After weeks of preparation for his fifth season opener as Pitt’s coach, Pat Narduzzi said his feelings of nervousness are the same for ACC foe Virginia as they were in 2015 when Youngstown State was on the other sideline.
Only the stakes change.
“If someone tells you,’I’m not nervous,’ maybe (they’re) not ready,” he said. “There are going to be nerves with everything that goes on with our players until that first snap. I think it goes away (after that).
“There are things you worry about all the way up to game time as a coach.”
He also said the feeling of excitement is there for any opponent at any time of the year.
“It doesn’t change,” he said. “It’s like after your first grandchild to your sixth one. You get excited.”
But he admits playing Virginia on Saturday at Heinz Field is different. He didn’t reference defending last year’s ACC Coastal title, but, obviously, that will be more easily attained with a victory against Virginia. But it will be one of the most difficult games of the season.
“There are so many unknowns with the opponent we’ve got,” he said. “An opener against Albany and Youngstown State is different than an opener against an ACC opponent. It means more. The details are going to matter in this game.”
The Virginia game will be the third opener in school history against a conference opponent. Pitt is 0-2, losing to West Virginia (Big East) in 1996 under Johnny Majors and Florida State (ACC) in 2013 under Paul Chryst.
Narduzzi is 4-0 in openers, beating Youngstown State twice, Villanova and Albany.
When Narduzzi took the job after the 2014 season, he became Pitt’s fifth coach (counting two interims) in 36 months. The program desperately needed stability, and he brought it.
Narduzzi is only the fourth Pitt coach since John Michelosen (1955-1965) to hold the job into a fifth year. The others are Jackie Sherrill, Walt Harris and Dave Wannstedt, and all three enjoyed success in their tenures.
• Sherrill had a Pitt-record .842 winning percentage (50-9-1).
• Harris’ final team went to the Fiesta Bowl.
• Wannstedt is the only Pitt coach in 37 seasons to record a double-digit victory total (10-3 in 2009).
• And Narduzzi won a total of 16 games in 2015 and ’16, more than any coach since Sherrill in his first two seasons. Then, after a losing record (5-7) in ’17, he won the Coastal in his fourth season.
Narduzzi (28-24) has a contract through 2024 and more administrative support than many previous Pitt coaches, something he acquired by earning the trust of his athletic directors and chancellor Patrick Gallagher.
Asked to describe the overall difference in the state of the program five years later, Narduzzi said, “We’ll decide that at the end of the year.”
Wins and losses do matter over anything else in college football, and he knows it.
Meanwhile, he said, “We’ve taken our steps”
“I think we have great kids. Academically, we’ve graduated our players. The relationships are great,” he said. “Our third program goal is to get to a championship game and win championships. We’ve done that.”
Then, he added, “We need to go win a bowl game.”
He is 0-3 in those games.
“Is it a perfect road?” Narduzzi said, quickly providing the answer. “It never is.”