I’m assuming they won’t be eligible to play against Virginia Tech?

COACH NARDUZZI: Yeah, it depends on when they tested positive or had symptoms. It’s 10 days, to answer your question, for anybody that tested positive. And then if it’s contact, then it’s 14 days for anybody that contacted it. Obviously there’s the contacts and then there’s the positives and those numbers can add up pretty quickly.

I briefly flirted with going full herd immunity but then I saw on Twitter that one of the press corps got re-infected so I was like “no way man”. BTW I seriously do hope you get through it alright. Sorry to hear the news.

Q. You talked about, after the Notre Dame game, that you guys were really going through it, beat up and the bye week really helped you. How much do you think that maybe — I know you said you guys were very disappointed you didn’t get to play this weekend. It’s now two off weeks where you didn’t have to get beat up on Saturday and recover going into the weekend. Do you think that’s going to help maybe get some of your guys back a little bit faster? You’ve got players like Wendell Davis and Keyshon Camp who you said might play last week.

COACH NARDUZZI: Right. Might get some back, but you don’t know. You don’t know the injury part of it. And you don’t know where you’ll be on the COVID end of it either. But having an extra week, we’ll be fresh. But we had enough — we needed freshness way back — that’s how bad our luck is, right — when we’re ready to roll, we have a fresh open weekend, we go to Florida State, we need to have another game, too, and play Georgia Tech and we couldn’t get in. So, we’ll have another fresh week, if you want to call it, because we didn’t play on the weekend.

Will they know the plays? Read the keys? Have the assignments down? Hell if I know. But yea, they’ll be fresh.

Q. You mentioned the kids are doing good. But how are your seniors holding up? This ostensibly is the last chance to play at Heinz Field or in front of their families. Some of these guys, it might be the end of their careers. Just emotionally how are they holding up and what’s your message to them?

COACH NARDUZZI: I think they’re doing good. Just stay steady. I think they’re great. I talked to every one of them yesterday, personally on the phone. They were all great.

I don’t see anything — this senior class, this football team has never wavered. They understand what we’re going through. This is 2020. I don’t know how many days left. But I’m counting the days. Must not have been enough people who said “Happy New Year” on the 1st, because I can’t wait until 2021, I can tell you that. I hope it’s a different year for this entire country.

And that’s something I think we can ALL agree on.

Q. Speaking of seniors, Patrick Jones, what has he meant to your team?

COACH NARDUZZI: Oh, man, Patrick Jones. Patrick Jones, he’s everything. He’s a leader. Obviously he’s a captain for us. He’s a guy that’s going to be playing on Sundays. If you have a chance to watch any Sunday football, he’s one of those guys.

He’s really become a leader. He’s grown so much from his freshman year to his senior year. He’s tough. He’s athletic. He can rush the passer. He gets some sacks every once in a while (smiles), which I know defensive ends love to get those sacks. He is special in every way.

Can’t say enough about Patrick Jones. Class act. Hell of a player.

Q. We discussed last week, it wasn’t a typical year. So how do you handle senior day on Saturday?

COACH NARDUZZI: It’s a work in progress. But obviously the parents can’t come on the field even though our kids see their parents, just Heinz Field, that’s not going to happen. Maybe if we played at a high school stadium somewhere they’d let us have it, but won’t happen at Heinz Field.

Somehow we’ll have video on the video board. I’m not sure how it’s going to work, but we’ll try to make it as special as we can for those seniors in 2020. That’s what it is. There’s nothing else we can do and everybody’s in the same position we are across the country.

Actually I’ve got Karlo working on a scheme to “borrow” some janitors uniforms and some brooms and sneak all the Senior parents in as Heinz Field “deep cleaning staff”. “Essential Workers!”

Q. In a normal season you guys would have final exams in the middle of December after the regular season ends before bowl season. But with the new academic schedule and last week’s game postponed, finals week is right when you guys are still preparing for regular-season games. Are you guys preparing at all for the extra sense of stress the players might face academically towards the end of the season?

