Pat Narduzzi questions Nebraska’s 2003 firing of Ohio coach Frank Solich
Pat Narduzzi’s praise for Ohio’s Frank Solich went beyond the normal, mundane coach-speak that flows back-and-forth before a game.
Narduzzi said he still hasn’t set aside Nebraska firing Solich — and that happened 16 years ago.
“The guy never should have been let go there,” Narduzzi said Monday at his weekly news conference. “Probably one of the biggest mistakes in Nebraska history. He was a legend there. I’m still (ticked) about it.”
Solich, a 1966 Nebraska grad, was fired in 2003 by then-Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson — in between his stints at Pitt — after a 9-3 season and 53-19 record in six years.
“Like they expected to win 12,” Narduzzi said.
Solich, his former defensive coordinator Jim Burrow and Narduzzi have a long-standing friendship. Solich said he has spoken in the past with Narduzzi about defensive concepts, mainly when the Pitt coach was on the Michigan State staff.
“The relationship between coach Narduzzi and our staff is excellent,” Solich said. “He helped us formulate things from the defensive side of it. We have a lot of respect for coach Narduzzi.”
Solich knows Whipple
Solich also has some familiarity with Pitt offensive coordinator Mark Whipple but in a different way.
Ohio played Whipple’s Massachusetts team twice over the past two seasons and won both games. But UMass scored a total of 92 points in the defeats.
“Is it an advantage (for Pitt)?” Narduzzi said. “Maybe for them. They know what Whipple likes to do. They’ve seen it for two years in a row. Whipple knows them a little bit, and they also know Whipple.”
Solich knows this much:
“Whipple is great at identifying the weak spots and attacking those weak spots, whether it’s on the ground or in the air,” he said.
Pitt has a 7-1 all-time record against Ohio, and Panthers fans probably remember the one defeat as much as Solich does.
It was the second game of the 2005 season — Dave Wannstedt and Solich were first-year coaches at their schools — and the visiting Panthers lost to the Bobcats, 16-10, in overtime. It is one of only four times in 35 games Pitt has lost to a MAC school.
“It’s not even in my mind, to be honest with you,” Solich said.
Solich might not want to talk about it, but he did the same to first-year Penn State coach Bill O’Brien in the 2012 opener in a 24-14 victory at Happy Valley.
When pressed on the Pitt victory, Solich said, “At the moment, it was big for us. That’s gone in the past. We know we got more than our hands full to try and get something done against these guys.”
Narduzzi said quarterback Kenny Pickett, who is unafraid to tuck the football and run when no one is open, has decided not to wear a knee brace this season.
“He’s tough,” Narduzzi said, indicating he signed off on the decision. “He said, `Most people who wear knee braces have knee problems. I’m good.’
“I knock on a lot of wood there. He wants to make plays with his feet and will continue to do that.”
Narduzzi said his team came out of the Virginia game largely healthy, except for one player he declined to name.
“We’re waiting on one evaluation. We’ll find out, hopefully, shortly,” he said.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .