Pitt Coach Pat Narduzzi-Season Opening Press Conference-Panthers vs. Villanova at Heinz Field Saturday.
“We’re very excited to get this week started and get game one under our belt. We’ve got a very accomplished football team in Villanova coming into Heinz Field this weekend. They not only have an accomplished football team, but a well decorated head coach in Andy Talley as well. I think he’s going on his 32nd season. He’s been in the playoffs 11 times. He’s won a national championship and has been named the national coach of the year twice. He’s an excellent football coach; it’s an excellent program. I’ve had the opportunity to go against Coach [Andy] Talley as a player and a coach. I actually played against him last I think in 1989. I also had the opportunity to play against some great Villanova teams when they had [Brian] Westbrook and [Brian] Finneran there as well. So Coach Talley and I go back a long way. He’s a great football coach. The last three FBS teams they have played they have taken to the wire—last year with UConn, the year before that with Syracuse and the year before that Boston College. I told our kids last night this is not going to be easy. The FCS is good football. They will come in here ready to go. We must be ready to go.”
On what challenges facing Villanova poses:
“Offensively they’ve got three seniors. Their offensive line is very experienced; they lost one guy I believe in their starting guard. Very experienced up front, they know what they’re doing. They have a real good tailback in Jarrett McClenton. He’s a utility guy—does a little bit of everything. Not the biggest guy, but he can fly. Zach Bednarczyk is their quarterback. He’s a lefty that is a really good football player. He’s got a quick release; the ball comes out of his hand fast. Defensively, they have five seniors including defensive end No. 92, Tanoh Kpassagnon. He’s a good-looking player. He is one of those guys that probably has a chance to play in the league. He can rush the passer. Also, outside linebacker Austin Calitro is very physical. He probably will lead their team in tackles. Those are two guys to keep an eye on; they fly around. They play with an attitude and they’re well coached. They have continuity with that coaching staff. The Panthers better come ready to play.”
In this PantherLair Podcast-Breaking down the first two-deep of the season and recapping Pat Narduzzi’s press conference previewing the game vs. Villanova.
In this PantherLair Podcast-Question marks facing the team heading into the Villanova game kicking of the 2016 season at Heinz Field plus the definitive Jordan Whitehead interview.
Pitt Beat Writer Jerry DiPaola-can the Panthers win the ACC Championship this season? Not showing a lot vs. Villanova? Pitt vs. Penn State Series.
Pitt Game Notes- GAME STORYLINES
• Pitt opens its 127th season of intercollegiate football when the Panthers host Villanova at Heinz Field. Under the direction of second-year head coach Pat Narduzzi, the Panthers are looking to build off last season’s 8-5 record and runner-up finish in the ACC’s Coastal Division.
• Villanova is led by Coach Andy Talley, who enters his 32nd season at the school. Talley, who led the Wildcats to the 2009 Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) national title, has announced he will be retiring following the 2016 campaign.
• The Villanova game marks the highly anticipated return of Pitt tailback James Conner, a 2014 first team All-American who missed virtually all of last season due to a knee injury.
• Conner’s journey back to the field has been nothing short of heroic. Three months after his knee injury, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. Declared cancer free in May, Conner was full-go during training camp and will take the field in the opener as a team captain.
• Conner and the Pitt offense will be spearheaded by four returning starters up front, including All-ACC performers in tackle Adam Bisnowaty and guard Dorian Johnson.
• The Panthers’ offensive front has produced a 1,000-yard rusher each of the past two seasons. Conner rushed for 1,765 yards in 2014 and Qadree Ollison had 1,121 yards last season.
• Defensively, Pitt returns one of the nation’s most disruptive linemen in end Ejuan Price. He was named All-ACC last year after compiling 19.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. Price led the ACC and ranked eighth nationally in sacks per game (0.88 avg.).
• Pitt and Villanova have played just twice before. The most recent meeting occurred in the 1998 season opener, won by the Panthers, 48-41. The inaugural game was a 12-0 Pitt win in 1911.
• Pitt is 81-43-2 (.651) all-time in openers. Since the 2000 season, Pitt is 11-5 (.688) in its initial game.
Although both schools reside in the state of Pennsylvania, this will be only the third all-time meeting between Pitt and Villanova on the football field…the Panthers are 2-0 against the Wildcats…the last meeting occurred at Pitt Stadium on Sept. 5, 1998, the season opener for both teams…Pitt outlasted the Wildcats, 48-41, despite 428 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns by Villanova’s Brian Westbrook…the inaugural meeting took place in 1911, a 12-0 Pitt win…under Coach Andy Talley’s direction, Villanova ranks as one of the most accomplished programs at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level, advancing to the NCAA playoffs 11 times and winning the 2009 national title…Pitt is 13-1 all-time vs. FCS foes.
SERIES IN BRIEF
Series Began: 1911
Series Overall: Pitt leads 2-0
At Pittsburgh: Pitt leads 2-0
At Villanova: DNA
Last Meeting: Sept. 5, 1998 (Pitt 48, Villanova 41)
Current Series Win Streak: Pitt has won 2
Longest Pitt Series Win Streak: 2 games (1911, 1998)
Longest Villanova Series Win Streak: DNA
Largest Pitt Victory Margin: 12 points (12-0, 1911)
Largest Villanova Victory Margin: DNA