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November 4, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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Delta Airlines and Brian O’Neill strike again

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SOMEWHERE OVER PENNSYLVANIA – This curious dateline comes to you courtesy of Delta Airlines.
For the second time this season, a malfunction on a Delta aircraft put my travel plans on hold.
Two months ago, I was stuck in the Oklahoma City airport for seven hours the day after Pitt’s game against Oklahoma State.
Friday, on the way to Miami Gardens, Fla., via Fort Lauderdale and Atlanta for Panthers/Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon, I was actually in the air for 30 minutes before a member of the flight crew spotted smoke in the cabin.
I saw none, due to the fact that I had my eyes focused on something much more interesting: The book I’m currently reading – a biography of Walter Cronkite.
(Great detail and fascinating anecdotes, by the way, from biographer Douglas Brinkley in his 819-page book. My favorite story: Cronkite was fired from a radio job in Kansas City in 1937 when he refused to believe an inaccurate report from the station manager’s wife who insisted three firemen had died in a fire. Cronkite wanted to get the story confirmed — imagine that! — before putting it on the air.
In fact, there was only a small fire and no fatalities, but the station manager fired Cronkite the next day, anyway.)
But I digress (hey, it’s my blog).
Someone asked me if I was scared when the pilot reported smoke (we later were told it was caused by an oil leak in the engine), but I can’t say that I was. The pilot was very calm and professional, and I even had the presence of mind to snap a picture of the fireman who walked down the aisle to do an inspection.

Our plane returned safely to the Pittsburgh International Airport where I called Delta and found another flight to Fort Lauderdale — through La Guardia in New York City. It is scheduled to hit Fort Lauderdale at 8 p.m., four hours late. I wrote this on the plane, with the snack cart at my elbow, and finished it with a bowl of clam chowder at a place called Bisoux in La Guardia.
That’s fine, I guess, since I asked for a meal vouchers to compensate for my trouble and received $30 worth from the gentleman behind the Delta counter. I’m getting pretty good at asking harried airline employees for favors.
A three-hour layover in NYC awaits. One blessing: The clam chowder was very good. And I got a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty and Citi Field, home of the Mets. (Trib page designer Matt Rosenberg is jealous.)

Onto football matters:
The week prior to Pitt’s game against Miami, some idiot or idiots somewhere in cyber space (or his mother’s basement) posted on a message board that Pat Narduzzi and Purdue are dancing partners. Purdue is looking for a new head coach and reportedly will pay lots of money for him.
Of course, the Narduzzi connection was a joke with no factual basis, but tweeters lapped it up like kittens after spilled milk. One tweeter even hoped that Pitt would hire Les Miles to replace Narduzzi after he goes to Purdue. (No, I can’t make this stuff up.)
Anyway, I don’t get the entertainment value in writing such inaccurate drivel. Does the writer hope it will cause consternation among Pitt fans who don’t want to lose another coach? Most of them are smart enough to know that Narduzzi has no interest in going to Purdue. Hello! He coached in the Big Ten for eight years.
Of course, Narduzzi was asked about the topic at his weekly press briefing Thursday, and denied it. “I’m not going anywhere,” he said.
My complaint with people who like to play with the Internet as if it’s a toy is that some of us actually use it for professional reasons and research. It’s wrong, childish and irresponsible to post information that you know to be false.
Grow up! I have better things to do than chase down your silliness.

Finally, I get to the intended purpose for this blog:
Here’s a little story on how Pitt offensive right tackle Brian O’Neill almost missed the two-point conversion after his surprising touchdown run last week against Virginia Tech.
“Everyone was freaking out,” O’Neill said, referring to the aftermath of his second touchdown run of the season. “I went to run off the field just to get the celebration over with. Everyone is screaming at me and pointing, pointing, `We’re going for two.’ ”
O’Neill sprinted back onto the field where, luckily, there was a dispute on where Pitt wanted the ball to be placed.
“The refs had an official timeout and gave me a second to catch my breath and get ready to think about what I had to do on the next play and stop worrying about the last play.”
Lesson learned.
I joked with O’Neill – one of the team’s nicest guys, by the way – about what he might do for his next trick. How many offensive tackles can say they scored on two run plays in a span of 19 days? Don’t worry, coach. He didn’t reveal any secrets.

Delta Airlines willing, I’ll be at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday for Pitt’s game against the Hurricanes, live-tweeting and providing complete coverage with stories you can read on Triblive.com and in Sunday’s Trib.
Prediction: I have a feeling Narduzzi will get his defense riled up just enough to pressure Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya, and Narduzzi will make the necessary adjustments in the secondary to avoid a repeat of the Virginia Tech debacle.
Pitt 35, Miami 31

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October 27, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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Let’s take a long look at Beamer-less Virginia Tech

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It would have been easy — and absolutely wrong — for Virginia Tech to remember former coach and former Hokies player Frank Beamer’s 29 years on the Blacksburg, Va., sideline by putting up some statue on campus.
New coach Justin Fuente had the right idea. Each week, Fuente chooses a member of his special teams — Beamer’s specialty — to wear the coach’s former number (25). Thursday night, it will be wide receiver Divine Deablo, the first freshman to earn the honor.
“I think it’s important to pay respect to the wonderful accomplishments that coach Beamer had here at Virginia Tech,” Fuente said of the second-winningest coach in ACC history (behind Florida State’s Bobby Bowden). “While also letting our kids be involved with it, more than painting a 25 on the 25-yard line. Obviously, all our kids — basically almost all of them — came here to play for coach Beamer, so they’ve embraced this award. It’s gone over really well.”
Sophomore safety Terrell Edmunds was enthused just thinking about the possibility of wearing the jersey when I asked him — before Fuente gave it to Deablo — what it would be like to earn the honor.
“That would be amazing,” he said. “Each week, day in and day out, we are trying to fight to get No. 25. That’s the utmost honor you can have here.
“(Fuente) is trying to make sure we don’t forget about all the things that (Beamer) did for us.”
Beamer remains close to the program, and he has been to all but one home game. He missed the opener because he was in Georgia for the birth of his grandson and to see the North Carolina/Georgia game. Son Shane Beamer is a Bulldogs assistant.
Greg Stroman wore No. 25 in Virginia Tech’s 54-17 victory against East Carolina, and when he returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown, he wiped his hand across his chest to ensure everyone saw he was wearing the jersey.
“(The jersey) is what we are all about,” Edmunds said.

One more note from the East Carolina game:
Cam Phillips scored on a 55-yard catch, blocked a punt and recorded his first career sack against East Carolina.
What was the day like for him?
“Like Krispy Kreme doughnut when the hot sign is on,” he told the Daily Press of Newport News, Va.
Who can’t relate to that?

I’ve been spending a lot of time this week reading and writing about Virginia Tech, its tradition and its 4-1 record since losing to Tennessee, 45-24, in Week 2.
The Hokies have lost their past four games at Heinz Field, but that’s meaningless history. Virginia Tech’s long, highly athletic defensive players comprise a unit that will be difficult for Pitt to solve.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster, one of only three holdovers from Beamer’s staff, has built a reputation as one of the nation’s top assistants with a salary approaching $1 million. He has been coordinator since 1995 — he accompanied Beamer to Blacksburg from Murray State in 1987 — and his defenses have finished first or second in the Big East or ACC 12 times since 1999.
He said Pitt’s offensive line might be the best his group has faced this season.
And Pitt offensive coordinator Matt Canada has shown an impressive aptitude for finding holes in a defense.
Still, I wonder …
All hope for an ACC title game berth is gone with a loss, but I still like the school formerly known as VPI to beat Pitt, 31-27.

