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Pitt Coach Talks Heupel’s Offense, Vols

Picture via Pittsburgh Athletics

After a pair of week one blowout wins, Tennessee and Pittsburgh turn their attention on each other, looking for a major non conference victory.

Pitt— who opened as a one-point favorite over Tennessee— dominated UMass week one, earning a 51-7 victory. 

Panthers’ head coach Pat Narduzzi liked what he saw from his team in the season opener but knows he needs more moving forward.

“The best thing is we were pretty consistent,” Narduzzi said on “The Nation” radio show Sunday night. “We had two turnovers which can’t happen, a running back that I’m not sure he’s turned it over six times since he’s been here— that’s the reason he plays, never turns it over— turns it over. Ball security, we can not come down to Knoxville and win a game turning it over twice. … What I was happy with was the consistency and how our kids stuck with it.”

With the week one win in the books, Narduzzi and Pittsburgh turn their attention to Josh Heupel’s first Tennessee team. While Pitt and UT haven’t played each other since 1983, the Panthers played Heupel’s UCF teams twice giving the two sides familiarity with one another.

Heupel and UCF won the first meeting between the two teams 45-14 in 2018 before Pitt got revenge in 2019 with a 35-34 home victory.

“Josh Heupel is a heck of a coach,” Narduzzi said. “His offenses to stop are not easy. We went down there the first year to Orlando and it must have been 125 degrees out. It was the hottest game I think I’ve ever coached in in my life. … They had a great offense. He’s explosive. It’s one of those scary offenses you have to defend because they put you in space and make you defend the whole length of the field.”

While Saturday is just the third ever matchup between Tennessee and Pitt, the two schools are forever linked due to former head coach Johnny Majors. Majors, who led Pittsburgh to the 1976 National Championship and Tennessee to three SEC titles, died in June of 2020.

The two schools will honor Majors, calling Saturday’s matchup the Johnny Majors Classic

“It’s really cool,” Narduzzi said of honoring the late coach. “I’ve had an opportunity to be around Johnny Majors too so it’s really neat for me. There’s a personal relationship there. … I’ve talked ball in my office with him. We’ve laughed just telling stories back and forth. He was a great story teller, an unbelievable coach. … He’s a legend here at Pittsburgh I know that.”

While what all goes into the Johnny Majors Classic is unclear, Narduzzi said he would be open to wearing throwback “Majors themed” attire on the sidelines.

Narduzzi’s full focus, however, is on Tennessee and an offense that was up-and-down last Thursday against Bowling Green. 

While the Vols’ passing game struggled against the Falcons, their run game dominated. Co-starting running backs Jabari Small and Tiyon Evans each ran for 116 yards and a score in the win while quarterback Joe Milton added 44 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.

“Just watching them (Small and Evans) run the ball and Milton run the ball, when you have to defend 11 people and the quarterback is a run threat whether that’s scrambles or drop back passes or a zone read keeper, at 240 pounds he’s a threat and a guy you better get more than one helmet on,” Narduzzi said. 

The week two matchup will kick off at noon ET. ESPN will broadcast the game following its well known college football pregame show “College Gameday”.

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