PAT NARDUZZI: Just to give you a little review of just last week and really what I saw on tape is what I saw during the game, felt during the game. It was a feeling thing that I think sometimes you have. But I would say, you know, with week 1 being over, a lot of learning for our kids, what they did, what they could have done better. There was a lot of guys playing in their first game, starting in their first game, playing for the first time in a year with Hendrix and a Zeise, for example, or even a Max Browne, for example, been a long time since they’d been in a game situation. As many scrimmages as you have, there’s nothing like game experience.
For a coach, I told you it’s almost a relief to get the first week over because now you know what you’re dealing with. You really don’t know until you have a true game to see how you match up against a good football team, and then even a better one obviously this weekend. But you kind of know what to fix now. So we talked to the coaches, it’s kind of like until you go to the doctor and find out what’s wrong with you, you can’t give the patients the right medicine. Now we know what kind of medicine they need, and we should be able to tailor practices, tailor an individual towards what needs to be done.
As I’ve told you in the past, you make your best improvement between week 1 and week 2. It’s kind of like getting on the right antibiotic, I guess, know what I mean? So I guess we prescribe the antibiotic and it’ll be fun to watch what we can do in week 2.
Just a quick roster update just to keep — I told you if there’s someone out for the year I would tell you. Just to — when there’s a guy out for the year, there’s no sense in keeping it to ourselves, I guess, but Quintin Wirginis will be out for the year with a non-football related injury, so after a suspension, we have an injury, so he’s a guy that really is lost for the year. Disappointing, but something we deal with. That’s what we do. And obviously happy with how Saleem played and led the defense out there Saturday, so we’ll continue to go in that manner.
And then obviously Penn State, big week this week. Great football team. I think from our estimates, about 16 returning starters playing a lot of football. You know, a really good football team, ranked 6th in the country, probably go up higher this week after the blowout win over Akron. Looked dominant on all phases of the game. Akron couldn’t protect the quarterback. Their front four, Coach Pry has got the front four going big time. They’ve got Cabinda and Manny Bowen in there, two really good linebackers, and Marcus Allen, the safety, No. 2, really good football player. So they’re nasty on defense. Obviously with credit to their coaching staff and what they’ve done recruiting wise, a good football team.
Coach Moorhead and the offense, again, explosive. Scored a lot of points like they did a year ago, which got them to the Rose Bowl. Very well-coached on both sides of the ball, but offensively they do what they do. Obviously Trace is a heck of a quarterback and Barkley is a heck of a tailback, so you’ve got two guys in the backfield that you must stop. Trace did a lot of running. I’d anticipate him continuing to carry the ball. They brought the backup quarterback package with him. I’m sure they’ll have some new packages we haven’t seen because half their backups and third team were in in the second half, so they should be fresh and ready to go Saturday.
Q. Last year you talked about every week is the same, and when you don’t make your players available for one specific week, does that send a message in the locker room that this is a different week?
PAT NARDUZZI: I guess it does. I mean, I would say that for sure. It is not — I think I said that last year, it’s just not another weekend. Understand this has nothing to do with you guys, either; I love you guys. It has nothing to do with keeping you out, it’s just keeping our kids tight. It has nothing to do — as a matter of fact, after the game we’ll give you more guys, win or lose. That’s what we’ll do. So it’s not a matter of anything you guys did. I respect you guys. I thank you for everything you guys do. You’ll still get a piece of me if you want. That’s the big thing. You won’t miss too much there.
But all the talk should be about the game and the match-ups, and I think you guys know what you’re going to do there, but it’s a big game, it really is, and I want our guys locked in. It’s an in-state rivalry, at least for us, and we’re going to prepare for it that way.
Q. Is there concern with them saying something —
PAT NARDUZZI: No, not really, not with our guys. Not with our guys. If you look at their GPAs we really don’t have that problem. EJ does a good job just teaching them how to talk to the media, and I don’t worry. If there’s a guy that I would worry about something they’d say, I wouldn’t let you have them anyway, so we could control that and I could just give you all the guys that I wouldn’t worry about, but no, it has nothing to do with that, either. And you know what, I’m not worried about coaches going and saying anything, but still, it’s just a matter of focus on what we’re doing, and it’s just like I can’t wait to get out of here today. EJ didn’t set me up with any little interview afterwards, and I’m going to change, put a pair of shorts on, and I’m in with tape. It’s just time to go.
