Narduzzi: 'It's good to get a win. I can tell you that'

Chris Peak, Publisher

Pat Narduzzi met the media after Pitt's 42-10 win over Rice on Saturday, and here's the rundown of what he said.

NARDUZZI: It’s good to get a win; I can tell you that. After three long weeks for our kids, I’m happy for them. They came out and played a darn good first half. They started to scare me in the beginning of that third quarter and I talked to them about finishing the game. We’ve been 28-nothing in the past and hopefully they learned their lesson, but they came out and finished in the end. We didn’t make plays in the third quarter, but they came out and executed against a solid football team. You’ve got to be happy for that.

Do you have your quarterback now?
We had him today. We had him today. What was he? 28-of-32? You know, we’ve got to get our run game going. He can’t just sit back and pass every down. We rushed for 69 yards; that ain’t good. But, you know, he threw the ball like we thought he was capable, he got us in some good run checks and looked comfortable in the pocket. He didn’t look like he had - and, again, just getting the rust off, I guess. But we have to continue to do that.

I mean, J-Weah catches some nice balls. Shoot, I think he had four incomplete passes, but I remember J-Weah should have had a catch on the other sideline and I know Ffrench dropped one that hit him in the chest - boom, right there; you talk about accuracy. So he’s got the ability to do that every game and he’s got the tools out there. I thought, protection-wise, we gave up an early sack on kind of a delayed sprint-out; 44, their best player, caught him from behind, I believe.

But overall, you’ve got to be happy with the passing game, not happy with the running game. And it’s hard to win football games when you can’t run the ball. They packed it in there now, so they were saying, ‘You’re not going to run the ball’ and they made us throw. And we did.

Avonte Maddox has been such a big part of your football team; he was all over the field in three phases of the game. Can you talk about what he means, especially in a game like this, where you needed a win?
Yeah, I mean, Captain Maddox. That’s what seniors are supposed to do, that’s what captains are supposed to do, and he’s certainly a great captain and a leader of this football team. But he’s making plays on special teams, he’s holding up people at the jammer position, he’s doing a lot of great things for us. They’re not throwing to his side.

They had one nice catch on Dane and what’s Dane do? He came back and got the interception. So people throw it up there on Dane Jackson, a good athlete, you’re going to pay. I’m still mad about the 70-yarder; probably we were in the same coverage - you know, just checking; it was Damar out there and we probably checked the same coverage too many times and they caught onto it and caught us choking the hole cover-two, you know, jet route. But overall, solid.

Fair to say you wouldn’t be able to rely on throwing the ball 32 times against an ACC opponent?
Did you say, ‘Would it be safe to say?’

Yeah. Is it fair to say you can’t rely on a game plan where you throw it that much.
Our game plan coming in was to throw the ball to open up the run a little bit. But even in that third quarter when we went three-and-out and Coach Watson called two runs in a row and I think we took a sack on third down, I said, ‘Forget it.’ I said, ‘Just throw it.’ You know, just throw; we’re not getting conservative here. If they want to continue to pack the box, then we’ll beat them in the pass.

410 yards of passing - I guess, hey, a win is a win. Other teams will give a little bit of both.

This was the second week in a row when your offense came out on the very first drive and looked very efficient. How much are you guys scripting that first drive and how happy are you with the way that’s played out?
I’ll be happy if it happens again next week. How about that?

You’re obviously happy when you take the first drive down and execute and have guys doing their jobs. I think that’s what it comes down to. So we’ll worry about the next one and not sit here and think about how good that one was. And we’ll find a lot of problems on the tape that we need to fix. I’ll tell you that.

Knowing that was how you were going to attack Rice, what did you tell Max when you told him he was going to start again?
You know, just be yourself and go out there and have some fun. Really. Don’t be a tight butt out there. Go relax and have some fun. Do what you know how to do, you know? I think maybe it was a wake-up call; he got sent down one game and he had a chance to come back. That’s not déjà vu. One of you guys asked me the question: he did it and he did a great job. So I’m excited for that guy. He needed a game like that. He’s a super kid and he’s a captain, and hopefully it does a lot for his confidence.

Did the whole team need a game like that?
I know I needed it. I know I needed it. But no doubt about it. You start to wonder, like God, what do we need to do to get one? It was good timing for it. We jump into Syracuse and get back into the ACC and it’s a good football team up there. We know that. They can score points and we’ve got to score points, too.

Was it good to see the defensive backs getting their eyes on the ball and making some plays?
It sure is. I know that was a focus from a year ago. They’ve done a nice job. I told you a year ago, we were in position; I think we watched tape together one afternoon for about three hours and I got in trouble with my wife, hanging out with you guys. But we were in position a lot last year; this time, we’re in position and we’re making plays on the ball.

Dane Jackson, that was a big-time interception that he caught. I’m happy for Dennis Briggs, as well.

Any update on George?

Is this a game for Jester that can build some confidence going forward?
No doubt. And we hadn’t given him a chance, really, to make some of those. So I think it’s a confidence for everybody. It’s a confidence for the offensive coordinator to say, ‘Hey, I can throw it up there and he’s going to catch it and Max is going to put it right where he needs to.’ I mean, look at the throws. It wasn’t like - I mean, he put it right up where he needed to. And you saw the one pump-and-go, the early one Jester had; I think it was the same one against Oklahoma State that we overthrew and didn’t make it. All of a sudden, we come back and we fix it and he puts it right on the money. That was exactly - it looked like the same spot on the field.

How about Rafael too coming up with a good game?
You know, Rafael was our leading receiver coming in. He’s been money. He’s a guy you can count on. He’s going to catch the ball when you throw it to him, and if I’m a quarterback, I’m throwing to that guy. I want to throw it to the guys who are going to catch it. Aaron Mathews had a nice day, too.

410 yards, I guess a lot of guys did.

What do you think was the key to the red-zone offense?
Execution, you know. Four out of five, and that one we didn’t get was the one that drives you nuts when you fumble the ball at the 1-yard line; we could have had another seven there. We give them a little bit of momentum there and points off the board.

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