PITTSBURGH (AP) Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi understands it’s easy to talk about the yard the Panthers needed but didn’t get at the end of a 20-14 loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday.
While it’s easy to dissect what went wrong over the final minute as Pitt failed to reach the end zone despite four snaps from the Virginia Tech 1, Narduzzi points to the Panthers’ missed opportunities long before that final empty series effectively ended his team’s chances at a bowl bid.
”It’s not one play, it’s not one series, it’s not 1 yard,” Narduzzi said. ”We’re going to find the inches throughout the entire game that we missed, and that’s the important thing. It’s not one play. It’s not one guy.”
Whatever the reason – be it curious play-calling, poor execution or bad luck – the setback means the biggest thing the Panthers (4-7, 2-5 ACC) have to play for in Friday’s visit from No. 2 Miami (10-0, 7-0) is a chance to send their seniors out with an upset that could upend the Hurricanes’ perfect season.
Yes, it’s not ideal. But it’s better than nothing. While it’s unfamiliar territory for the current Panthers, it’s not for Pitt. A decade ago the Panthers were out of the bowl picture when they wrapped up the regular season by stunning West Virginia in the ”Backyard Brawl,” a 13-9 shocker that kept the Mountaineers out of the Bowl Championship Series title game.
”I’ve seen a few videos about the win against WVU,” said cornerback Avonte Maddox, one of 14 seniors who will don the script ”Pitt” uniform for a final time on Friday. ”History is a great thing but we live in the now. It’s time to create more history.”
It’s uncertain exactly who will be along for the ride. The season-long carousel at quarterback turned once again on Saturday, when freshman Kenny Pickett came on for Ben DiNucci and threw for 242 yards. Narduzzi will wait until later in the week before deciding on who will start against the Hurricanes.
”I was impressed with what he did in there in that environment, too,” Narduzzi said of Pickett. ”The environment was not an easy environment for any quarterback to walk into, and I thought both of them really handled it well.”
Maybe it’s only fitting for the Panthers to make one last change. If Pickett starts, it’ll mark the fourth time this season Narduzzi has switched the starting quarterback from one week to the next, be it due to injury or inconsistency. The third-year coach hasn’t shied away from trying to create a competitive atmosphere and is hardly apologetic for an approach that can lead to players shuffling in and out of the lineup with regularity.
”From the beginning of the year if you look at the depth charts, at least our depth chart … it’s changed,” Narduzzi said. ”I think it’s at every position.”
Missing out on a bowl game means Pitt won’t get the extra practices that go along with the postseason, costing the staff a chance to get a longer look at less experienced players. Narduzzi is giving his coaches a little more leeway to tinker with personnel against the Hurricanes, just so long as it doesn’t come at the expense of a shot at a season-defining victory.
”It’s about working your tail off and believing that you can get the win and playing up to that level because it’s not going to take an average game,” Narduzzi said. ”It’s going to take a big-time game out of a bunch of people to make plays.”
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