The first week is a pain in the butt. You’ve got bonfires, we’ve got everything. This is football, and we got to get into it. It’s going to be fun.
Q. What makes this week different than a conference week or any other game this season that would make you approach it differently?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, I think every game is big in its own way. Youngstown game was big because it’s the first game of the season. Penn State game is a big game because it’s an in-state rivalry game. It’s important not only to the guys that sit in this room but the community out there, the state of Pennsylvania, to the city of Pittsburgh. It’s a pride thing, and that’s why it’s big. But you go into the next week, it’s Oklahoma State, it’s big, because we went out there and took an ‘L.’ It’s going to be big, so we’ll have our reasons for that. So every week we’re going to build into what it should be, is, and we like it that way.
Q. What about later this season when the ACC Coastal is on the line?
PAT NARDUZZI: Are you saying you might get closed out again?
Q. I’m asking.
PAT NARDUZZI: I’m saying there might be a real good chance of that, yeah. You know, why not? I didn’t say it was — I didn’t give you a rule that we could only do it once a year. It’s not like one and done. But yeah.
Q. From a football standpoint, you guys had trouble protecting Max in the second half in space against the run. What were some of the issues looking at the film?
PAT NARDUZZI: Lack of focus, lack of fundamentals, feeling good about yourself. We’re up 21-0, everything is good. Complacency. I think a lot of that goes — I look at the tape, and guess what, I didn’t see Coach Pelini change a whole lot of different things. I felt like they were hungrier in the second half than we were. I think maybe we got full in the first half, full of ourselves, thinking, hey, we’re okay, and that wasn’t the case. Which sometimes happens in those games—we won’t be hungry this week. The great thing is we were able to come back get hungry, when it was like, oh, my gosh, what happened here, we lost it, and we regained our focus, and you see some people can’t do that. You watch what happened last night, someone is up and then someone comes back and all of a sudden, boom, it flips and you’re done. Not a good thing. But you know what, when you’re up, okay, and then all of a sudden the other guy ties you up and all of a sudden you can rebound, to me that shows character and resolve, and I’m happy, again, that adversity as I talked about after the game, it’s a good thing.
Q. I would think that the general consensus of everyone outside of this building says that you guys have no chance this coming week. Describe the opportunity that you and the kids have here to pull off yet another upset.
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, you know, first of all, we don’t — outside these walls, we try to tell our guys, really don’t worry about it. But that’s great. They’re a great football team. There’s no doubt about it. And we’ve got to go into a hostile environment, which we’ve done before and had success. But you know, the odds are against us. I’m not blind to that. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s nice to be the underdog. We were the underdog last year, too, so what’s the difference?
Q. You talked about how big this game is, not just for you guys but for the community and everything, and it’s obviously a good rivalry now that — is hate too strong of a word between Pitt and Penn State at this point?
PAT NARDUZZI: You’d have to ask them, I don’t know. Ask them if it is. I don’t know. We’re just going to play the game. We’re just going to play football. There’s no hate here. I know that. But I don’t think there’s any hate there, either.
Q. How have you seen Barkley evolve in the last year, or is he the same kid with a little bit more experience?
PAT NARDUZZI: He’s stronger, I think. He’s fast. He does it all. I mean, he can do it all. I’m sure we’re going to see some wheel routes. I don’t know if you guys know what a wheel route is, but that wheel route, we saw a couple the other day. But we’ll have that ironed out in every different possible formation you can see. We didn’t obviously see a lot of him in preseason, did a bad job as coaches, starts with me, but we’ll have that ironed out, as well.
Q. What was wrong with the routes?
PAT NARDUZZI: There was a couple picks. They did a good job acting. Picks were illegal, but only if they get called, and we didn’t do a good job adjusting. One time there was a miscommunication. Really twice, whether they catch it or not. That’s what it comes down to.
Q. The rivalry game, is it managing your team’s emotion to keep it more even, or is it rising it to a level against the opposition?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think it’s a little bit of both. I don’t think you can get up too early. We certainly don’t want to get fired up on Tuesday. It’s time to get fired up on a Saturday when we arrive at the stadium. But I think you’ve got the composure and you worry about yourselves. It’s all about what we do in this room, what we do as coaches, the preparation we put in, the focus we put in on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in practice. But preparation is the key, and all the rest of those things come along with the game.
