Pitt not looking past 1-win North Carolina
Born more than a half-century after Bill Parcells, Pitt senior wide receiver Jester Weah probably never met the Hall of Fame coach/football philosopher.
But Weah can be excused for what he said Monday that goes against everything Parcells believed while crafting a 19-year, four-team NFL coaching career.
When Weah said, “You never want to judge a team based off its record,” he was showing respect for Pitt's next opponent, the 1-8 (0-6 in the ACC) North Carolina Tar Heels, who visit Heinz Field on Thursday night for a game televised by ESPN.
On the other hand, Parcells famously said, “You are what your record says you are.”
Who's right? Probably Parcells. After all, the man won two Super Bowls.
But Weah and his teammates don't want to known as a losing football team, despite what their record (4-5, 2-3 ACC) says. To shed that label will require two victories in the final three regular-season games.
The easiest of the three will be against a North Carolina team that Pitt hasn't defeated in four tries since joining the ACC in 2013. North Carolina won the ACC Coastal two years ago, but it is 0-5 at home and has yet to defeat a Power 5 team this season. Its only victory came Sept. 16 at Old Dominion of Conference USA, 52-23.
Here are some facts about North Carolina that Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi neglected to mention Monday during his weekly news conference:
• North Carolina's three quarterbacks have combined to throw 14 interceptions. Only four FBS teams have thrown more.
• The Tar Heels' punt return defense is 112th in the nation (allowing an average of 12.4 yards). That bodes well for Pitt's Quadree Henderson, who is seventh (16.1) nationally.
• North Carolina lost three games by margins of 26 (Georgia Tech), 23 (Notre Dame) and 52 (Virginia Tech) points with a defense that is 110th in the nation and last in the ACC (447.1 yards allowed per game). Total points allowed in those three games: 125.
“I know some of you (reporters) will probably think it's an easy game,” Narduzzi said. “We've stressed with our guys it will not be an easy game. I'll guarantee you that.”
Narduzzi said North Carolina is “very similar to what we are,” in terms of losing top players from last season.
Quarterbacks Chazz Surratt, Brandon Harris and Nathan Elliott are trying to replace Mitch Trubisky, drafted in the first round and starting for the Chicago Bears.
“Are any of them Trubisky?” Narduzzi said. “Probably not, but none of our (quarterbacks) are (Nathan) Peterman yet, so that's even right there.”
Pitt also doesn't have to worry about wide receiver Ryan Switzer, who is with the Dallas Cowboys. Switzer caught 21 passes for 334 yards and two touchdowns against Pitt the past two years.
Narduzzi called Switzer “a pain in our tails with punt returns,” but his only returns for touchdowns against Pitt occurred when Paul Chryst was coach (two in 2013).
Meanwhile, Pitt struggled on offense earlier this season after losing several productive players and only recently started to recover.
“They're a team that just continues to get better,” Narduzzi said of North Carolina.
Actually, Narduzzi isn't far off with that assessment. North Carolina's most recent game was a 24-19 loss to undefeated Miami, which climbed to No. 7 this week in the Associated Press rankings.
North Carolina, missing 22 players because of injuries, had a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter, advancing as far as the Miami 34-yard line before losing a fumble.
“They should have beat Miami, in my opinion,” Narduzzi said.