Narduzzi on a 'tough ball game,' offensive struggles and more

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Pat Narduzzi's team fell to 1-1 on the season Saturday, and here's a rundown of what he said after the loss to Penn State.

NARDUZZI: Tough ball game out there. Self-inflicted wounds, really. I give Penn State credit for winning the game. They’re obviously a well-coached football team. I’ve got a lot of respect for the way they coach, what they do, how they do it, and for Coach Franklin, which I told him after the game. They were better than we were today. And we have to go back and get to the fundamentals.

We’ve got to protect the quarterback. We can’t turn the ball over and win any - I mean, you’re not going to beat a top-ten team in the country when you turn the ball over, especially early in the game. I thought, field position-wise, I don’t know what the field position was, but we didn’t win the field position war; I can guarantee you that. Probably lost it by 200 yards, which is the length of the field twice. Probably, I’m just guessing. Because our defense was put in a sudden-change situation for a good part of that game. Maybe it was 300 yards. I don’t even know. I’ll get that stat to you on Monday.

But our kids never quit. I love that football team in that locker room. Our kids, they’re going to fight and we’re a young football team that’s going to grow and get better every game. I think it was a better overall game than we had a week ago - minus a couple turnovers against a better football team. So there’s a lot of good things that you see and we just have to polish some things up and get better.

AFTER A WEEK AS LOCKED IN AS YOU GUYS WERE, WHAT DO YOU THINK THE SELF-INFLICTED WOUNDS STEMMED FROM?
NARDUZZI:
Execution. You know? Execution. I think the first pick, you know, the normal arm-chair quarterback will blame it on Max but the receiver didn’t get out of his break fast enough, didn’t go after the ball and we have to clean that up. There’s a few of those that we’re not on time. We expect the quarterback to be in rhythm and get the ball out; you know, you also have to be where you’re supposed to be. So there’s a lot of details that we have to clean up.

WHAT WAS DIFFERENT ABOUT THE GOAL-TO-GO SITUATIONS WITH YOU GUYS BEING ABLE TO MOVE TO THAT POINT BUT YOU WEREN’T ABLE TO GET IN FOR SIX?
NARDUZZI:
Give them credit, too, now. They have a sturdy defense. They’re not - you know, we didn’t play William and Mary out there today. Penn State’s a good football team. We knew they had a good front. I still think we rushed the ball pretty good but then we’re getting into a situation where we’re behind the sticks and then you can’t run it like you want to. We won the time of possession, which means we ran the ball pretty well. The thing where you’re put in a position where you’re going to throw it every down, that’s not us.

ANOTHER GAME WITH OFFENSIVE LINE STRUGGLES; ANY CONCERN THERE WITH HOW THEY PLAYED?
NARDUZZI:
You know, I think they were better last week. We faced some different guys out there rushing the quarterback. But you can’t protect everybody every play; they have to learn to - again, Jaryd Jones is coming off major knee reconstruction -

(A loudspeaker goes off in the press conference)

Next question.

THE FIRST TIME YOU PULLED MAX, HIS HELMET CAME OFF; WHAT WERE YOU THINKING THE SECOND TIME?
NARDUZZI:
It was a combination of, really, everything. I’m not going to get into injuries or anything else like that. But there was concern for him, period. If you looked at his face - I don’t know if he’s coming in here afterwards or not - but he’s got a nice gash, I guess. He’s got no concussion, I don’t think, but he had a good gash. He’ll probably have a black eye. I don’t remember what happened on that play, but it didn’t seem like we protected the quarterback very well there.

HOW MUCH OF A SPARK DID YOU THINK BEN GAVE YOU GUYS?
NARDUZZI:
He gives a spark because he can run. You see him scramble around, even the last play - now, he puts the ball on the ground and you can’t scramble around forever; they’ve got 11 guys running around with different color jerseys. But he gives you a spark. I told you, he’s a good quarterback, too, and I think we can win games - I told you that a long time ago - with him. So it was good to get him some action out there. You know, he scores on the one, he can scramble. He’s got to make good decisions all the time, but I was happy with what he did in there at the end. He made a couple of nice throws. But we had another turnover, which we can’t have, too.