Q. When your team shows a sign of weakness like the wheel routes, what kind of a concern is there that obviously Penn State is watching film on you?
PAT NARDUZZI: Everybody has got weaknesses, and that’s what we do as coaches. We find out where we are, you measure it, and then you find the right medicine for it, so we have medicine for it. It’s not like it’s the first time we’ve seen a wheel route. Shoot, I can go all the way back to Jon Misch, No. 36 at Michigan State, getting hit on a wheel route. He was on the “Survivor” show, too, by the way. When I think of wheel routes, I think of Jon Misch. So we’ve seen them in the past, and then every year they recycle themselves and come back to different things, and it’s like, oh, the wheel route is back. It’s in vogue now. But they did a nice job, give them credit, had different formations: Three by one, two by two, two by two and a tight end. We’ve got — we’ll be okay.
Q. How did you fix it with Misch? What did you do?
PAT NARDUZZI: Just fixed the coverage and coached it up and make sure you pay attention to details. It’s so hard with all the different routes you’re getting and things — what are you worried about going into the game and then what are you worried about during the game? So you coach up, you try to defend everything, but sometimes the unknown is the unknown.
Q. When you’re out in public when you’re in the grocery store —
PAT NARDUZZI: I don’t go to the grocery store. (smiles)
Q. Are you out in public?
PAT NARDUZZI: I went to church on Sunday.
Q. What’s the ratio being asked about this one game compared to all the others?
PAT NARDUZZI: It’s about the same. You know. As a matter of fact, I walked out of church, and everybody said, hey, congratulations. Father Mac didn’t say, hey, what about the game this week. He said, hey, great job in the win. That was it. A couple of the ushers said about the same thing, and you’re out the door.
Q. Pretty nice church.
PAT NARDUZZI: They’re not reporters (laughter).
Q. Wirginis out for the year; is he a guy that could redshirt?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yes, he’s never redshirted.
Q. Do you anticipate redshirting him and having him back next year?
PAT NARDUZZI: That will be the plan. He’ll graduate in December, too, I believe.
Q. You had Max in all spring, but did you learn anything in this opening game that you maybe did not know that you saw out there on the field, the way he handled us after?
PAT NARDUZZI: The way he handled who?
PAT NARDUZZI: I don’t know how he — I don’t —
Q. He was superb.
PAT NARDUZZI: I don’t watch any of that. I apologize. I’m glad he was good. EJ would have told me if he was bad. Max is a class act. That’s why he was voted captain here in the last place. I mean, he’s good.
I’d like to see him make a few more plays. He had a great run, and we encouraged him to run. There was another 3rd down where he could have run just to make sure he didn’t make a negative. We’d like to hold onto the ball. There’s a lot of little things, just fundamentals. Again, first time he’s been under fire for over a year really. He was sitting on the sideline with headphones on going out for the coin toss is the only time he really got on the field.
So there’s a lot of learning for him, and just — to me, it’s everybody. I’ll point out — you talk about the heat of the moment, okay, go to the second play — no, I won’t even talk about it. I won’t even talk about it because I might give somebody else something else.
Q. When you look at the inability to establish the second-half run game, was that maybe letting the foot off the pedal?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, who knows. Who knows. You’d have to bring a psychologist in here to figure that out, and you’d have to be in right then at the moment. That’s what it appears to be —
Q. Seeing the game, did they do something different —
PAT NARDUZZI: No, just like I said earlier, they didn’t do anything differently, just a lack of focus, and when you start to feel good about yourself, you think, oh, this is easy, and you might not even know it. But it happens. You know? And it can happen to a coach, as I told them last — I told our kids last night, it can happen to a coach. I’m on the headphones, and Coach is like, hey, maybe we should get this guy in and this guy. Whoa, whoa, whoa, way too early, but I that thought of, hey, get him out so he doesn’t get hurt because we’re killing these guys, but no, that’s not the case. So it happens.
Q. You talked about using that certain package in the Youngstown game —
PAT NARDUZZI: I did?
Q. You didn’t mention what it was, but you said you were activating it. Are you looking forward to getting that package off the shelf and using it this week?
PAT NARDUZZI: I’d like a few packages off the shelf.
