WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The 24-hour rule that Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi gives his players to revel every victory or fume over every loss lasted almost precisely that long this time around.
When the Panthers gathered for film review around 4 p.m. Sunday — practically 24 hours on the dot after their exhilarating 42-39 win over Penn State, a victory that set off a postgame celebration including an ill-fated attempt to toss Narduzzi in the air and hundreds of students walking around campus in their gear long after the final whistle — Narduzzi flipped the film on and the comedown officially began.
“They all got their butts ripped,” he said Monday with a laugh.
And he wasn’t kidding. Sure, moving to 2-0 by beating your in-state rival for the first time in 16 years with the largest crowd to ever watch a sporting event in the city’s history beats the alternative, but there were so many teachable moments (like nearly blowing a 21-point lead) that Narduzzi isn’t worried about his players getting a little ahead of themselves before traveling to Oklahoma State this weekend.
“Coaches are miserable people,” Narduzzi said. “We linger on all the negatives.”
While the Panthers are well aware the cathartic moment against the Nittany Lions won’t mean a thing if they can’t find a way to keep the momentum going, they’re also aware that Pitt may finally be in position to get off the treadmill of mediocrity it largely has been stuck on the majority of the last 30-plus years.
“It’s too soon to call, but if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen now,” tight end Scott Orndoff said. “We’ve got a great team. Coach Narduzzi has us moving in a direction we haven’t moved in a while.”
Orndoff would know. He grew up less than an hour from campus in Waynesburg and got an up-close view of Pitt’s intermittent struggle to create an upward trajectory. Yet walking around on Saturday night, he noticed people out enjoying themselves without even bothering to go home and change first.
“We’ve never seen so many kids wearing Pitt apparel, jerseys all night long,” Orndoff said.
Narduzzi did his best to return all the congratulatory texts and even received a shoutout from ACC Commissioner Jim Swofford. It was a nice moment, the capper to a day Narduzzi envisioned when he took over the job 21 months ago.
“Whenever you get a call from the commissioner saying good job, that’s a nice deal,” Narduzzi said.
And now it’s over. The film session on Sunday pointed out a sea of missed opportunities, particularly in the running game. Maybe finding fault with an offense that steamrolled the Nittany Lions for 357 yards on the ground is nitpicking. Yet Narduzzi couldn’t help but see what might have been, pointing to a number of times that one more block could have turned a modest gain into something more substantial.
There will be 10 more chances to improve, starting this weekend against the snakebit Cowboys (1-1), who gave up a Hail Mary/lateral touchdown on the final play of a home loss to Central Michigan, a game extended to an untimed down because of an officiating error.
“I’d guess they’re going to be pretty upset and angry,” Narduzzi said. “We’re probably walking into a pretty upset and angry stadium on Saturday.”
Narduzzi understands that getting emotionally primed to re-ignite a series that dates back more than a century was never going to be a problem. Doing the same on the road against a program the Panthers have never faced is another matter. There was a countdown clock on one of the TV monitors in the team room in the run-up to the showdown with the Nittany Lions. On Monday, that same screen was nearly blank with no mention of the Cowboys. Narduzzi stressed that that doesn’t mean Pitt is lingering on Penn State.
“That chapter is closed; we closed it last night,” he said. “It’s over with and we’re going to move on to the next one. That’s what we do.”
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