The Pitt Panthers football team had many opportunities to beat the Penn State Nittany Lions before a sold-out Heinz Field and national TV audience. After all, they’ve proven that they can beat Nationally-ranked opponents after upsets over #2 ranked Miami and Clemson the past 2 years, right?
Unfortunately, Pitt’s success against those two teams came from the result of making no mistakes, something they did plenty against Penn State in a 51-6 massacre which dropped them to 1-1 on the season. The Nittany Lions improved to 2-0 and they probably needed this win after barely beating Appalachian St in OT last night. It was the worst margin of victory in the Pitt/Penn State Rivalry that dates to 1893. Next year will be their 100th and final meeting.
“Well, the first thing I want to do is apologize to the Pitt Nation out there.” Said Pitt HC Pat Narduzzi, who is now 1-2 in the Keystone State Rivalry “That was not Pitt football right there. Even being down eight points at the halftime, I walked in and said, guys, we didn’t do anything right, missed extra points, missed field goals. Obviously had a holder issue with injury.
But ultimately everything lays right on my chest. I’ll take it all. We obviously didn’t have them ready to go in any capacity, offensively, defensively or special teams. I thought field position was major. I’ve never seen so many penalties in one game. It starts with my 15-yarder. But 14 penalties, embarrassing, and there were some good calls, too.”
Pitt’s Special Teams miscues proved to be very costly to Pitt, eliminating 4 possible points early in the game. After Penn State scored on a 32-yard TD by WR KJ Hamler, Pitt immediately responded with a 13-yard TD run and just when you thought the game would be tied, the extra-point attempt was failed, with Pitt trailing Penn State 7-6. Pitt also had a chance to close the gap on a 35-yard FG attempt, but K Alex Kessman’s kick sailed wide-right. This came after Penn State also missed a FG as K Jake Pinegar’s attempt also sailed wide-right.
Pitt’s other miscues came because of their decisions on offense. After an impressive 63-yard run that set up Pitt deep in PSU territory, they failed to convert the opportunity into a TD especially after a 4th-down handoff to Ollison was stalled as SMU Swarmed around him for a 3-yard loss.
Another opportunity came as Pitt QB Kenny Pickett led his team methodically down the field, but the drive was stalled as his pass that was intended for WR Tre’ Tipton was intercepted in the end zone. Another opportunity came when Pitt’s Damarri Mathis recovered a fumble deep in PSU Territory, but once again, Pitt couldn’t convert it to a TD, with the score remaining 7-6.
After a botched punt by Christodoulgu, the Nittany Lions added a TD to give them a 14-6 lead at halftime. But in the second half, Penn State destroyed Pitt with TDs as they scored 16 points in the 3rd quarter and an incredible 21 points in the 4th quarter as they mercifully closed the game as most of the capacity crowd left the stadium as the rain continued to fall.
The only bright spot for Pitt was in the first half when Ollison rushed for 125 yards and their lone TD. Unfortunately, he lost 6 yards in the second half (which means he rushed for 0) and finished with 119 yards. Pickett had the worst game of his college career as he passed for 55 yards on 9 completions. For the Nittany Lions, RB Miles Sanders rushed for 118 yards and QB Trace McSorley threw 2 TDs.
“We’ll look at the tape, but first of all, I think when you get into a passing game in this weather, you’re probably going to have a problem.” Said Narduzzi “Kenny didn’t look like himself back there in the pocket in my opinion, but it’s something we’ll have to look at, whether the receivers have their timing, were we getting off the press, whatever it may be, were the guys in position; we’ll look at the tape and have a better idea for you on Monday as far as what it looked like.”
The Panthers must find a way to shake this off, learn from it and prepare for their first Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) game as the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets (1-1) visit Heinz Field next Saturday.
“You can probably use any adjective you want really. It’s frustrating.” Said Narduzzi “I’m humbled as it is so I’m not worried — it’s not humbling, it’s life. It’s the game of football. It’s adversity that you go through, and then the key is going to be how we rebound from this adversity. That’s going to be the key. I trust and love those kids in that locker room, and I’ve got no doubt that they’ll come back next week ready to go, period.”
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Postgame Press Conference Quotes
Pitt Head Coach Pat Narduzzi
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, first thing I want to do is apologize to the Pitt Nation out there. That was not Pitt football right there. Even being down eight points at the halftime, I walked in and said, guys, we didn’t do anything right, missed extra points, missed field goals. Obviously had a holder issue with injury.
But ultimately everything lays right on my chest. I’ll take it all. We obviously didn’t have them ready to go in any capacity, offensively, defensively or special teams. I thought field position was major. I’ve never seen so many penalties in one game. It starts with my 15-yarder. But 14 penalties, embarrassing, and there were some good calls, too.
I’m not saying the officiating was bad. We just had some stuff that just snowballed on us. It starts with me.
With that, you guys got questions, I’m sure.
Q. How much did all the mistakes in the first half contribute to the mindset that carried into the second half?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, I don’t think anything. I mean, golly, you make all those mistakes in the first half and you’ve still got a chance at halftime? It’s an eight-point game. And then in the second half, we went, I think, five straight three-and-outs. We got field position that’s just no good with our return game, our penalties, our muff, whatever it may be.