Q. So you have other packages you didn’t use in that game?
PAT NARDUZZI: Put it this way: When we go into the game, we probably have about 30 percent of really an offense or a defense. We don’t have everything in. You pick and choose. You have all your stuff on your board. This is all the stuff. What do we like against this defense, what do we like again that defense, what are we going to do, and you pick and choose and pull stuff down, you shelve stuff. Stuff that maybe we did a lot this week, they’ll practice a lot against it, we won’t even do it next week, but they’re practicing it all week. Like this week we’ll probably practice the heck out of the wheel routes and they won’t run a wheel route. But you wasted a lot of time on wheel routes. We’ve got that covered, right, so it’s all kind of a — I’m sure we’ll see at least one to see if we got it fixed, and I’m sure the same thing, they’re going to see some things to see if they got it fixed, too.
Q. What did you see from Dewayne Hendrix? Seemed like there were some drives where he really stepped it up?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, Dewayne is a powerful guy, and we’ve got to put him in position to be successful. I felt like we maybe twisted, did too much junky stuff up front instead of just letting him rush, and we missed a couple sacks, too, but there’s times where we are just so aggressive going right at your body and not containing a guy. Allen Edwards missed one, and there’s times where if we push the pocket, we get a couple more sacks. It’s all stuff that you find out, who can make a play. One time Folston comes wrapping around, couldn’t have been a prettier stunt, but our nose gets out of his lane and the quarterback steps up and throws, and it’s like, Folston should have had a sack, but we let some of those things go.
Q. Bookser is back on the depth chart. How do you anticipate getting him back in the mix?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, obviously we’re going to slowly get him back. When you don’t have him for the opener, he doesn’t get those reps with the ones, so we’ve lacked his work with the ones and getting that stuff. You have to move on to the next. We’ve got to prepare Mike Herndon to be a guy that rotated — I think probably part-time with Brandon Hodges, so you’re trying to get two guys ready for that position for the opener when you don’t — you know you don’t have Alex, but he’s a guy that’s played before, but at least it hasn’t been a year, it’s been since January, so it’s been six months, and he’s gotten a few reps down there. Last week he was on the scout field working — he was a Youngstown State guard, so we got a good look there. We’ll bring it back slowly, see what he knows, see how it goes.
Q. The cross-training you did in training camp with guys like Hodges and Bookser, could that come into play this week?
PAT NARDUZZI: Oh, there’s no question, no doubt.
Q. Is there anything that you would take from the Clemson game last year that you would sort of —
PAT NARDUZZI: Last year?
Q. Going on the road in a place nobody is supposed to win?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, well, I don’t know which underwear I wore for that game for the superstitious part, but if I wanted to keep the same ones on — there’s nothing you take from that game. There’s really no superstition that way.
Q. In terms of will you show — do you revisit that moment with the team?
PAT NARDUZZI: I am sick of that moment really. That moment is so far in the past. We can’t look back to that one. On to the next game, and this is a different football team. It doesn’t matter what we did against Clemson or Penn State a year ago, it doesn’t matter. This is a new football team with a lot of new guys that are playing. We’re really not looking to that at all. That’s honest.
Q. Do you think Penn State perceives this as a rival game?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, I’m not going to speak for them. I know it’s a rivalry game for us, but some people think it’s a rivalry game, some people don’t. It doesn’t matter what they think. It just matters what we think, and if we think it is, then it is for us, and it doesn’t have to be for them. It really doesn’t. Everybody has different rivalries.
Q. Could you see what happened and why Henderson wasn’t more involved in the passing game?
PAT NARDUZZI: Again, a lot of double coverage out there. You said Quadree?
PAT NARDUZZI: I was thinking Jester for some reason. Why wasn’t he involved? Just not being able to get the ball to him. We didn’t really throw the ball down the field much. It was a lot of short stuff, and just who you’re targeting, I guess.
Q. The backfield stuff, is that sort of the ratio if everything is working going forward?
PAT NARDUZZI: Tailback wise?
PAT NARDUZZI: We’d like to get one other guy involved back there as soon as possible. I thought AJ did a great job, came in and got a touchdown, and I was scared to death we put him in on 4th and 1, and it’s like, we’re putting the ball in a freshman’s hand on 4th and 1, but AJ did a heck of a job just like we thought he did in camp, but big game, first game, I was impressed with him. But we’ll see. Again, we’re going to play the guy that’s hot. If it’s AJ who’s hot, Chawntez comes back and is hot, whoever is ready to go.
