With his Pitt team up 10-7 at halftime against No. 2-ranked Miami on Friday, Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi ran over to ESPN sideline reporter Allison Williams to conduct the obligatory halftime interview. You know, the one where the reporter asks a question hoping to get anything out of the coach and the coach replies with just enough to get him out of the interview.
This one was different. Narduzzi was visibly amped up, as if he could have strapped on a helmet and played for his defense -- which, up to that point, had held Miami’s offense to 113 total yards. To start the interview, Narduzzi went into how Miami’s defense hadn’t stopped his offense and how his defense had stepped up, but that his team had to finish the final 30 minutes.
Then Williams asked Narduzzi what his message was about finishing in those final 30 minutes, to which Narduzzi boldly replied, “It happened in West Virginia when we knocked off No. 2, it happened in South Carolina, and it’s happening in Pittsburgh today.”
Coming out after halftime, with his team only up by three points, Narduzzi thanked Williams and ran back to the sideline after predicting his team would once again knock off the No. 2-ranked team in the country, as it had done with the Mountaineers in 2007 and Clemson last season.
“I thought, 'I could sit here and B.S. you and give you something nobody really wants to hear, or give you the truth,'” Narduzzi said Monday. “To me, I go 100 miles an hour and try to give what I have. She asked me a simple question and I didn’t have a plan -- that just rolled off my tongue. My dad raised me to just tell it like it is, so I don’t remember what the score was, I just know we felt pretty confident going into the game.”
In fact, he’d been talking about beating the Canes all week.
Narduzzi and his staff created a hype video for the Panthers to watch before they squared off against Miami -- to remind them that history can repeat itself and that they, too, could beat a No. 2-ranked team.
“We had a team meeting (Monday) morning, and I probably talked to 10 kids afterwards in my office, and not one of them said, ‘Coach, that halftime interview, you’re crazy,’” Narduzzi said. “We talked about it the Monday before the game that Miami is coming here ... they’re going down and we’re going to win. I don’t think it was a surprise to our kids.”
Narduzzi likened his guarantee and the upset to the 2013 Big Ten championship game, when he was the defensive coordinator for Michigan State. In that game, the Spartans were down 24-20 to Ohio State heading into the fourth quarter, which caused Narduzzi to remind his players that they needed to believe they could win.
“I was in the press box. I came down in the fourth quarter to the field and you feel like sometimes you just will things to happen,” Narduzzi said. “That was one of those where we’re down and we weren’t supposed to win the Big Ten championship in the first place because it’s Ohio State and it’s Urban Meyer. I came down in the fourth quarter and helped will that team that we could win and we did.”
Whether his halftime interview on Friday willed his Pitt team to a win over Miami or not, Narduzzi gave a refreshingly honest answer in an interview that very easily could have been another coach-speak reply just to get to the locker room.
Instead, Narduzzi gave the people what they wanted to hear.
“Maybe she just had the best halftime question ever; I don’t know that I’ve had anyone ask me what was your message,” Narduzzi said. “I guess sometimes it’s not good, maybe I’m telling the truth too much, but sometimes I just tell it like it is. She asked me the question and I said, well the message of the locker room was this, and I don’t know if I guaranteed a win, but I just felt pretty good that it was going to happen here today.”