COACH NARDUZZI: There are some kids who have finals this week, and then next week it’s finals week, (during) Clemson week. So we’ll try to balance that, and try to get the football work in, get the study hall in. Obviously this weekend spend a lot of time on academics. Just fill time where time is void.

But obviously their academics and studying for those finals, usually there’s no practice during finals week. So it is a little bit different this year for sure. And it’s worrisome, as you can imagine.

And that’s why I said “look if we are going to have a flare up, this is the week to do it.

Q. You guys normally have your Sunday meetings in the indoor, socially distanced on Sundays. Did you do a team meeting over Zoom yesterday, and how did that go?

COACH NARDUZZI: We did a Sunday meeting over Zoom. And it wasn’t a very long one. Just to give them an update. Obviously they came over here to the facility to get their tests and they — they were in the building briefly, but we told them, in and out, grab lunch to go. And they were gone. And we had one today as well. So we had a nice special teams Zoom and a team Zoom, offense, defense for probably 45 minutes today.

That was good to get that in, just talk ball, and get our guys thinking about Virginia Tech.

It went really badly. They were totally unfocused — Said no coach ever.

Q. Another question about Patrick Jones. You talked about his development. From his freshman year, I remember how excited he was when he was coming there. Talk about his development, how he’s improved to be the player that he is right now. And then last question, how much are you going to miss him?

COACH NARDUZZI: I’ll miss him a ton. I’ll start with the end of your question. I’m going to miss Patrick a lot. I’m going to miss all of our seniors, obviously. We spent a lot of time together through these four or five years with all of them. And they’re like your sons.

And we’re going to miss them all. And Patrick, development-wise, you look at where he was. I don’t know if he was a two-star, three-star coming out of high school. But he comes from a great family. Mom and dad are very supportive. Care about him. Has a great home life.

And Patrick, he just kept going. Again, it’s all about development. That’s what we’ve done here at Pitt is develop our players. We’re not going to recruit a bunch of five- and six- and seven-star guys out there. But we’re getting the guys we get that we think have potential and we develop them.

You either have character and you can develop, or you don’t have character and you don’t develop like you thought. Patrick’s one of those guys, if you just — you know you see where he is every year, he just continues to develop. By coming back for his senior year, not declaring early, he just continues to get better at everything.

And again that’s who he is. I think he would have left if he didn’t think he could get any better and gone to the NFL back last year, last February. But he feels like, ‘I can continue to get better.’ He’s going to continue to get better when he gets to the NFL.

No reading between the lines here.

Q. How important is this last stretch? Seems like you look at the conference, Clemson, Notre Dame, Miami have kind of separated themselves — There’s a big group there in the middle. How important is it to try to get these games in, maybe get you guys sort of be able to separate yourselves at least from that group in the middle there?

COACH NARDUZZI: I want to be separated from the group, but each game is a one-game season. We want to win each one of them. Again, it’s called pride. I’ve got pride in our work and who our kids are and what this program represents. So to me it comes down to pride. And I just want to keep going where we are.

Doesn’t matter what happened in the past. Doesn’t matter. Over time, one-point losses, backup quarterbacks, all that, it doesn’t matter. We’re focused on these last three games here to go and want to win all three of them and that will make our season. That’s the last thing you’ll remember is how we finish the season.

Four and Four gets us to El Paso (eh or maybe Detroit again), but Six and Five might just get us to Orlando. I don’t know about you guys, but I would much rather go to Orlando. Not that any of you would be going with us due to this COVID debacle.

Q. What do you think in terms of Kenny Pickett? We talked about Patrick Jones’ NFL prospects. The way that Kenny has kind of grown really over the last season and a half, season-half-plus here?