Q. A couple former players will make their NFL debuts this week. What does that say about your program and moving forward?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, you know, I’ve been so locked into this game. I know Coach LaSala gave me a list of who’s made the team and all that. It means a lot. I’m going to see the highlights. I’m not going to have a chance to see any of those because we’ll be working on the next one by that time. But it’s impressive. Obviously it’s great to see a lot of guys get on practice squads. That’s not easy, whether it’s a Matt Galambos or Tyrique Jarrett. It is hard to make a 53-man roster. You look at Bam Bradley made the 53-man roster, correct? That’s an incredible job by some of those guys, and I don’t have a list of all of them, but it’s impressive.
It shows you what hard work will get you in the end, and if you work hard, and I watched some of those guys just run around and some of the highlights and the toughness part and the motor and the effort, the things we talk about on that back wall show up. They liked Galambos because he’s a smart guy that can pick up stuff. Well, that’s important. It’s as important as a guy that runs really fast or can catch the ball. I mean, Dontez did a heck of a job up in Detroit, free agent. And I remember I was his agent, and he made the team, right? He’s practice squad? Okay. I mean, he made the team up there, but he was going between Detroit and New England and I was trying to get my son off to prom or something. I don’t know, would that have been prom time of the year? And I’m his agent, and I didn’t even know until that day of the draft, like Coach, should I go to New England or Detroit. But no, I’m happy for all those guys.
Q. Saquon, you mentioned how strong and fast he is, Barkley. How do you try to stop a guy like that or at least show him down?
PAT NARDUZZI: You’d better be sound. You’d better be in the right gaps. He’ll jump out of a gap. You’ll think he’s going there, he’ll go there. Everybody has got to be gap sound. You’ve got to get penetration in the backfield, and you load the box and then they’ve got the other things. They’ve got players outside, too.
Q. When you have a younger team on a week like this, a big game, rivalry, do you keep a closer eye on guys to see how they’re handling it throughout the week?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, unfortunately you only get them for a couple hours a day, so I can’t go in the dorm rooms at night and see what they’re doing. They don’t let me stay with them during the year, so you’re not around them all day, so we try to ground them as far as go to school and then study when you leave here. That’s what our guys do. But hopefully they understand how important it is. It’s not what you do when you go out to class in Oakland on 5th and Forbes. It’s what you do here. But I think they’ll stay pretty focused.
Q. How do you approach the preparation, like the psychology, with a guy like Alex Kessman?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know what, those are two good kicks. I blame myself for the last one. You can write this down. I knew he liked the left hash because I asked him last week, do you like the left hash or right hash. And he said, I like the left hash. But I never asked him if he liked it in the middle. But he kicked those ones in the middle, the extra points, so as it’s flying and there’s 13 seconds, hey, line it up, center it up, and get that thing done.
And so yesterday, I said, hey, by the way, do you like it in the middle or the left hash; he goes, the left hash. I’m like, sorry, and put both of them right, so put that on me. But I got a ton of faith — there’s not a guy who sits in this room as a coach, a player, a manager, trainer, that doesn’t have faith in that kid. He’s strong. His first game, you know. I saw Blewitt do it in his 55th game. He kicked some game winners, and he’s going to be a heck of a kicker. You see the type of leg he’s got, we’ve just got to straighten him out a little bit. Again, he’s the first one to say Coach, I don’t care if it’s left hash, right hash, middle. I should have put it through the uprights, period. He’s that type of kid. I have faith in him, and psychology wise, he’s got faith in himself. There’s a trust there for sure.
Q. How did Jimmy Morrissey handle the first start?
PAT NARDUZZI: He did pretty good. He did pretty good. There’s some things, obviously, I can pick out 11 guys on each phase of the game that were in the game that has things to work on. But he has some things he needs to work on. He had a couple missed assignments as far as what he was doing and who he was blocking at times, and just a communication thing, and again, communication across the board, whether it’s on a wheel route or blocking back on a shade or a 3 technique are things that hit him fast. Again, you learn what he needs, why didn’t you see that, oh, I see it now, Coach, I didn’t realize it. There’s all those things I think are important to know.
Q. What does losing Wirginis do to your depth at linebacker?
PAT NARDUZZI: It’s about the same as it was last week. The good thing is the depth chart hasn’t changed. It’s the same. He prepared all camp for it. He’s a great player and a great kid, so obviously you’d like to have him, but what are you going to do. www.pittsburghpanthers.com