Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi confronts play-calling issue, maintains stance | TribLIVE.com

Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi confronts play-calling issue, maintains stance

Jerry DiPaola
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi remained steadfast in defending his decision to kick a field goal late in Saturday’s game.

Before anyone could ask the only question about Pitt football on anyone’s mind, Pat Narduzzi tried to get behind the steering wheel of the runaway bus and bring it to a stop.

“I know it’ll probably come up,” he said, reading the room correctly, “so I figured I’d address it first.”

Four minutes into his Monday news conference, Pitt’s coach doubled down on his justification for opting to try a field goal from the 1-yard-line when the Panthers trailed by seven points late in the fourth quarter Saturday at Penn State.

“(We) trusted our defense was going to get a stop. I was hoping we’d get a turnover,” he said. “We got the ball back with (1 minutes, 56 seconds left). We expect our offense to do their two-minute and go down the field and score.”

His plan failed when Alex Kessman missed the field goal and, the offense, which drove to the Penn State 26, could not score. In a related issue, Pitt has not scored a touchdown in the second half since last year’s Wake Forest game (a span of six games).

Two minutes into his explanation, which was not appreciably different from what he said Saturday at Beaver Stadium, he clearly had tired of the subject.

“Enough of that. We can debate it for the next 10 years,” he said. “And maybe we will because we probably won’t play (Penn State) the next 10 years.”

Finally, he said, “I apologize to Panther Nation (for the loss).”

He hoped that put an end to it.

But when a reporter diligently pressed on, asking, “Three feet out, why not?”

Narduzzi said, “I explained why not … and I feel good about it.”

Narduzzi admitted his only regret was the three previous plays from the 1 didn’t work.

“I’m not a guy who’s going to put a square peg in a round hole,” he said.

But he added, “I’m not getting frustrated with the short-yardage (offense). It’s just getting the right looks (from the defense) and letting your guys execute. It comes down to execution, OK. Plays don’t make plays. Players make plays. I thought we had the plays, and we just didn’t do it right.

“It will come. It just takes time to get them to trust.”

Perhaps the play selection would have been different if 280-pound fullback Rashad Wheeler had been in the game and healthy.

Narduzzi had been waiting for the right time to use the Central Catholic graduate, moving him from the defensive to the offensive lines and, finally, to fullback this summer. A blocker of Wheeler’s size could have led one of Pitt’s running backs into the end zone, instead of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple calling the quarterback bootleg and quick passes that failed.

But Wheeler is injured — Narduzzi didn’t specify — and he was unable to be more than a decoy on a previous play.

When Pitt had fourth-and-1 on its 43, Narduzzi figured Wheeler’s presence might indicate to the Penn State defense a run was coming. He was right. Quarterback Kenny Pickett hit tight end Nakia Griffin-Stewart for 36 yards in a vacated sector of the secondary to keep the drive alive

“He was just a decoy, an injured decoy, and it was really good, and it worked,” the coach said of Wheeler. “So I appreciate him going out there for that one play. He might have gotten another one, but I think that was his one play.”

Get the latest news about Pitt football and all things Panthers athletics.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Pitt
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.