COACH NARDUZZI: Kenny is an NFL quarterback. I’ve said that prior to the season. I’ll say it again now. I don’t think there’s an NFL GM, head football coach or scout that doesn’t love that guy’s toughness that he displays. He’s got an arm. The one thing the kids have been lucky, we’ve had scouts at games, they’ve been able to watch live, able to watch them compete at a high level.

If only we had a few more Jordan Addisons for him to throw it to.

And Kenny’s an outstanding quarterback that is going to fit someone’s system really well and they’re going to love how he’s been coached and taught, the run game and pass game.

Definitely better than Nate Peterman.

Q. You do expect to get some of these seniors honored on Saturday, you do expect to get some of them back next year, don’t you?

COACH NARDUZZI: Some of them. We don’t know who. I guess we’ll find out who we trot out there on the field on Saturday for senior day and we’ll kind of go from there.

But being it was an extra year, people have lofty goals on what they want to do. Just like Patrick Jones coming back, these kids have decisions to make, these young men have decisions to make.

Patrick Jones made a great decision on coming back, I think. And I think he believes that as well. Again, it’s just a lesson for everyone: Can you get better? If you can get better and improve your stock as a football player, if you want to play at the next level, then why would you do anything else?

It’s a tough league to break into.

First I give a lot of credit to Patrick for his own development. You’ve got to have the want-to and he puts in the work. But I also give Charlie Partridge a lot of credit, because he molded that young man. There was a time when I thought Dave Borbley might be the Charlie Partridge of the offense…<sigh>

Q. Real quick about the seniors, will they have to let you know if they want to be recognized and honored? Or how will that part of the equation work, since it is such a different setup this year?

COACH NARDUZZI: Yeah, it’s different. But no different than in the years past. I think some guys will make a decision before senior day next, saying, ‘I don’t need to go through senior day. I’m coming back.’ And some guys will go through senior day and be gone. I think some will go through senior day and still be debating what’s going to happen after these three games are over.

Do I raise my stock? Do I feel good coming out? What are their people, families talking about? You won’t know by what happens on senior day, for sure, because anybody can still say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to go through senior day, I’m staying.’ And then in three weeks say, ‘I’m leaving.’

So it really — until they declare whatever that date is, whatever month that is — I don’t know if it changes, I don’t know about the combine, I don’t know a lot of things — but everybody has decisions to make. They have time.

Right now, just for senior day, hey, what do you want to do? And then they still have to make decisions after that’s all said and done.

Did I mention that I can’t wait until 2021?

83 thoughts on “Reading Between the Lines: Pre Virginia Tech Edition

  1. I think schools have generally done a good job. Lack of a NCAA standard I think hurts. Pitt is one of the better schools out their policing the protocols. But there’s only so much you can do to protect when those around you don’t take the same precautions.

    Any time a player or coach goes outside their bubble, they are at risk. This doesn’t surprise me. I predicted the crap would hit the fan come late October. I was two weeks late.

    Really don’t see how winter sports get played. The big dance will be held in a bubble in Indy. All games. If they can play enough games to make it to that point in March or April.

    I just hope to see some bowls this winter break. I’ll go crazy if there’s no college football. Would love to see Pitt play a game down here. I’ll be there.


  2. Duzz really needs this game, possibly coaching for his job, there might not be a 2021 at Pitt for him trolling the sidelines.

    He can shuck and jive but winning is the only statistic he will be evaluated on.

    A 6/5 season will save him but the offensive staff purge will happen.

    If he goes to do 5/6 or 4/7 he’s vulnerable to becoming available to industry.


    Complaints or am I disillusioned!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think Pitt gets one more win against GT if they are lucky. Look for the bad offense and undisciplined play to continue this weekend.

    The good thing, PSU can’t pass us in number of wins 🙂 The rest of their schedule is crap.
    We could tie WVU with 5 wins. They have two tough games left but I can see them beating Iowa State.


  4. The culture can be changed with a purge. It worked at Baylor. But purge means everyone. Starting at the top.

    The dangers of having a football first culture in a town dependent on football. Sounds closely familiar.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, that Duzz interview was too long by half. Torture.

    MM – your between-the-lines comments on the Nits were my favorites…

    Notice this comment by Coach Duzz: “Anytime you’ve got a quarterback who can rush the football, it’s the 11th man and that’s always a dangerous thing for any defense, period.”

    This is so true in college football. So then, why did we just bring in a QB who can’t run. Makes no sense.

    Go Pitt

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with your quarterback comment, Majors. Seems there are many high school teams with fleet quarterbacks but without strong passing games. Why not risk a scholarship on one of those quarterbacks and try to develop their passing skills. I would think that would be easier than taking a stone-footed passer and attempting to develop him into an elusive, or even competent, runner.


  6. We are one of the few college teams with a pro style QB scheme. Granted running QBs great in college but not so much in NFL where they would get creamed and injured.


    1. I think you don’t want a “runner” at QB, but someone who can run when needed. At least at the KP level.

      Look at what guys like Mahomes and Russell Wilson do in the NFL – that’s the ideal… Or even what ND’s Book does. Need to move well to extend pass plays, to convert a third down now and then by running, and to pose a run threat near the goal line.

      I remember how well Pitt used to score inside the 10 when Palko was the QB – we had many easy tosses to a wide open tight-end back then because the play was set up by the threat of Palko running…

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Pickett, Patti and Beville all have enough running ability to hurt a defense once in a while. Yellen is a snail.

          The offense they are running is an issue.


    1. Yes. The new QB is from around my area. I did some research on him last year. I came away thinking he has upside but will need at least two years before being ready. So a project that could pay off.


  7. Having a guy that can evade the rush and pick up first downs with his feet when available is a huge plus.

    But a strong accurate arm and the ability to read defenses is more important.

    There are only so many Mahomes and Jacksons around and Pitt is unlikely to get one.

    I still cry over the inability to get Jurkovec with two chances. The best to come out of WPA since Marino.

    Pitt with another huge miss with Major Harris.

    How likely is Narduzzi to recruit an elite QB, when he can’t recruit O-linemen or running backs?

    On defense he seems to know how to get 2’s and 3’s that play like 4’s and 5’s, Dennis, Weaver, Jones, Twyman, not so much on offense.


    1. I agree, not getting Jurkovec is a major miss. But with Pickett in place at Pitt going to a school like BC that could hand him the QB job season one was the right choice. And Narduzzi is so in love with Pickett that Jurkovec would have had no chance to play this year at Pitt.


    2. Per Mike Gottfried, they were serious in recruiting Major but he never showed up for his official visit but Pitt did recruit him as a DB not QB.

      Harris was mesmerized by WVU at the time, the difference in the campuses and Nehlen recruited him as a QB and promised him a legitimate shot to play.

      I worked in West Virginia during that time period and couldn’t believe how Pitt approached the situation and the WVU alums roasted me.

      It was a huge miss.


  8. MM watched part of the ND- BC game and watched the BC TE catch his 45th ball… I wonder how many our TEs have caught in the past 4 years????


  9. Just read where Central Valley’s(PITT commit) suffered a dislocated elbow during Friday’s championship game. Toughest joint in the body to recover motion after surgery or serious injury. Good luck young man… work hard in rehab.


  10. Brett McMurphy@Brett_McMurphy
    Last year, LSU was a 42-point favorite vs. Arkansas. This year, Arkansas is currently a 1-point favorite. The 43-point spread difference is believed to be largest in consecutive seasons b/w 2 FBS opponents


  11. Hope VT’s loss to Miami last week hurts their attitudes, although beating Pitt is pretty important to their bowl chances, just like Pitt. If they can put a couple of good licks on Hooker, like they did with Fla St, it may help big time. Like always it’s in the hands of Pitt’s front 4.

    I hope and pray that someone in administration admits, it just not working and will never work with the offensive coaches on staff. WMG. Too many dropped passes, WMG with Beatty, Too few open holes, WMG with Borberly. Too few play making RBs, WMG with Powell. No TE worth a crap sine the 8th grade picnic, WMG with Salem.

    It’s Lyke time for Nardog to have a come to Jesus and find someone who can advise him on how to assemble a top-notch recruiting and coaching offensive staff. Is Walt Harris still around to consult?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I think a Pitt/Pedo match up would be good TV entertainment if teams could add an additional game this year instead of a bowl game. You could throw the records out, and the TV ratings would be great. I’d hate to lose to a sub-500 Nitters team though. 🙂


  13. I think Jurkovec is very good, but he still has a lot to prove. He certainly has the physical abilities. Pitt didn’t miss on him twice. There was no way he was going to a school that had a returning starter which was a wise choice.


  14. Pickett says he will leave PITT after this year and enter the draft. I look for PITT to dip back into the grad transfer pool.


    1. Good Luck Kenny! Will he be drafted by the Army or Navy or Marines bc he sure won’t play a snap in the NFL. Peterman looks like Montana compared to Pickett. The draft??? He really said that?


    2. There was never a doubt in my mind that Pickett would not return for another year. Playing QB for any school that has a running game as weak as Pitt had this year and likely repeating at the same level next season is not very attractive.


    3. Coan from Wisconsin likely will grad transfer, especially with the freshman now in control.

      Coan should take a medical redshirt this season, transfer and should have two years to play (medical year and free year).

      He’s not flashy, but solid. He’d be good enough to save Narduzzi’s job with a good OC.


  15. You guys are funny. He is 6’2 and runs at first hint of pressure. That doesn’t work unless you are Lamar or Murray which he is not. Comedy Hour Here.


    1. I tend to agree. He’s not a physical specimen. He doesn’t have a great arm. He lacks touch. He has trouble reading the field in a vanilla offense against simple defenses. He’s not a big time athlete.

      But he is a leader And is gutsy and smart.

      If little Ben can make the Cowboys, Kenny at least gets on a practice squad. Kenny is no worse than Palko.

      I don’t see him drafted but joins a squad. He’s a third stringer. No better than a nfl back that is called on for mopup duties.

      Pitt could get up to six guys on a pro squad next year. And for them to finish this bad tells me it’s coaching. Pitt had the talent this year. And everyone is going through covid. Narduzzi doesn’t get a pass because of covid.

      So much for a ten win breakout year. That will never happen under mister paranoid.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. i think this is the first Tex post i completely agree with

        the one thing is that i hope he gets some chance to develop seeing the field while playing behind an o-line that makes it possible

        what is it? early habits hard to break v instincts impossible to override v just can’t widen his “view” and visually multitask and process

        lots of variables but probably will get some chance and deserves one as he looks to me to have a better chance than Dinucci


        1. Thank you

          Kenny could probably make a good living by being a backup QB

          He’s got other intangibles than just raw physical ability

          Seriously I’d take him over mason Rudolph and josh dobbs. He could at least replace Duck.

          Doesn’t Kiper have him at the 9th best QB in the draft.

          Imagine what a good line and running game could do for his stats.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. We will only know if Whipple’s offense is the issue when and if Pickett makes it to the pros and actually plays.
          Does Whipple give him clear pre and post snap reads that make his decision making easy and do the combination of routes based on those reads get guys open? We shall never know.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. He wouldn’t have to run to the sidelines in the pros. That has to wear him out. Old Pappy needs to get with the modern era. Or be retired next year. So much for the QB whisperer. I was so wrong with that old man. No apologies to you seniors. DWI.


    2. I’d agree with you except there are some comical backup QBs on NFL rosters. The Steelers may have the worst. How is Devlin Hodges even on a practice squad? I say Kenny makes a practice squad. He won’t be drafted.


