Narduzzi: 'We left a lot of plays out there'

Chris Peak, Publisher

SYRACUSE - Pat Narduzzi had plenty to say after Pitt's 27-24 loss at Syracuse Saturday, and here's a full rundown of his comments.

Narduzzi: Tough one. First of all, our kids played their tails off. My hats off to those guys. They played hard, never quit until the end. We left a lot of plays out there, whether it’s on offense or defense. Really, didn’t have many plays in the kicking game - both kickers did an unbelievable job of fair catching and kicking out of the end zone. So we really didn’t have an opportunity to really impact the game special teams-wise. Besides our field goal team, but you know what? That doesn’t shock me that we kick a 56-yarder; that’s a big time hit out of Kessman. I told you guys from the beginning. But we’d like to score touchdowns instead of field goals. That’s where you get beat when you’re in a back-and-forth game like that.

But I’m proud of our kids. Proud of the way they played, the way they go out and do their business. We had two personal fouls. One on Chase Pine, a late hit on the quarterback - unacceptable. Hurts you on a third down. And another one on Dewayne Hendrix which, you know, we’ll look at the tape on that one. But I think that was…a lot of things missed there.

Do you have to seriously consider shifting the balance of plays for Jordan Whitehead to even more on offense?
Yeah. Yeah. That’s why I asked Coach Watson, I said, ‘Are they only blocking for Jordan Whitehead and they don’t block for anybody else?’ Or is it just, ‘He’s that good and we’re not as good back there in the backfield’? I don’t know what it is. But we’re going to have to get him an IV after the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, fourth quarter; he’s got the motor to do it. He’s a special kid. He’s a good football player.

For the most part, how’d you feel that the secondary fared against them?
We did some good things. I didn’t think we tackled well. They started hitting a wide screen on us to number six, who’s a load. We struggled to tackle him. But it was a wide delay screen which we had seen one time prior to and I think they ran it six or seven times today. Each one, it was a different coverage, and either a lineman’s getting up on the guy that’s got him or, you know, we’ll look at the tape and find out why.

Oerall, Therran got his first start today, so I was proud to watch him go out and compete. It shows he can play at this level. Avonte got hurt the one time and Phillipie comes back in; maybe Phillipie’s not 100% yet. He hadn’t played since the first week of doubles. He gets one thrown up on him; that ain’t his fault. It’s my fault for putting him in there. Maybe I should have put Damarri back in there or Pinnock. But he wanted to go, and if Maddox was in the game, I guess…

How much of it was the same issues that you saw two weeks ago at Georgia Tech as far as offense keeping the defense out there too long?
Our defense did a heck of a job in the first half of getting three-and-outs. And then our offense was getting three-and-outs as well. So it was like a three-and-out first half. And in the second half, we had a couple of them, I think, and some field goals, and defensively, we didn’t get those three-and-outs. So what was the difference?

It’s 22 guys, it’s a football team; we win together, we lose together and we stick together.

You made the adjustment to go with three cornerbacks; what was the thinking there and how did you feel it played out?
It played pretty good until, obviously, at the end when they’re running the ball, just trying to eat the clock up. They took the clock at the end of the game and we couldn’t get off the field, whether it was jumping offsides on a third down-and-1 or 2, whatever it was. We just couldn’t get off the field. You know, quarterback keeper, which he hadn’t pulled all day, but they put it in Eric’s hands when the game was tight.

You tried rotating linemen, running backs; do you have a sense of where the biggest struggle is on offense right now?
: It’s making plays. Aaron Mathews has a chance to make a big-time play. You know, there’s little things. Each play, it’s somebody else, whether it’s a tailback - like I said, you can sit there and blame the O-line and say they’re not blocking, but they block pretty good when number 9’s out there, right? So what is the problem? Is it rotating linemen? Is it the guy that’s carrying the ball? I don’t know. Number 9 looked pretty good.

What was the thinking behind going with Pickett on that last play?
He’s our third-best quarterback. I think Max will probably be out for a couple weeks, and we’re going to need a guy. I had no hesitation. That guy’s a good football player. He’s going to have to play in the next couple weeks until Max gets back.

Was Ben hurt or you just wanted to put Pickett in?
No. I’m trying to think what happened. I think a helmet went off and, you know, we went with him. He’s going to play. We weren’t worried about it. He’s not worried about it. As soon as Max went down, I said, ‘Hey, you get ready to go.’ I had no hesitation. I like him as a football player. He’s smart and we’re going to need him now.

What was your message to the players after this game?
You know, hey, stick together. Don’t point any fingers. We all had a hand in it as coaches and as players. They’re probably going to be real sick to their stomach when they’re watching tape on Sunday, because they left a lot of plays on the field, whether it be a penalty here or there or not making the catch, the throw, the block, the run, the tackle. You’re going to look at it and go, there’s some great things but we don’t finish plays and that’s what they’re going to look out and say, ‘Wow, we were that close.’ Even at the end with 52 seconds left, I think DiNucci’s got Ra-Ra open and we throw it down the field to number 85; throw it to the guy that’s open.

So there’s little things throughout the game that you can look at, whether it’s Bookser going offsides - we just put ourselves in bad position. First series of the game, we go three-and-out and we have a holding call. I mean, you can’t do it.

Was it Max’s throwing arm that he hurt?

When you say Pickett, you’re going to need him and he’s going to play, does that mean there’s a chance he starts next week?
No. Not at all. I mean, you see quarterbacks fall off all the time, for some reason; I’m going to talk to Ox about getting some new chin straps or something. But he’s going to have to go in. You need two quarterbacks and he’s the next guy. So it’s only a matter of that.

What’s Ra-Ra been able to do that the other receivers haven’t been able to do?
Rafael just makes plays and gets open. There’s some things that we do in there with him and different formations and calls that he’s just - they’re covering somebody else and they’re not covering him as well as they need to.

Why didn’t Moss make the trip?
You know, at this point, he didn’t make the trip and he’s susepdned indefinitely until - that’s about all I’ll say about that one. He’s out until further notice.

How would you rate the performance of your defensive front seven?
We lost. So, nothing’s good enough. How do I rate it? You want me to give you an A, B, C? Or do you want me to give you 1, 2, 3?

A, B, C.
A, B, C…C.

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