We’re right in the game, we’ve got a 3rd down and whatever, 5, we go for it on 4th and 3, kids want to go, I want to go, I want to score a touchdown, we’re playing to win. And probably the biggest turning point was that play right there. I don’t know if we got a yard. But we just didn’t make plays. We didn’t block them good enough. Again, give them credit; they’re a good football team, but we just didn’t execute like we need to.
Q. Why don’t you think you were ever able to get the passing game going?
PAT NARDUZZI: We’ll look at the tape, but first of all, I think when you get into a passing game in this weather, you’re probably going to have a problem. Kenny didn’t look like himself back there in the pocket in my opinion, but it’s something we’ll have to look at, whether the receivers have their timing, were we getting off the press, whatever it may be, were the guys in position; we’ll look at the tape and have a better idea for you on Monday as far as what it looked like.
But certainly wasn’t good enough, and it’s certainly not just Kenny’s fault. Like I said, it starts with me and then it starts with Shawn Watson and it starts with Kenny and it goes right down the line, every coach on offense and every coach on defense.
Q. Was Kenny uncertain and jumpy in the pocket?
PAT NARDUZZI: Again, it’s easy for us to sit here on the sideline and say that. Gave up four sacks, so he obviously felt something in there. Even the first half, that guy was scrambling and making plays, but we still weren’t throwing the ball, he was making it all with his feet. But wasn’t able to get the ball down the field. We’re throwing T-swings and check-down routes instead of getting the ball to our receivers.
Q. You said you guys weren’t obviously ready to play. After what you said throughout the week and how good you felt about it in preparation, can you point to why that is?
PAT NARDUZZI: I don’t know. I mean, no, you don’t know. Sometimes you just don’t know. We had two great practices — our Tuesday and Wednesday practices were darned good. Kids were locked in, I think. That football team came out cranked up. They were ready to go. But you make too many mistakes, and it doesn’t matter how ready you are to go. It’s just one thing after another. It’s one of those days.
Q. What happened on the 15-yard penalty? They gave you a warning and then they gave you a flag?
PAT NARDUZZI: No, I didn’t get a warning. I didn’t get a warning. I’m on the field. I got a 15-yarder because I’m on the field, but I’m complaining about a substitution error that — I don’t think they got it right, but I’m not going to talk about the officials. I just know that they subbed and we tried to sub and couldn’t get our sub on the field, and they’re supposed to give us three seconds, we got no seconds, and they didn’t stand over the ball. I’m done with talking about those guys.
Q. Do you have a problem with their last touchdown?
PAT NARDUZZI: Hey, you know what, I coach Pitt football, I don’t coach for anybody else. That’s on them. You’ve got to sleep at night. It’s just where we are right now. We’ll have another shot. We’ll have another shot. It ain’t over.
Q. The 4th and 3 attempt was more about chasing momentum, a feeling, or was it a loss of confidence in the kicking game?
PAT NARDUZZI: A little bit of both. A little bit of both. We muffed an extra point, bobbled a field goal, and you know what, we need to score touchdowns. We can’t get down there and just settle for field goals. And again, sloppy field conditions. It was a sloppy mess out there. The field was soggy, and not good surface to kick in any way.
Q. When did you know that Jake wasn’t going to be able to go, and how much work has Christodoulou had as a holder since he’s been here?
PAT NARDUZZI: Kirk was a holder in the spring, not something we want to put that much more pressure — he doesn’t need that pressure on him, as well. But he was the next best guy. We knew Tuesday, so we worked it all week. We had an injury there. Kess felt good with him. We’ll just keep digging there. But I doubt he’s going to have both duties next — he needs to punt. That’s a lot of pressure to put on one kid, to be a punter and also be the holder. I know Ryan Winslow did it for years, and you’d like to have a kicker be the holder because they sit over there all day on their end of the field and snap and hold and kick and all that, but we’ll have to make a change there.
Q. You were able to lean on the run game in the first half with some success, but after the break it seemed like — did they adjust anything?
PAT NARDUZZI: I mean, obviously they had a first half that you’d love to have again in the second half, and it wasn’t there. So either they changed something, cranked it up, we didn’t block them, one or the other. I don’t know what it is. But we’ll get to the bottom of it and find out what it was.
Q. Did you think Ffrench was too tentative returning kicks late in the game?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, I don’t know if he was tentative, and obviously we did a poor job of coaching him up and letting him know what to do. But after — last week we had one return for a touchdown. We had one we got out to less than the 20-yard line. New rule, you can fair catch it, which is a brand new rule, and you don’t get many opportunities to practice it. But taking the ball at the 25-yard line is not a good thing. Based on the field position we had, I bet you we lost the field position by 400 yards today. I’m shocked when I look at the stats and it says we had 300 yards of offense and they had 390. That’s like — that’s because they had a short field the entire day, and that’s a tribute to our kicking game.
Q. You started off with apologies; is it more frustrating, humbling? How would you describe it in your words?
PAT NARDUZZI: You can probably use any adjective you want really. It’s frustrating. I’m humbled as it is so I’m not worried — it’s not humbling, it’s life. It’s the game of football. It’s adversity that you go through, and then the key is going to be how we rebound from this adversity. That’s going to be the key. I trust and love those kids in that locker room, and I’ve got no doubt that they’ll come back next week ready to go, period.
Q. You mentioned Scarton. Was he injured? Is that why he wasn’t holding?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yes.
Q. When did he get hurt?
PAT NARDUZZI: He got hurt last week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports