From breakfast with Ditka to warnings about officials, Pat Narduzzi covers every detail on game day
Pitt’s coaches have watched video, conducted three days of practice and installed a game plan they believe can defeat Penn State on Saturday night at Heinz Field.
Now, it’s time to get down to details that could decide a close game.
Pat Narduzzi said Thursday the Big Ten officiating crew assigned to work the game threw seven unsportsmanlike conduct flags last season. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot over the course of a 13-game season, but Narduzzi isn’t taking any chances.
“We‘ve gone down to every little detail,” he said. “Composure is important. Composure is something I’ll talk to them about on game day. We don’t want to be one of those guys getting one of those flags. That helps you lose a game.”
Narduzzi said it’s routine to analyze the makeup of the officiating crew before any game.
“Who do they have? What do they like to call?” he said. “If they’re not going to call that, we’ll do that Sometimes I want to ask them, ‘What are you guys going to call today, so I can tell our guys?”
With the game not scheduled to start until 8:14 p.m. to accommodate ABC-TV, Narduzzi even has Saturday mapped out for his players.
The team will stay in a hotel Friday night, as it usually does the night before home games, but Narduzzi has no plans to allow his players to hang out in the lobby all day.
They’ll ride busses back to their South Side training facility for meetings and some light weight work just to stay loose.
Before that, former Pitt All-American and Pro Football Hall of Fame Mike Ditka will speak to the team at breakfast. Narduzzi said it’s important to expose his players to the program’s past.
“It can have a major effect,” he said. “I want our guys to know about the history, what the past used to be like and try to bring those guys back and bring them into today’s football.
“Say, ‘I was in your shoes.’ I don’t care if it’s 30 years ago, 40 years ago, 60 years ago — what playing and putting the gear on means to those guys.”
Narduzzi said he doesn’t try to control the message.
‘”Sometimes, you don’t know what you’re going to get,” he said. “I don’t say, ‘Can you talk about this?’
“I would think Mike Ditka knows what to do so I’m not going to coach him up at all.”
He said some of the talks have been memorable. His favorite was Bill Fralic, who spoke to the team before and after a game.
“We have video (of all the talks),” he said. “Maybe someday we should release it and have a big series. Maybe I’ll sell it.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at email@example.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.