Narduzzi: 'We've got to get a lot better'

Chris Peak, Publisher
Panther-lair

Pat Narduzzi discussed offensive issues, time of possession and more after Pitt's 35-17 loss to Georgia Tech Saturday.

NARDUZZI: Obviously, a disappointing loss. I thought our kids fought their tails off. I don’t question their effort. I question their execution. When you rush for 37 yards and lose the time of possession by 10 minutes - and it was 10 minutes at the half; it was 20-to-10 at halftime and we’re still in the ball game and it’s a four-point game. And then in the second half, we didn’t make plays when we needed to. We couldn’t run the ball. Again, give them credit. Obviously they did something well and we didn’t. But we’ve continued to not be able to get moving up front with our offensive line, and again, we can point fingers at the quarterbacks and all of that, but if you’re not running the ball, there’s not many quarterbacks that can sit back in that pocket and throw it all day. And then at times we don’t even protect the quarterback.

So we’ve got to get a lot better, offensively and defensively. Obviously an explosive game - we finally saw Quadree open up one that was a heck of a punt return for a touchdown. That was one of the bright spots. But I’ll take our guys any day to war and I applaud their effort and they’re trying their tails off. I guess we aren’t there yet.

NOT BEING ABLE TO STOP THE DIVE, IS IT MORE THE DEFENSIVE LINE NOT GETTING ENOUGH PUSH OR WHAT DID YOU SEE?
NARDUZZI:
It’s a little bit of everything. Guys missing tackles and then you give up on the G-option - the quarterback scrambles for a touchdown and everybody starts thinking out there. They’re good and they know what they’re doing in there. The guards would come down inside and then try to wheel our D-tackles out. You know, we’ll look at the tape. It’s so hard to see exactly what’s going on. We did some things in the second half to hopefully slow it down.

Again, it comes down to possessions, guys. You talk about dives - I mean, they had 67 rushes, okay? You’re not going to win a football game - 10 minutes? We have to win the time of possession and flip the 10 minutes so we have it for 20 more minutes. When you look at what we gave up per carry, you probably won’t be as sick as you are when you just look at the total yards of 436, which is more than we’ve given up, I guess, in both those games prior to. But why is the 436? Because we don’t sustain drives. We had to have probably seven three-and-outs. Defensively, we get four turnovers, should have had a fifth one on a late hit on the quarterback on an interception by Dane, but should have had five turnovers. You should win the game when you have four turnovers.

But we got out there offensively and didn’t take the momentum with a sudden change and do anything with it. That’s probably the most disappointing thing, that our defense - you know, you bend, you get four turnovers, you’re hoping that the offense is going to light fire after a turnover, but, you know, some of the guys on offense aren’t playing their best football. And some of them are seniors and they have to play better if we’re going to win ball games.

YOUR LONGEST LOSING STREAK AS A HEAD COACH - WITH THIS TEAM BEING A YOUNG TEAM AND SOME OF THE ISSUES YOU’VE FACED OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS, IS THIS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU’VE HAD AS A HEAD COACH TO THIS POINT?
NARDUZZI:
Every week’s a challenge to me. They’re all challenges. There’s challenges when you win, because you’re still trying to fix problems. But I’m not worried about winning streaks or losing streaks; I’m worried about those kids in that locker room that are fighting their tails off every week. We need to find out what the problems are, pinpoint them and fix them. As coaches, that’s our job. I don’t care win or lose; I want to coach our guys. That’s why we coach. And when we’ve got a ways to go, it’s even more fun to coach. That’s why we coach. I mean, if they were perfect, we’d be like, ‘What do they need us for?’ They need us right now as coaches and that’s why we’ll be there for our kids.

IS THIS AS FRUSTRATED AS YOU’VE BEEN SINCE YOU GOT HERE WITH ALL THE RUSHING YARDS?
NARDUZZI:
No. Again, I’m not worried about the rushing yards. I’m worried about wins and losses. If you give them the ball for 10 more minutes, that offense, you’re going to be in trouble, you know? You’re going to be in trouble. They can run the ball, especially if you give them 10 more minutes. I mean, it’s tough. Even if you’ve got the ball that much for Georgia Tech, when you get four turnovers - I mean, you’re getting the ball back. Our kids made some nice hits out there today; it wasn’t them just dropping it on the ground at times. Our guys are causing turnovers. That’s a positive.

