Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi wants more from already stout defense
Pat Narduzzi praises his team when he determines players have earned it.
He will defend them when he believes it’s appropriate.
But when the defense allows 322 passing yards, is gashed by a 59-yard run and fails to get off the field on six of 14 third downs, he will say so.
All those things happened to Pitt during its 34-27 overtime victory against North Carolina on Thursday. If Narduzzi knows the defense is 11th in the nation and second in the ACC in yards allowed — and the safe bet is he does — he will not let it lower his expectations going forward.
If anything, Narduzzi wants more and Pitt will probably need it to win the final two regular-season games. It starts Saturday at surging Virginia Tech, which is 5-1 after September, before Boston College brings the No. 1 ground game in the ACC (an average of 282.2 yards) into Heinz Field on Nov. 30.
Pitt’s defense has carried the team to the brink of first place in the ACC Coastal — a half-game behind Virginia — but that doesn’t mean its coach is satisfied.
“Defensively, probably a little bit disappointed in what they did (against North Carolina),” he said Monday. “(North Carolina’s) Sam Howell is a good quarterback, made some nice throws, but when you watch the video tape, it’s about the details of the little, tiny things, if we had done those better. We gave up one big run, linebacker takes the back door. ‘What are you doing?’ But when you do that, that’s when you get beat. A lot of the details were missed. As much as everybody pats the defense on the back, you get evaluated at the end of the year. We didn’t play up to par, (to) the expectations we have for them.”
Then, Narduzzi made a promise.
“We’ll have a better outing this weekend. I promise you,” he said.
Through it all, Narduzzi has faith and trust in his team to overcome mistakes and correct them. Not losing consecutive games this season provides proof.
“It’s a game of inches and details,” he said, “and our guys didn’t take care of some details, but when it counted, they made those plays. They were relentless.”
He didn’t like North Carolina scoring two touchdowns within a minute and a half of each other to force overtime. But he likes how the defense recovered and allowed an average of 1 yard per snap over eight plays in the extra session.
“It just tells you who those guys are and what they have in their chest cavity, I think,” Narduzzi said. “The kids play hard, and they believe. You can have all these pretty blow-out wins. They’re nice and whatever. But do you find out who you really are? I think we know who they are. When it gets down to a fourth quarter in Blacksburg, we know what we’re going to get.”
NOTES: Narduzzi said the status of wide receiver Maurice Ffrench, who missed the North Carolina game after suffering a broken jaw against Georgia Tech, is day by day. “It comes down to his pain tolerance. We’re going to make sure we protect him, and we’ll make a good decision. He’ll make a good decision. We’ll figure out where he is by Thursday.” … He said running back Todd Sibley, who has missed the past two games with a leg injury, “is getting better.” … Pitt’s game against Boston College will kick off at 3:30 p.m. … Quarterback Kenny Pickett and defensive lineman Jaylen Twyman were named ACC players of the week at their positions.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .