A Kiss to Remember and Validation For a Program at Pitt

Pat Narduzzi can't explain why he kissed his kicker in the seconds after he missed an extra point in the second quarter of Pitt's showdown with Clemson. But after Pitt's upset victory, no one is complaining.

The difference between a tie and a signature win on the road is subtle but significant.

A tie, we’ve been told, is like kissing your sister.

Beating No. 2 Clemson at Clemson, Pat Narduzzi and Pitt have shown us, is like kissing your kicker.

Narduzzi did exactly that last Saturday in Death Valley, long before Chris Blewitt split the uprights from 48 yards away with six seconds remaining.

The occasion was a sideline moment in the aftermath of a failed extra point that would have tied the game at 21-21 in the second quarter.

The coach threw an arm around his visibly distraught kicker and planted a wet one right on the cheek.

“I don’t know what made me do that,” Narduzzi admitted this week.

Other than, perhaps, Narduzzi being Narduzzi, and Narduzzi doing what Narduzzi does.

“I don’t think you learn it in a book,” he continued. “We’re always positive with our kids on game day. I might rip them in practice here or there and I might get after people on game day, but not players.

“To go tearing into a guy, that’s not going to help. He was down a little bit, just had that look on his face. And I just went up and said, ‘wipe that off, forget about it, it’s over with.’”

As a result, The Narduzzi Era at Pitt may just be getting started in terms of generating some serious momentum.

Maintaining that will have less to do with what happens against Duke and Syracuse and in whatever bowl game the Panthers play in than it will what Narduzzi and his staff can do with the belief beating Clemson legitimized.

On the recruiting trail.

Throughout Pitt’s offseason and spring programs.

And in building expectations and anticipations for next season and beyond from within.

Narduzzi has been selling such possibilities ever since he was introduced as Pitt’s latest football savior on Dec. 26, 2014.

“Anything can be accomplished if everybody believes in each other,” he said then.

It’s been a hard sell, but as it turns out, anything can.

“I don’t think there was anybody outside the walls and doors of this (team meeting) room that believed we could go down to Death Valley and get it done,” Narduzzi maintained.

“But the kids in here believed and that’s what we tell our guys all the time. As long as we have belief in what we’re doing, how we’re doing it … keep plugging away and good things happen.”

What happened at Clemson is the type of thing Narduzzi envisioned all along.

It took a while, but all of a sudden Narduzzi isn’t the coach who’s too emotional on the sideline (Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is probably answering such accusations today).

Now, Narduzzi knows what he’s doing after all with a defense that surrendered another 630 yards but still helped save the day with a late-game interception and an even-later stop on fourth-and-1.

Now, there’s tangible evidence as to what can happen when you believe.

It’s on tape, as coaches like to say.

Pitt 43, Clemson 42 wasn’t just a signature win for Pitt.

It was currency that can be invested toward more of the same well after this season eventually comes to an end, no matter how it ends.

You bet Narduzzi saw this coming.

He’d seen it firsthand at Michigan State.

Still, he wasn’t taking any chances prior to Blewitt’s game-winning kick.

That explains taking a knee on the sideline and locking arms with defensive lineman Calvin Hamilton and wide receiver Kellen McAlone just prior to the Narduzzi Theory of Evolution’s official transference from theory into reality.

“I knew he was going to nail it, but what I really went back to was the (2015) Syracuse game, when I knelt down with those guys last time,” Narduzzi said, recalling a previous Blewitt game-winner. “So maybe every field goal I should go kneel down.

“That’s kind of what went through my mind is the Syracuse game, we were kneeling down and I was like ‘this is money.’”

The kind you can take to the bank.


Categories: Mike Prisuta’s Sports Section