Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi on gamble: We’re one up on Bill Belichick
Pat Narduzzi said he wasn’t aware he joined an exclusive club that includes five-time Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Belichick when he gambled on fourth-and-1 from his 10-yard line last week against Virginia.
Coaches seldom take such risks, but it worked for Pitt when quarterback Kenny Pickett lunged forward 2 yards for a first down late in the second quarter.
When Belichick tried it in 2009 with a six-point lead against the Indianapolis Colts on fourth-and-2 from his 28, the play failed. The Colts took possession with two minutes left in the game and rallied to victory.
The circumstances were different, of course, for Pitt. Peyton Manning wasn’t standing on the opposing sideline.
Still, Narduzzi joked, “We’re one up on Bill.”
Narduzzi said there was no discussion or argument from his coaches when the decision was made.
“No one said a word. We’re all together,” he said. “It really stems from the confidence we have and the O-line saying, ‘Coach, let’s go.’
“I always listen to our players. I listen to our players more than I listen to the coaches. If the coaches say don’t go and players are saying go, you know who I’m listening to? The players, because they are the ones who have to make the blocks.”
Narduzzi decided selective aggressiveness was worth the risk.
“We didn’t go down there to play not to lose,” he said. “We went down there to play to win. We’re going to do the same thing this weekend (against Virginia Tech). We’re going to be as aggressive as we have to.”
Narduzzi pointed out getting the first down didn’t lead to a score for Pitt, but it used up valuable time.
“We were able to get another four plays in and drain two minutes off the clock,” Narduzzi said, “and they get stuck and kick a field goal in our red zone on first down because they had no clock.”
Pitt has eschewed a punt on fourth down only 11 times this season, which is only one-third of the nation’s top gamblers Florida Atlantic and Air Force (33). Pitt converted five of them.
“Everybody’s getting a little more aggressive,” Narduzzi said. “Trying to play the odds a little bit. There are so many tight games, and anybody can beat anybody. If you have a good fourth-down play, whether it’s fourth-and-5 or fourth-and-1, you’re looking for an advantage. “
Narduzzi wouldn’t reveal the number V’Lique Carter will wear Saturday against Virginia Tech, but it might not be what’s listed on Pitt’s news release (19). He wore 83 in Virginia, which was Narduzzi’s attempt to fool the opponent.
“We’re just trying to make it hard in the first quarter,” he said. “They figure it out after a while, doesn’t take long, maybe one snap.”
Narduzzi, the father of four, compared the ploy to “finding Waldo.”
“I always liked that book.”
Jones OK to play
Defensive end Patrick Jones, who was ejected with six seconds left in the first half after a helmet-on-helmet hit on Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins, is eligible to play Saturday.
“If he had got ejected in the first second of the second half,” Narduzzi said, “then he’d be ejected for that half and the next half (of the next game).”
He said he didn’t have to discuss the play with the team.
“They know what they can and can’t do,” he said. “I’m not going to question the call. Everybody has, I guess. The great thing, (Jones) got a half fresher. He’s fresher than he was before, and we still came out with the ‘W.’ ”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.