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October 14, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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Victory at Virginia would mark sign of progress for Narduzzi’s first 20 games

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Teams gain little respect when they beat Virginia. Everybody does it.
Before Virginia won at Duke two weeks ago, the ‘Hoos (short for Wahoos; love the nickname) had lost 16 in a row on the road. Actually, they have lost everywhere with regularity. Virginia has one winning season (8-5 in 2011) in six years, which is the main reason Mike London is a former ‘Hoos coach. New coach Bronco Mendenhall is changing the culture, but it takes time. (Yeah, Pitt fans: I know you know.)

But if Pitt beats Virginia on Saturday at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, don’t shrug your shoulders and turn up your nose.
The victory would be Pitt’s third in a row, fifth this season and 13th among coach Pat Narduzzi’s first 20 games.
If you looking for signs of progress, that’s more victories in Narduzzi’s first 20 games than the past six Pitt head coaches recorded in the same span.
Here’s the list:
Paul Chryst — 10
Dave Wannstedt — 11
Walt Harris — 8
Johnny Majors II — 5
Paul Hackett — 8
Mike Gottfried — 11
Foge Fazio — 15
Jackie Sherrill — 15
Johnny Majors I –13

Pitt needs to win these winnable games to keep pace in the ACC Coastal. Stack four in a row, including Virginia Tech on a nationally televised ESPN game Oct. 27, and the college football world will pay attention when Pitt ventures into South Florida on Nov. 5 to play the Miami Hurricanes.
One crisis at a time, though.
Pitt 31, Virginia 22.
Quarterback Nathan Peterman is finding his groove, and offensive coordinator Matt Canada is making all the right calls. It will be interesting to see how the Pitt secondary does without cornerback Avonte Maddox (maybe for more than this game).
If Pitt hits 30 points, that would be six games in a row scoring that many or more. But no need to get excited — Chryst (five) and Narduzzi (one) did it, too, spanning the last weeks of 2014 and the 2015 opener. By the way, Pitt lost three of those games.
One final note: The ride through the Virginia hills from Pittsburgh on Friday afternoon was not as colorful as I expected. Still too early in the season for really good fall foliage, I guess.

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October 11, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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Former rugby and soccer player, Blewitt finally found football more than just “fat guys laying on each other.”

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Pitt senior Chris Blewitt played rugby and soccer while growing up in Alexandria, Va. For a long time, football was just “a bunch of fat guys laying on each other.”
Finally in ninth grade, he followed some friends into football, kicked 18 field goals in his final two seasons at West Potomac High School and earned a Pitt scholarship from former Paul Chryst after attending a camp in June, 2012.
He’s been Pitt’s only kicker since 2013, setting school records for career field goals (52) and kicking points (315).
After missing his first three field-goal attempts this season, he’s made seven in a row, including four from at least 40 yards.
He said he feels in a groove thanks to what he calls “shutting off the brain.”
“Same thing, all day, every day,” he explained. “Just doing it and not thinking. You train so much, it’s second-nature.
“You think about things too much, you start second-guessing yourself and making mistakes.”
He has coach Pat Narduzzi’s full trust, although he raised the coach’s ire last week by punting one day after practice. Narduzzi thought he was risking his kicking motion.
Blewitt said he was just “messing around.”
“He just said, `Hey, tone it down.’
“I don’t think too many coaches fully specialized in coaching kicking and punting. They just say, `Don’t overdo or get your mind right.’ ”
Blewitt has family in Richmond, Va., and many of them are coming to the Virginia game Saturday in Charlottesville — his last chance to kick in his native state.
After he graduates this year, Blewitt said he plans to stick with football, but he remains a soccer fan who wonders why he can’t find the English Premier League on his cable.
“I don’t know what’s going on with our cable box,” he said. “A lot of channels don’t come in. What am I paying for?”

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October 8, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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Sending opinions below the Mason-Dixon Line

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Here is my Pitt analysis — pre-Georgia Tech — for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Questions in bold from Georgia Tech beat writer Ken Segiura:

Tech coaches are quick to pay running back James Conner respect for returning to playing after being diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma last year, so I’ll do the same. It’s pretty remarkable. But I have to ask how he actually looks on the field. I saw where Pat Narduzzi is trying to limit his snaps. I guess it bears mention that he also tore his MCL last year.

James Conner remains Pitt’s starter and the best bet to lift the offense (the passing game is hit or miss). But coach Pat Narduzzi has mentioned as recently as two weeks ago that Conner got tired in the middle of the North Carolina game. Freshman Chawntez Moss has replaced him and actually was the better back against Marshall. Conner doesn’t look as decisive when picking his holes, but he retains the ability to bowl over defenders (and not just little cornerbacks who don’t know any better). He’s a force in the passing game for the first time in his career, which is something previous coaching staffs never emphasized with him. He is Pitt’s third-leading pass catcher (13/169/2), but his per-carry average (4.2) is 1.6 yards off his career mark coming into the season.

Pitt is touting defensive end Ejuan Price as an ACC defensive player of the year candidate. Is he that good? What’s his game?

Price is a sixth-year senior, who is almost 24-years-old. Injuries set him back early in his career, but he has become a savvy pass rusher. He has a strong bull rush, especially when he is confronted with a blocking back, and some quickness to him when a tight end or tackle gets in his way. Also impressive is that Price’s numbers did not fall off when the other bookend defensive end, Tennessee transfer Dewayne Hendrix, was lost for the season with an injury. But he doesn’t see as many double teams as you might think, with 335-pound nose tackle Tyrique Jarrett also on the line. I’ve heard several interesting comparisons to NFL elite pass rushers, including Steelers Jason Gildon and James Harrison and the Ravens’ Elvis Dumervil. (He’s built like Harrison and Dumervil.)

What does Pitt do better than anything else?

Narduzzi defends the run to a fault, and it shows because Pitt leads the ACC in run defense. He brings his safeties close to the line of scrimmage a good bit of the time, resulting in cornerbacks getting beat one-on-one. The Oklahoma State game is a good example, although Narduzzi blamed the opening play of the game (a 91-yard touchdown pass) on communication problems. Sophomore safety Jordan Whitehead, who didn’t play against Marshall for “personal” reasons, set a Pitt freshman record for tackles last season (109). He’s a significant force against the run. Pitt is strong up the middle with Jarrett and converted end Shakir Soto at defensive tackle, and the linebackers are smart, if not especially athletic. But outside linebacker Mike Caprara has been hurt recently, and may not play. Middle linebacker Matt Galambos is a three-year starter, and his backup Quintin Wirginis is also very good.

Last couple minutes of the game: Do you think Narduzzi would rather need to get a score or get a stop?

A stop, for sure. His offense isn’t set up for comebacks, with Tyler Boyd in the NFL and the second-leading receiver from 2015 Dontez Ford out with a broken collarbone. Narduzzi wears his defensive genius like a badge of honor, and much of it is deserved because Pitt is very good against the run and we can’t ignore what he accomplished at Michigan State. But Navy embarrassed Pitt last year in the Military Bowl, rushing for 417 yards — an instructive stat, considering the triple option comes to town this week. The defense could have won the North Carolina game with a late stop, but failed. And it could have at least sent the Oklahoma State game into overtime, but failed.

Can any other game besides Pitt-Penn State fill Heinz Field (which it did earlier this season)?

Yes, but it is limited to Notre Dame and, possibly, West Virginia. But West Virginia hasn’t played at Heinz Field since 2010, and the series won’t be renewed until a four-game, home-and-home series starting in 2022. Pitt was 6-1 last year for the North Carolina game on a Thursday night, but the game drew only 43,049, about 20,000 under Heinz Field capacity. Pitt fans are passionate, but too many fell off the bandwagon over the past several years of mediocrity.

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October 8, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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Reliving a most remarkable Georgia Tech victory

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Georgia Tech arrived in Pittsburgh on Friday night on the 100-year anniversary of its most remarkable victory. Nothing like it will happen Saturday when Georgia Tech plays Pitt at Heinz Field. In fact, nothing like it will happen anywhere. Ever.
On Oct. 7, 1916, Georgia Tech defeated Cumberland (Tenn.) College, 222-0. A story on the NCAA’s website calls it “one of the most lopsided victories in sports history.” I contend the words “one of” are not necessary.
The game actually has an interesting backstory, according to the NCAA.
The Georgia Tech coach was revenge-seeking John Heisman, who today has a trophy named after him.
But why did Heisman want revenge?
More than a year earlier, Cumberland defeated the Georgia Tech baseball team, also coached by Heisman, 22-0. Heisman accused Cumberland of using professional players.
Cumberland never wanted to play the football game, not out of fear of losing, but for another more basic reason: Cumberland had suspended its program. Heisman was willing to let Cumberland out of the game contract, but wanted a $3,000 payment to do so.
Suffering from financial problems, Cumberland didn’t want to write such a large check (worth roughly $69,000 today). So, its student manager, George E. Allen, assembled a 14-man team of Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers.
(Fun fact: Allen later became a lawyer, and served as an advisor to Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S Truman. He counted President Dwight D. Eisenhower as one of his closet friends.)
Heisman chipped in $500 to help cover Cumberland’s travel expenses — they traveled by train to Atlanta — and also was nice enough to trim the third and fourth quarters from 15 to 12 minutes after Georgia Tech grabbed a 126-0 halftime lead.
Cumberland historian Frank Burns quoted Heisman’s halftime speech in a 1998 Georgia Tech alumni publication: “We’re ahead, but you just can’t tell what those Cumberland players have up their sleeves. They may spring a surprise. Be alert, men.”
The Cumberland players’ cause was noble. After all, they were trying to prevent the financially strapped college from writing a check that might have cost some people their paychecks.
They just weren’t football players.
Georgia Tech scored 32 touchdowns in 32 possessions, amassed 978 yards of offense, forced 15 turnovers and held poor Cumberland to minus-28 yards and no first downs. Georgia Tech also didn’t record a first down — it always scored on the first, second or third play of each series. A year later, Georgia Tech won the national championship and the Rose Bowl.
The NCAA calls it worst defeat in the history of college football. Really?

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October 7, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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Some Pitt, ACC odds and ends — and a prediction

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The NCAA Division I Council has submitted a proposal to the Board of Directors to introduce two letter of intent days — June (before a prospect’s senior year) and mid-December — but Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi won’t be pushing for its passage.
He prefers signing day remain the first Wednesday in February.
“I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the student-athletes,” he said of the proposed change. “It benefits us more where we can lock ‘em up and worry about the next one.”
Narduzzi thinks the June date — eight months before the current signing day — may force some high school players into bad decisions.
“There are so many kids transferring,” he said. “I think the faster we make them make decisions the worse it’s going to get.”
I agree. High school players should have as much time as they need to make a decision that will affect the rest of their lives. Some will sign over the summer, anyway. But why allow schools to force them into an early decision? It’s like a pitcher signing a free agent contract before the end of the season. What if a player who had an average junior season signs in June with a lesser school, and then becomes a highly coveted prospect during his senior season?
Sorry, kid. You’ve already signed.
Let the process play out.

Interesting assessment by Narduzzi on his three days of practice in advance of the Georgia Tech game Saturday at Heinz Field:
“Really good on Tuesday, really sharp (Thursday). Wednesday was OK, not as sharp as I would like to be on Day 2.”

Senior kicker Chris Blewitt has missed three field goal attempts and one extra point, but Narduzzi doesn’t seem concerned.
“You don’t discuss much with those guys. You just let them go,” he said. “He knows what he’s doing.”
Narduzzi did admit, “I’m not sure he was feeling as good as he wanted to feel early in the year.”
Blewitt has made four field goals in a row after missing his first three.
Thursday, Narduzzi caught Blewitt punting the ball across the field, something the coach doesn’t endorse as a way for kickers to pass the time.
“It’s like going out and playing baseball when you’re a golfer,” he said.

The ACC has decided to stick with eight conference games after there was serious discussion about going to nine.
“Shocked,” Narduzzi said of his reaction. “I thought it was going to go the nine way. I think it’s great. It gives (teams) an opportunity to (get) other people to play against.
“Go out to the Pac-12 or Big Ten or whomever. It gives you an opportunity to get outside the conference.”
That’s one way to look at it.
The other is this:
There is a wide gap between games against every opponent when you only schedule eight in the conference. For example, Florida State, a crossover opponent for Pitt from the ACC’s Atlantic Division, visited Heinz Field in 2013; a return trip by the Seminoles won’t happen before 2025.
If I was an ACC athletic director, I would find that scenario unacceptable.
Yet, Pitt has some interesting upcoming non-conference schedules:
— Pitt gets its rematch with Oklahoma State next year at Heinz Field the week after it travels to Penn State for the first time since 1999.
— Pitt will play Penn State at home and Notre Dame on the road in 2018.
— Tennessee and West Virginia are on the 2022 home schedule.
— In 2020, the year after the Penn State four-game series ends, Pitt plays Notre Dame at home and has an open date on the schedule. Just sayin’.

Narduzzi’s player of the week on offense? Freshman cornerback Therran Coleman, who ran Georgia Tech’s offense for the scout team this week.
“He did a nice job. He’s tough. He didn’t get a lot of work on defense this week because of that,” the coach said.

Prediction: Pitt 31, Georgia Tech 24. Pitt’s offense is rounding into shape, and the defense — if Narduzzi is to be believed — seems to have a good handle on the triple option.
I also can’t get over Georgia Tech only beating Boston College, 17-14, on a neutral field in Dublin, Ireland, two weeks before Virginia Tech beat BC, 49-0. Georgia Tech just isn’t that good.
Pitt needs to beat the mediocre teams before anyone takes it seriously.

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October 4, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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Whitehead question remains unresolved

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Whitehead Watch 2016 continued Monday morning at Pitt’s first full practice of the week.
The player in question — reigning ACC rookie of the year and Pitt starting strong safety Jordan Whitehead – didn’t play Saturday night against Marshall, drawing several questions from reporters that coach Pat Narduzzi had no desire to answer.
Is Whitehead hurt? It didn’t look that way in the first 30 minutes of practice Tuesday as Whitehead, probably Pitt’s best defensive player and clearly its best run-stopping defensive back, went through walk-through drills, calisthenics and even a live field-goal block drill.
Was he disciplined for some unidentified off-the-field indiscretion? Narduzzi created that speculation by not offering a reason for Whitehead’s inactivity. If he is not being punished, the resulting speculation is unfair to Whitehead, who I have known for the past two years as a respectful and polite young man.
But if he is in some sort of trouble, there’s no harm in revealing the truth; Pitt coaches have announced many suspensions in the past. Narduzzi only has done it with Tyler Boyd and Rori Blair, but they were arrested, which eventually becomes public record. He had no choice in their cases.
I hope Whitehead is not being punished because it seems out of character. But we just don’t know the truth.
Narduzzi doesn’t like to talk about injuries, not wanting to tip off opposing teams, who might target the injured body part. (Former Pitt coach Todd Graham once told me that “absolutely” happens.)
I asked Narduzzi during his Monday’s news conference if whatever sidelined Whitehead had been resolved. When I told him I respected his position on the subject, he thanked me, but still didn’t answer the question. I thought it was worth an answer.
Narduzzi’s response only created more questions. “It’s never resolved,” he said. “We’re still working on it. Next (as in next question; the topic had run its course in his mind).”
As of Tuesday, the situation hangs over the Pitt fan base that is understandably concerned about what is happening to the team’s best defensive player.
The situation probably won’t be resolved for at least two more days. Narduzzi is required by the ACC to issue an injury report when he’s playing a conference team. He’ll do that Thursday afternoon. Even then, we won’t know for sure until Saturday when Pitt plays Georgia Tech at Heinz Field.
Speaking of Georgia Tech, Narduzzi needs Whitehead if he wants to effectively stop that triple option and give Pitt its best chance to win. Whitehead set a Pitt freshman record last year with 109 tackles and is averaging almost eight per game this season. But if he hasn’t earned the right to play in his coach’s eyes, that’s another story.
Narduzzi won’t be available for comment until Thursday when — at least one more time — he’ll be presented with questions he won’t answer.

(Narduzzi challenged his players by saying, “Coach (Andre) Powell (special teams) says you can’t block it.” For the record, Powell was right.)

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October 1, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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No time like the present for Pitt to restore its swag

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The time has come for Pitt to regain control of its season. All is not lost, but Pitt (2-2, 0-1) needs to start looking like a championship team — not one that talks about winning a championship.
Marshall is the opponent Saturday night at Heinz Field, and the Thundering Herd gave up 65 points to Akron. Need I say more? OK, I’ll add this: Akron (2-2) is no powerhouse and you’ll remember it managed to score only seven points against Pitt last season.
Marshall has been successful recently against teams at its Group of 5 level — even against a few from Power 5 conferences — but that won’t be a legitimate excuse if Pitt loses.
Pitt needs to end:
— Its failures in the passing game.
— Its inability to keep the ball in the fourth quarter with the game on the line (the defense just isn’t good enough to withstand the repeated pressure).
— Its tendency to give up big chunks of yardage through the air.
Yeah, Marshall quarterback Chase Litton is good (I know because Pat Narduzzi said so), but Litton shouldn’t be good enough to beat Pitt.
(Just an aside: Narduzzi also said Oklahoma State is a Top 20 team. I believed that before it almost lost to Pitt and then did lose to Baylor.)
Pitt has an opportunity to jump to the lead in the ACC Coastal Division in the next few weeks, playing Georgia Tech, Virginia and Virginia Tech after Marshall leaves town. Meanwhile, North Carolina plays three of its next four on the road at Florida State, Miami and Virginia.
It’s too early to look at the standings, but Pitt’s loss to North Carolina means the Tar Heels must lose twice for the Panthers to vault ahead of them. The first one could occur Saturday in Tallahassee.
The first step will be this: Pitt 38, Marshall 21. (That’s also a victory in Vegas.)

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September 29, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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Narduzzi opens up about freshman Damar Hamlin

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Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi doesn’t like to talk about injuries or personnel choices, but he was more candid than usual when asked Thursday about freshman cornerback Damar Hamlin.
Hamlin had been injured and hasn’t played yet this season, but he continues to “progress nicely.” (Narduzzi’s words.)
“Which means, he’s not as hurt as he was,” the coach said.
Narduzzi wasn’t definitive on whether or not he will burn Hamlin’s redshirt at some point, but he doesn’t seem eager to get him in the lineup. (Which probably means he will play Saturday against Marshall.)
Here is Narduzzi’s response:
“He’s still a freshman. He’s a good player. He’s smart. He’s got great football intelligence.
“He’s athletic. He’s got the loosest hips I’ve seen. But that doesn’t mean he can go out and play and help us right now. I don’t want to put the pressure on a freshman to be the savior, either.
“There’s a lot of football to be played. I want to take care of Damar Hamllin.
“Would you like to redshirt him? Yes. Do you need him? We’ll see how we continue to make or not make plays on defense. It will be based on that.”

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