Pitt football coach Pat Narduzzi: ‘We control our own destiny’
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi isn’t afraid to speak his mind, even if it puts himself and his team on the spot.
He picks those spots carefully, however, so he had no intentions Sunday of making any prediction for Pitt’s ACC championship game appearance against No. 2 Clemson on Saturday night in Charlotte, N.C.
Especially when his opponent is a 25-point favorite to win its fourth consecutive ACC title.
But that doesn’t prevent Narduzzi from living by the code of anything is possible in football and in life.
A year ago, he made headlines and stirred up Twitter by predicting at halftime of the Miami game that Pitt would win, despite holding only a 10-7 lead against the undefeated No. 2 team in the nation. Pitt won, 24-14.
Then, before this season, he told a room full of boosters at a luncheon at Heinz Field that Pitt would play for the ACC championship. And here he is.
Where does such bravado originate?
“I think it’s life. I guess maybe it’s growing up,” said Narduzzi, the son of a successful coach. “Growing up, we always have an opportunity to do whatever we want to do, period. We control our own destiny. I truly believe that.
“We controlled our destiny last week in the positive or negative way. We control our destiny this week.”
Although the odds are against an upset, no one gave Pitt a chance in 2016 to beat the eventual national champion, but the Panthers defeated Clemson in Death Valley. It was the only home loss Clemson’s current seniors experienced,
“We can do whatever we want to do,” Narduzzi said, “just have to put our minds to it.
“I’ve always lived my life that way, whether wanting to go to college, getting a degree, marrying my wife. I mean, I say, I think I’m going to marry that girl there. That’s the girl I want. That’s kind of what happened. I think it’s an attitude.”
Pitt will need more than a good attitude to beat Clemson, which has won 52 of 56 games and appeared in each of the past three College Football Playoff fields — an annual party restricted to only four teams.
Knowing the difficult task facing his players and coaches, he said Clemson preparations — mostly by the graduate assistants — began “weeks ago.”
“The big thing is we’re going to look at every (Clemson) game this season. We’ll have bits and pieces of every game last season,” Narduzzi said. “We’ll look at the 2016 game. We’ll go back and look at any explosive plays they’ve had, trick plays, wheels, anything new that we haven’t seen. We’ll have really a two-year deal on them.”
What he won’t mention is the betting line, and not because the NCAA would frown upon such talk.
“The underdog, I mean, I think our kids will know they’re the underdog,” he said. “I don’t think I have to tell them. If you turn any TV station on, turn on ESPN, they’ll find out by the time we get probably (to) Wednesday that they’re the underdog.
“I won’t really have to play that role up. I think they’ll have figured that out.”
Narduzzi said he’s not worried about the effect Saturday’s 24-3 loss at Miami will have on his team’s confidence.
“I think football players in general have confidence, period,” he said. “It’s not like we got our doors blown off. A tight game for most of the game. We let it get away from us at the end with a couple runs.
“I’m not so sure some of our kids weren’t already looking forward to (the championship game) already. So I don’t think we’ll have much trouble trying to get them ready for the game. I think they’ve looked forward to it for a week, maybe too much.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at [email protected] or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.