Pitt Holds off Troy 84-75

As the Pitt Panthers basketball team began to play in the Barclays Classic Tournament, many persons said that the Troy Trojans would be the first real challenge of their young season. After all, beating Youngstown St and VMI wasn’t much of a test, right?
Well, then you can assume that Troy wasn’t much of one either as the Panthers dispatched them 84-75. But the Panthers will not tell you that this game was easy as Troy (as advertised) did make the Panthers work for it and earn this victory. Their continued hustle, confidence, and fresh attitude continues to flow from first-year Head Coach Jeff Capel as they improved their record to 3-0.
“It was a really good win for us.” Said Capel. “Against a good team who has a lot of experience and made the NCAA Tournament a few years ago. I thought the guys did a really good job. Defensively we did a really good job. So, really pleased with the win. Our initial first defense was good, but we really have to do a better job rebounding the ball, especially our guards.”
For the second-straight game, Senior G Jared Wilson-Frame led the Panthers with 24 points. He also had a game-high 6 three-pointers. Four other Panthers also scored in double-figures: Xavier Johnson (15), Kene Chukwuka (13), Trey McGowens and Terrell Brown (12). The freshman Johnson also had 7 rebounds and 9 assists, just missing a triple-double for the Panthers, who never trailed in the game.
Jordon Varnado led Troy with 22 points and 11 rebounds.
The Panthers will continue to play in the Barclays Tournament Thursday as they host Central Arkansas at the Petersen Events Center.
“It may be silly, but we’re learning how to learn to handle success?” Said Capel “Success can make you soft. We must remain hungry. I like how we were able to play with a pretty good game plan today. We hadn’t seen it in 3 games, so I’m really proud of the guys.”

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Pat Narduzzi Press Conference
Wake Forest Week

PAT NARDUZZI: Another good Monday. Great job by our team on Saturday. A lot of great things as you watch the tape, and there was a lot of things frankly we need to continue to clean up or we’ll be in trouble as we get into this weekend because we’ve go down and face, I think, an emerging Wake Forest team, coming off a great win against a ranked 13 or 14 North Carolina State team.

Obviously the two keys that you notice when you watch the tape is we were able to run the football, and we were able to stop the run. I think they had 47 carries. Sometimes you look at it and go, did we stop the run, but they had 47 carries for I think 153 yards by our numbers, and averaged 3.3, which is right on our goal. So even defensively we’ve got our goal as far as stopping the run, which was good to see when you went back and looked at it.

You know, the one thing I looked at in the last three games, we’ve had 39 explosive plays on offense. Everybody likes big plays, explosive plays. Everyone sees Darrin Hall and Ollison and Ffrench and Mack making these big plays, but there was 39 in the last three games. I went back and checked just to see, and that’s after our open date, I believe, and we had 39 total in seven games prior to that. So when you look at — I know you like stats. I see you typing there. But 39 in seven games and then 39 in the last three.

So to me, it’s like we’ve done something a little bit better, whatever it is. You never know what it is, nor will I tell anybody what it is, but we’re doing some good things. I think our offense is starting to really gel, and we’ve eliminated the big plays, as well.

Something we give out award-wise every week, we talk about who the Player of the Game is, and I never bother you guys — who cares who the player of the game is. You always have an O-lineman of the week, an attack force player of the week, but something I thought was worth mentioning this week is just all the unsung heroes that come out in a game that might not be in the newspaper. You know, you’re not seeing that guy score a touchdown, but guys that are making impacts that maybe go unnoticed, and I think even in the press conference afterwards someone mentioned it, but when you watch the tape you see it.

But really all of our receivers are blocking well, but Aaron Mathews graded out 92 percent and was just lights out out there blocking people, and again, it’s so critical what he does there. But he just stood out as a guy that was like, wow. He’s become a great blocker, and he didn’t have a catch, and that’s why we talk about unsung heroes, because it’s not about the tailback runs in the end zone or dives in the end zone, does a somersault, when we really don’t want, either. It’s bad for these little guys to watch it; he’ll be diving in the end zone pretty soon.

But Maurice Ffrench, same thing, had two big catches for 83 yards, and Taysir Mack had three big catches, unsung heroes. Patrick Jones, another guy you don’t hear a whole lot but played an outstanding game in there that you kind of go, nobody is talking about Patrick Jones. A week ago they were talking about Dewayne Hendrix, but Patrick Jones really played well.

And then Kessman (sic) got the chance to punt once and got a 50-yarder, and then Kess — did I say — I’m sorry, Christodoulou had a 50-yard punt and then Kess was 7 for 7 on PATs, and again, the first drive of the game hits a 48-yarder, so those are just kind of some ones you forget about with all those touchdowns and some big, explosive passes.

With that, we’ve got Wake Forest, which I think is really strong. The Newman kid at quarterback, new guy coming in, and they’ve got some players that you’ve got to be worried about. Greg Dortch, their wide out, is ‘Waldo’ this week. You’d better know where that guy is. And you talk about RPOs, this will be RPO every down, 1st down to 3rd down. They’re as good as anybody in the country.

Their tempo is as fast as anybody in the country. I think there was a clip up on the TV screen last week, they rank who the fastest team in the country is, and we know Syracuse is fast. They rank — getting more plays in than anybody. So we’ll have a lot of guys ready to play defensively. We’ll prepare our tails off for the tempo, the high-speed tempo that we’ll have to defend this week.

Q. Kind of sticking with unsung heroes, where would this team be without Stefano Millin and what has he brought to this team as a transfer?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know what, obviously he’s played left tackle, he’s played a little right tackle, he’s played center in the past. He can do a lot of different things. He’s played outstanding so far this season. He really has.

Again, another one of those seniors that — he hasn’t walked up that ladder yet, but he’s done an incredible job. And again, really I can say that about the entire offensive line with the lack of missed assignments. If you compared them just being on guys, compared to what they were in the second game of the season, it’s not even close. You wish you could have rematches. Unfortunately they don’t give them to you.

But they’re playing at a high level, and Stef is doing a great job.

Q. Your explosive plays, is that different run and pass in terms of how many yards?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah. It’s 15-yard runs and 20-yard passes.

Q. Do you know how many of those in the last three were runs?
PAT NARDUZZI: No, I didn’t count those up. We just call them all the same. They’re all good. I’m sure somebody has those. I hope I counted right, okay, we got them tallied up, but I did that real quick because I was like, hmm, 39, and I added them up, and it’s amazing that 39 in three and 39 in seven and I didn’t pull my calculator, I did it in my head.

Q. Obviously you mentioned Aaron Mathews blocking and some other guys. Do you feel that group is playing as well right now as they have all season for you guys?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think so. Again, I just love the unselfishness of Aaron Mathews going down the field and whacking people and just getting on guys. Yeah, they don’t care. Aaron Mathews doesn’t care if he doesn’t get the ball thrown to him. He’s just saying, tell me who to block, let’s go. And that’s what you want is guys that don’t care what it takes to win. It doesn’t matter if we run it, throw it, and obviously all receivers like to catch the ball.

But those opportunities will eventually come and you never know when it’s going to be your day. Taysir Mack is back healthy right now, as healthy as he’s been all year, which is a good thing. I welcomed him back into the room last night saying, hey welcome back, when we went through who our unsung heroes were. But he’s back healthy, I think. We’ve got to keep him that way, too.

Q. Can you put a finger on why the 39 in three games and 39 in seven games?
PAT NARDUZZI: Executing maybe, making a play. It comes down to execution, feeling comfortable. You know, I don’t know what it is. I mean, sometimes you sit there like we got into the open week, I told you we tried to fix some things. We did have an open week after Notre Dame, so we tried to address some things that we needed. There was a couple things maybe protection-wise that we’re doing a little bit different. In practice one thing I’d say we added and I don’t know if that’s — you don’t know what the difference is. Is it the emphasis?

But we usually go pass skelly against our defense. We go against each other. Coach Partridge really didn’t want to do this, but we go one-on-ones usually and then pass skelly going on over here. We should invite you guys in one day for it. Maybe one day we’ll let EJ come in and we’ll give you a middle window instead of the early window, just let you come in for a period. But we go O-line versus the D-line in that period, and so it’s really pass, but it’s only two guys coming so we don’t really crush the pocket. I think that’s just so Kenny is getting pressure in pass skelly as opposed to no pressure at all, which anybody can sit back there in pass skelly and throw it, so it just gives him a fresh look at guys coming after him hard. We’ll call sacks in that period and guys will come up and try to tag off. We don’t hit the quarterback, but is that — there’s so many things you can look at. Was it a better job game planning? I don’t know, but there’s a lot of things that we addressed and tried to clean up and maybe it’s had an impact, I don’t know.

Q. I know it’s been your philosophy having a consistency treating every week and every game as though it’s the same, but for a game like this where the stakes are different, where the circumstances surrounding your team are different, how are you, if at all, going to approach this week differently with your team?
PAT NARDUZZI: The same. Come on, man. Last week was critical. I wouldn’t sit here and say it, and I didn’t say it to our kids, but it didn’t take me long to spit it out after the game in the locker room that, hey, you’re bowl eligible. That’s one monkey off your back; don’t even have to worry about it anymore. How would you like to go into this week, hey, you’ve got a chance to be bowl eligible and you’ve got a chance to do something else, too.

It’s the same thing. It really is. I’m not going to talk about it. It doesn’t matter. When we’re going in there to play Wake Forest, it’s a one-game season right now. Nothing else matters. Good things can happen we know, and it doesn’t matter. If they’re worried about that, it’s — your focus has got to be singular right now, and if you’re worried about these other things, you just get — you’re wandering off.

Like he is right now, he’s kicking his feet, he’s got no focus. I mean, you can’t do it all. He’s like, get this old guy out of here.

Q. When I was talking to Connor after the game —
PAT NARDUZZI: Connor Dintino?

Q. Yes. I mentioned the ACC standings after the game. He pretty much said he wasn’t even thinking about that. How do you get them to think that way when everybody wants the instant gratification side to it?
PAT NARDUZZI: I don’t know, maybe he lied to you. I don’t know. They’re on Twitter. As a matter of fact, Dintino is not on Twitter if I’m right. He might be the one guy — I probably should know everybody that’s on Twitter and who’s not, but he’s a guy that’s not on social media, so you maybe asked the wrong guy. But I’m sure they look at it, probably hard to avoid it. We try to tell them to avoid it.

I know our kids know where they were about four or five weeks ago, zero, and where they are now. And it’s funny you go from being a hero to being zero like that. But it’s that focus, and I think they know what the focus has done for them, the consistency has done for them, and if the medicine is treating you right, then just stay on the same medication, don’t change medications. Doctor said this is the medication, take the medication and shut your mouth.

Q. To stay on that topic, you’ve been saying that you’re a championship team since before the season started. The media has not been that way and now it seems to have flipped. How does that affect how you attack the game, how your players attack the game?
PAT NARDUZZI: First of all, I didn’t say we were a championship team at the beginning of the season. You must have misquoted me. I just said the goal — our kids talked about it, I guess, first, and there’s not a team in the country that doesn’t say I want to win a championship. So I didn’t say we were a championship team. I’m not saying we’re a championship team. I just want to be 1-0 this week. That never really came out of my mouth, but the kids want to do that, and that’s great. I want to win each week. I want to win each game. I want to have focus on that.

So I’m glad we solidified that problem there.

But we are what we are right now. Right now we haven’t won a game. We’ve got one game to win this week, and maybe there’s a celebration, maybe there’s not. We’ve still got another one. Miami I think is going to be a fun game, too. But we’ve got a lot of work to do and not much time to get it done. I hope I answered the whole question.

Q. Darrin Hall kind of mentioned there was like a team meeting going into the Notre Dame game or something like that. Was that kind of a turning point? Was that kind of calming for a team that kind of struggled a little bit?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know what, I don’t remember a team meeting. I don’t remember any team meeting. Maybe they had it without me. And again, every once in a while — I don’t remember that. But it wouldn’t surprise me if I did know about it and I don’t remember it. Maybe they had a barbecue. I don’t know. Maybe they had some good ribs. They didn’t invite me to get any. But it could have happened. That’s something you can ask maybe after practice some of the other guys.

Q. If you go back to early October, what indicators or signs did you see after the Central Florida game that you could get this pointed in the right direction?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, there was no indications after Central Florida or any game that you kind of go, oh, we can still do this. I mean, I think you’ve got to have faith and belief every game. We never lost faith as coaches or kids. There was never — so there was never — we never had to get it back because you never felt like you lost it. Does that make sense? That’s not in our vocabulary I don’t think that we couldn’t get it done. So nothing has changed. It was just — you’ve just got to be persistent. You don’t — sometimes you don’t win every game.

We’ve got a good football team, and to get it done, we show every week. And we talked the last couple weeks, we’ve had a tough schedule, and just because you don’t win them all or lose them by the amount of points you want to lose by, doesn’t make you a failure. You’re only a failure if you quit. Our guys are never going to quit, and there was never a loss of faith or belief that our guys would get it done and come back and play the next game.

Q. I won’t ask you if this is your best coaching job, but is this is this maybe as much as a team has improved from week 1 to week 10 or 11 since you’ve been here?
PAT NARDUZZI: Probably. Again, maybe it’s one position, maybe it’s two positions, maybe it’s three positions that you say, hey, he’s made improvement here. But there’s some changes in the off-season. You got a new O-line coach doing new things, new terminology, just trying to get them to be all right. I think that probably has something to do with it. You’ve got new secondary coaches, got a new defensive coordinator, and things take a while to just — people think change and all of a sudden you make a change and it’s going to be perfect as soon as you make a change. I mean, you change your wife, there’s going to be some adjustments real quick, and there’s change in everything that you do. You think it’s going to be all good; yeah, good luck to you. There’s growing pains with some of those things. I think that may be part to do with it.

I can’t tell you this has made a big improvement any more than the first year, the second year or the third year. We just worry about the next game. We don’t look back like that I don’t think. MORE

Pitt’s Ollison and Morrissey Earn ACC Player of the Week Honors

PITTSBURGH—Pitt’s historic offensive production in its 52-22 win over Virginia Tech was recognized by the Atlantic Coast Conference today when senior running back Qadree Ollison and sophomore center Jimmy Morrissey were named ACC Players of the Week at their respective positions.

Ollison was named the ACC’s Running Back of the Week, while Morrissey was recognized as the Offensive Lineman of the Week.

The pair spearheaded a Pitt attack that produced a school-record 654 yards in total offense, eclipsing the prior mark of 648 set against Eastern Michigan in 1995. The Panthers rushed for 492 yards on 36 carries (13.7 avg.), the second-highest single-game rushing total in school history (530 vs. Army, 1975).

Ollison (Niagara Falls, N.Y./Canisius) rushed for 235 yards and three touchdowns on only 16 carries (14.7 avg.). His TDs covered 8, 31 and a whopping 97 yards. The 97-yard run—in which he physically threw a defender off him at midfield—is the longest play from scrimmage in Pitt history and tied for the longest in college football this year.

Ollison now has 1,054 yards rushing on the year and becomes only the sixth player in Pitt annals to achieve multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons, joining Tony Dorsett (four, 1973-76), Curvin Richards (two, 1988-89), LeSean McCoy (two, 2007-08), Dion Lewis (two, 2009-10) and James Conner (two, 2014 and 2016). Ollison now has 2,700 rushing yards for his career and surpassed Curtis Martin (2,643 from 1991-94) for 10th place on Pitt’s all-time rushing yardage list.

On the 2018 season, Ollison is averaging 105.4 rushing yards per game (1,054 yards and 10 touchdowns on 149 carries, an average of 7.1 yards per attempt).

Morrissey (Huntingdon Valley, Pa./La Salle College H.S.) was a catalyst up front in the Panthers’ offensive demolition of the Hokies. The lone underclassman on Pitt’s offensive line, he was lauded by the coaching staff for multiple big blocks at the point of attack. Morrissey was also responsible for several adjustment calls at the line of scrimmage that proved key as he graded out at 90%.

Morrissey has started every single game at center the past two years (22 consecutive). He is part of an offensive front that has paved the way for the nation’s No. 10 rushing attack (256.9 yards per game).

This is the second consecutive week the Panthers garnered the ACC’s Running Back and Offensive Lineman awards. Last week, senior tailback Darrin Hall and senior offensive guard Mike Herndon were honored for their performances in the 23-13 win at Virginia (Nov. 2).


Pitt-Miami Kickoff Time Announced

PITTSBURGH—Pitt’s November 24 game at Miami will kick off at 3:30 p.m., the Atlantic Coast Conference announced. The contest will be televised by either ESPN or ESPN2. The network will be determined following games played on November 17.

The Panthers’ remaining 2018 regular-season schedule with announced television coverage and kickoff times:

Nov. 17: at Wake Forest* (RSN/AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh), Noon
Nov. 24: at Miami* (ESPN or ESPN2), 3:30 p.m.

*ACC game


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