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Pitt football notebook: Qadree Ollison becomes ‘good running back’

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt running back Qadree Ollison eludes Georgia Tech defenders on the way to a first-quarter touchdown Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 at Heinz Field.

Pitt’s offense does not get many opportunities to run against a 3-4 defensive front, but running back Qadree Ollison and the line handled it well against Georgia Tech.

“Pretty darn good. Pretty good against, I think, an odd front,” coach Pat Narduzzi said Monday. “Something we haven’t seen. But I don’t think there was one mental error up front.

“The blocking was really good. Qadree’s first touchdown run (31 yards) couldn’t have been executed better than what it was.”

Through three games, Ollison is fifth in the ACC with an average of 94.3 yards per game while the team is fifth in yards per carry (5.2). He gained 73 against Albany, 119 against Penn State and 91 against Georgia Tech.

Narduzzi said he was chatting with Ollison about his development over dinner Sunday night.

“He said, ‘I don’t know if I’ve gotten faster,’ ” he said.

But Narduzzi said there is more to running than speed.

“ ‘I know you aren’t tripping and falling down as much,’ ” Narduzzi said. “He’s picked his feet up and become a good running back for us.”

As a senior, Ollison also is making the proper reads, something a running back learns over time.

“Reading it faster, maturity, knowing what he’s doing better, not confused,” the coach said. “And it comes down to vision, and that takes repetition. He’s getting a lot of reps, and he’s been good. And so is Darrin Hall. I was impressed with how he ran and how hard he ran.”

Hall led Pitt with 628 yards rushing to Ollison’s 328 last season, but he’s the backup this season with only 18 carries and 79 yards.

Tough foe

Pitt is 3-9 all-time against North Carolina, with victories in 1978, ‘82 and the 2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl. Since joining the ACC in 2013, Pitt has not defeated the Tar Heels (0-5), with losses of seven, five, seven, one and three points.

Narduzzi didn’t want to get into reasons.

“If I had to tell you why, I’d be real controversial and probably be on ESPN,” he said. “But we have to find a way to win, period. And the past doesn’t really matter. This football team is different than the last and the last and the last. We have a real challenge going down to play in Chapel Hill. Our guys have to be ready.

“They do a great job on offense and defense. The trend is they’re playing better football than we are, winning the game. And other trends that we won’t discuss.”

Pitt’s game at Central Florida in Orlando, Fla., Sept. 29 will start at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN2 or ESPNU.

Pickett’s brace

Quarterback Kenny Pickett told Narduzzi he nearly wore his knee brace to meetings Monday.

“He’ll be wearing it (in practice and games),” the coach said. “Not on need either. He’ll be wearing it because the head coach is making him.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at [email protected] or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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