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With PSU looming, Pitt coach wants no distractions

CRAIG MEYER
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (via AP)
  • Saturday, Pitt and Penn State will meet Saturday for the first time since 2000.
  • Both teams are coming off season-opening triumphs.
  • PSU beat Kent State, 33-13, while Pitt downed Villanova, 28-7.

Pat Narduzzi, like most any coach, preaches the importance of consistency throughout the course of a season, of approaching each game, regardless of the opponent, as if it were the same.

This week, however, represents a break in the script for Pitt. This week is, simply put, different.

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi.

Even while reverting back to a one-game-at-a-time mantra at times, the increased importance of his team’s game against Penn State Saturday was something Narduzzi stressed repeatedly during his weekly press conference Monday as the two rivals prepare to play for the first time since 2000.

“We’re going to pound on that this week,” the second-year Panthers’ coach said. “It’s something we haven’t talked a whole lot about because we’re locked into one game. But it’s been 16 years. I know when I first got into a major rivalry, I didn’t get it. I didn’t get it the first year, but I got it the second year. I want to make sure they get it the first year. That’s my job.”

One aspect of that break from the norm will include his players and coaches not being available for interviews, and practices being completely closed to the media. It’s a choice Narduzzi said doesn’t have anything to do with worries over his players potentially producing any motivational fuel for the Nittany Lions; rather, it’s about keeping his team focused solely on the game ahead.

“I want to be the only voice this week,” he said. “I’m going to try to eliminate all distractions.”

Both teams are coming off season-opening wins. Penn State beat Kent State, 33-13, while Pitt beat Villanova, 28-7.

Update on Zeise, Hendrix: Defensive end Dewayne Hendrix and linebacker Elijah Zeise are “day-to-day” with lower leg injuries they suffered in a 28-7 victory last Saturday against Villanova. Both players exited the game against the Wildcats and stood on the sideline in walking boots.

Narduzzi provided no further details.

“We’ll find out,” he said of their respective statuses.