YOUR DEFENSE IS YOUNG BUT YOUR OFFENSE HAS A LOT OF VETERAN GUYS; DO YOU THINK THAT SOME OF THE STRUGGLES MIGHT BE A NEW COORDINATOR, A COUPLE NEW GUYS -
NARDUZZI:
You know, we’ll look at it. I think part of the struggle is a good defense, too. When you rush for - what did we rush for? 155 yards; it looked like it was more than that, and we were forced to throw it probably a little bit more than we want to. We’ll look at what they are, but you have guys that have got the ball in their hands. I mean, Chris Clark drops a couple balls; a young guy, hadn’t played for a year. You see Aaron Mathews drop a couple. You know, Jester drops one. So we can sit here and look at incompletes - you know, when we’re throwing it, you have to catch the ball, too. There’s opportunities to catch it.

We just have to execute. The quarterbacks are putting the ball where it needs to be, and I think there’s some good play-calling out there today, but you have to make a play, too.

WHERE DID YOU THINK YOUR DEFENSE IMPROVED FROM LAST WEEK, CONSIDERING THE QUALITY OF OPPOSITION? WHERE WERE THEY BETTER?
NARDUZZI:
It’s hard to say. The sudden change situations - you know, I think last week, Penn State had 11 explosives; maybe we gave up three today. We always feel like if we give up four or less - I don’t know how many they had. They had one on a quarterback run early on a play they had never shown before. But it seemed like they had maybe four or five of them, instead of 11. I think that’s a bonus. I don’t know if the wheel route got us but we got a different version of Barkley up the middle on what we call a ‘T-shoot,’ which we practice. We didn’t make a play on that one or get our hands on Barkley.

WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM LAST YEAR’S GAME IN ORDER TO HELP YOU CONTAIN BARKLEY IN THE FIRST HALF?
NARDUZZI:
Nothing from last year’s game gave us a clue there. Again, he got his yards. I think he played a better game this year than he did last year, so he might have scored a lot of one-yard touchdowns last year, but he rushed the ball better against us this year. So we have to firm up our run defense.

DID THEY DO ANYTHING TO LIMIT YOUR PLAY-CALLING IN THE RED ZONE?
NARDUZZI:
Not really. You know, the field gets scrunched down there, makes it a little bit harder. They did a nice job down there. Give them credit.

QUADREE HENDERSON HAD FOUR TOUCHES AND NET ZERO YARDS; DID YOU FEEL LIKE THEY WERE KEYING ON HIM, TRYING TO TAKE HIM AWAY?
NARDUZZI:
I would if I were them. You know? Quadree danced around a little bit too much. They’re a good tackling team. They did a nice job of taking shots, didn’t give him a chance to wiggle much, I thought. We talked about just putting your foot in the ground and going because they’re playing your wiggle; he’s a guy that’s got a lot of wiggle. But we have to get him back 100% and get him ready to go.

DID DINUCCI DO ANYTHING TODAY TO MAYBE GET MORE PLAYING TIME GOING FORWARD?
NARDUZZI:
We’ll look at the tape. He did some nice things. Like I said, he’s a good football player and so is Max. We have faith in both of those guys.

IS MAX YOUR STARTER?
NARDUZZI:
Yes.

YOUR FRONT SEVEN, HOW WOULD YOU GAUGE HOW THEY PLAYED?
NARDUZZI:
Our front seven? Based on, they rushed for 148 yards, not as good as we need to. Barkley - they ran what we call power-read where he got outside a few times and it’s a foot race and he’s beating Dewayne Hendrix to the edge. Somehow we have to clean it up on that play; it’s a play usually that we’re pretty good. I don’t think they were really reading it today. And he’s got some wheels. He’s a Heisman Trophy candidate that’s pretty good. Then all of a sudden you’re worried about that and near the end the quarterback fakes that and runs up inside because your ‘backers are worried doing the D-end’s job and then all of a sudden you’re losing on that. Everybody’s got to do their job. It’s option defense.