But we’ve got to do something with the football, guys. You can’t win if you don’t score points. I mean, we scored 10 points on offense today. At halftime, we had 24 plays and our defense had about 50. That’s not good. Not against that team, because they’re going to just continue to run it and run it and run it.

DOES THE GAME PLAN CHANGE AT ALL WITH BEN IN THERE INSTEAD OF MAX?
NARDUZZI:
A little bit. There were some quarterback runs and they stopped an early quarterback run. They played for DiNucci on some quarterback runs. It’s a read thing, so they were kind of saying, ‘Hey, let the tailback run it up inside; we’re not going to let him run the ball.’ But obviously there’s things that you’re going to do with Max and there’s going to be things you do with Ben. When you look at it, that opening drive, we take the ball right down the field; where was that the rest of the game? Where was it? I don’t know. That’s what we’ve got to find out - where it was - and go find it.

DO YOU THINK IT WAS MORE ON THE EXECUTION OF THE GUYS?
NARDUZZI:
I think when there’s penetration on the line of scrimmage, yeah. I mean, it’s execution. And again, I give them credit, too, now; they have guys on scholarship, too. But we’ve blocked other guys like that, so we’re supposed to block them. Right?

IS IT EVEN MORE SURPRISING THAT IT’S NOT JUST ONE GUY WHO’S STRUGGLING ON THE LINE RIGHT NOW? I KNOW YOU’RE MOVING PIECES, BUT IT DOESN’T SEEM LIKE ANY ONE GUY YOU CAN SAY, ‘HE’S DOING A NICE JOB.’
NARDUZZI:
Right.

IS IT FRUSTRATING?
NARDUZZI:
Hey, it is what it is. I’m not going to get frustrated. I’m going to coach. That’s why they call me ‘Coach.’

YOU WENT BACK TO MAX AT THE END; IS THIS GOING TO BE ANOTHER WEEK OF COMPETITION BETWEEN THOSE TWO?
NARDUZZI:
It is. Like I said, Ben takes the opening drive and then we don’t do much except before the half we kick a 55-yard field goal. 55 for our young baby kicker. And you go into the locker room with some momentum of, down four, let’s go. And again, we’re so young that more guys had to play in the second half, guys were getting worn down. I felt bad for Saleem, his pants were all the way down to his ankles, they were so wet and soaked because the guy was playing his tail off, but we didn’t really have another guy to put in at that position. Elias Reynolds ended up coming in and playing a little Mike and he didn’t take a rep all week at Mike, even though he is a Mike, but with that option, we were putting him at the Money ‘backer, just to get him reps there to play with a bigger guy.

HOW MUCH IS YOUR PLAY-CALLING GET AFFECTED ON OFFENSE WHEN YOU’RE NOT RUNNING THE BALL EFFECTIVELY AND YOU’RE HAVING ISSUES ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE?
NARDUZZI:
What play-calling?

JUST THE OFFENSIVE PLAY-CALLING IN GENERAL. WHEN YOU’RE NOT RUNNING THE BALL EFFECTIVELY -
NARDUZZI:
Yeah. Hand-cuffed. You’re hand-cuffed in a pool; not a good thing. You’re going to drown. I don’t care - I told you guys last week, if you can’t run the football, you’re going to be in trouble. 37 yards is unacceptable. We’ve got to find a way to run the football. You can’t sit back and drop back and throw the ball every time; you have to establish the run game. We’ve talked about that and you guys know my philosophy on defense is stopping the run, and when you make a team that has to pass it like we had to pass it today, I mean, we’re throwing check-downs all day, you know? They’re covering up our deep balls. It didn’t look like we could throw a ball 20 yards down the field. Couldn’t get off a press, couldn’t get a guy open. It’s 11 guys; it’s never just one, and I know we like to point the fingers at the quarterback, but we have to give those guys a chance, too.

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BALL, WE SAW JORDAN AND DAMAR NEXT TO EACH OTHER A LOT AT THE SAFETY SPOT. WHAT’D YOU THINK OF THOSE TWO?
NARDUZZI:
You know, I’ll have to watch the tape, you know? I thought they did some good things. Damar missed a tackle on that electric quarterback, TaQuon, and that’s one play - you know, I always see the bad stuff. So I’ll hold until Monday to tell you who played good and who didn’t. But I liked it. We played hard defensively; it’s not an easy offense to defend. We put them out there on the field too long, so I feel bad for those guys. That was not the plan going in.

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