      1. I could probably get my Pointer dog on a practice squad. He could at least catch a ball better than most of Pitts receivers and can tackle better than Pitts safeties once you give him the command ‘sick balls’

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Pickett is light years better than any other qb we have. That said, he will not be drafted, nope, no way, nada, ain’t happening. Remember, I was right that Ben the Nooch would never play a down for Pitt, ooppps. Never mind, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


  17. It’s not a total guess that KP will be drafted. Pickett is ranked much higher by NFL scouts and GM’s than he is by PITT fans… He tore up the Manning QB camp last year and strengthened his status as a draft pick. I’m saying he gets drafted somewhere, somehow.


  18. It takes a certain amount of toughness to play QB in the NFL. Those DEs are bigger and faster, and the LB packages make it even more difficult to evade sacks. The quickest way to get pulled is to cough up the football, but KP at least has that toughness to take the hits if he can get over his urge to run before his pass options are all eliminated. There are many QBs with stronger arms that are not accurate, so someone like Pickett who can hit a receiver on the run has a chance to make it in the NFL.


  19. Don’t think we actually know how college players will play out in the NFL. A 4-year $48M contract signed by T. Boyd proves that many here are merely guessing about how well any college player will do, but it is still fun to project.

    I think KP, with (1) some good offensive coaching, (2) an offensive line that blocks (3) WRs and TEs that can catch, and (4) an adequate running game could be a back-up QB. Look at some of the bums that the Stillers have played this year and honestly tell me KP isn’t equal to or better than this motley crew.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Here’s the real question, if Pitt goes to the transfer portal for a replacement, they better get at least 2 because you can say good-bye to Yellen, Beville, and Patti. No way they stick around to hold a transfer QB helmet.

    I would be surprised and frankly shocked if they don’t give Beville and Yellen a chance to compete in camp for the job. The sample size for both is so small it’s impossible for any of us to know if they are worth a hill of beans.

    Maybe they’ve proved they are terrible in practice, in which case Nardog has another good reason WMG, he can’t coach, can’t signal in plays, can’t call plays, can’t make 2nd half adjustments, WMG, WMG, WMG.


  21. Making the trek up to Pgh for the game. They owe me one after the ND game (and several others!).
    Mini POV tailgate pregame and lets hope for a win.

    Anyone else going?


    1. I’m can’t believe it, but I’m not going. First game I’ve missed, except for attending a couple weddings, in many years.

      I feel badly for the seniors – but most fans aren’t in their seats early enough for the pre-game senior-day introductions anyway…

      Hope they get you a win, JoeL.

      Go Pitt.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. I don’t think it will be a high draft spot but I expect Pickett to get drafted. Joe I think I’m sitting this one out and will wait to see what next season’s adjustments bring. Enjoy!


    1. Gonna be tied up the next two days, so here’s an early forecast:
      I expect a close game on Sat.
      (Rankings based on ACC rank)
      VT on offense vs Pitt D
      Rushing – VT #1 vs Pitt D #2 (draw)
      Passing – VT#14 vs Pitt D #3 (advantage Pitt)
      Scoring – VT #5 vs Pitt D #2 (micro advantage Pitt/draw)

      Pitt on offense vs VT D
      Rushing – PItt #13 vs VT D #12 (draw)
      Passing – Pitt #7 vs VT D #9 (draw)
      Scoring – Pitt #8 vs VT D #9 (draw)

      Other stuff
      QB eff. VT (Hooker) #13 vs Pitt (Pickett) #7 (advantage Pitt)
      FG kickers VT #11 vs Pitt #12 (draw)
      Sacks – VT #3 vs Pitt #1 (draw)
      Penalties – VT #5 vs Pitt #15 (advantage VT)

      VT coming off of 2 game losing streak and will want to right ship
      Pitt has had good experience with VT in Pgh
      Pickett’s grit

      Keys to a Pitt victory:
      Watch the penalties
      Score TDs instead of kicking FGs.
      Get an early lead
      Contain Hooker on the RPO

      Pitt in a close one, 20-17

      Liked by 1 person

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