Pat Narduzzi, James Franklin play nice in days leading up to Pitt-Penn State game

(Greensburg) Tribune-Review (TNS)
Penn State head football coach James Franklin.

Although it might be stylish for rivals to trade barbs on social media, Pat Narduzzi and James Franklin have done the opposite in the days leading up to the Pitt/Penn State game Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

Each coach had good things to say about the other, and they didn’t even do it electronically (unless the radio counts).

On his show Wednesday night on 93.7 FM, Pitt’s coach was reminded Penn State has lost several players, including eight to the NFL, from the 2018 team that defeated Pitt, 51-6, last year.

“James Franklin did a great job recruiting,” said Narduzzi, who goes head-to-head with Penn State’s coach for several prospects on the East coast. “They filled some voids in a big way.”

Two days earlier, Franklin all but said Narduzzi invented run defense.

Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi

“He’s been doing it for a long time,” Franklin said. “They have been doing it at a high level. For a while, there was a period of time in college football, probably four to six years, where everybody was trying to copycat their style of defense — what he’s done at Pitt and what they did at Michigan State. But obviously, he has done a tremendous job.

“So it’s a challenge. It’s an in-your-face style of defense. The linebackers are downhill, as soon as they get their reads, which makes it difficult (for offensive linemen) to stay on double teams. Your offensive linemen have to come off and climb on the linebacker quickly.

“That’s part of their design. That’s what they want you to do. It’s a good scheme. There’s no doubt about it.

“That team has taken on his personality. They are physical. They are tough. They are hard-nosed.”

After two games, Pitt is tied for 23rd nationally in run defense, allowing only an average of 82 yards per game.

“We did a better job of stopping the run at times,” Narduzzi said of the Ohio game. “My coaches told me we are (tied for 23rd) in the country in rush defense. I said, ‘You guys still stink. We should have been 15th.’ ”

Narduzzi did allow that Pitt has the more experienced quarterback, with Kenny Pickett preparing for his 18th start while Penn State lost Trace McSorley to the Baltimore Ravens. Sean Clifford will make his third start for the Nittany Lions.

“But he’s a good football player,” Narduzzi said of Clifford. “We can’t let him get comfortable in the pocket.”

Clifford is a running threat who isn’t afraid to take a hit, Narduzzi said.

“We invite them to run as many powers as they can,” Pitt’s coach said. “We’d like to be able to give him some of those (hits).”