Pat Narduzzi has been a graduate assistant, receiver coach and defensive coordinator at Miami. In fact, he was the defensive coordinator in 2003 when Shane Montgomery was the offensive coordinator so the two men are very familiar with each other's schemes. Does this give UC an advantage heading into next Wednesday's game? Not according to Coach Narduzzi. "No. This is a new defense and a new year. They're playing with different kids. We're playing with different kids. We have no advantage. He's been running that offense with those kids longer than we've been running our defense with this program. If anyone has a leg up on the other, it's them since they know the system better than we do and are playing with a lot more mature kids. We're playing with five or six true freshman, and they got guys that have been there for four or five years. Plus they have a lot of guys that have played in this game before, and we don't."
The Bearcat defense has seen in the neighborhood of 20-23 players make tackles this season. This allows defenders to stay rested and the coaches to developed some depth. This is all part of Narduzzi's grand scheme. "We're trying to build depth and at some positions there's not a big difference between the first guy and the second guy so if there's not a big difference in talent, we can keep guys fresh. However, with some guys like Corey Smith, he made 15 tackles the other day, and he didn't come out of the game. He's making plays and there's a difference between the first team guy and the second team guy. We need to have our play makers on the field."
Trying to defend this Miami Redhawk offense will be a real chore for the Bearcats, but Narduzzi thinks he knows how. "First thing we have to do is to stop the run and make them one dimensional. If we can do that and keep them behind the sticks, then we'll have a chance to win the ball game. Obviously, we'll have to defend the pass as well, but we must stop the run. If they're able to just run the ball at us, we have a big problem. Kent State couldn't stop the run last week, and Miami's tailback rushed for over a hundred yards (172 yards to be exact). We can't let that happen."
Miami is known as "The Cradle of Coaches." The last time a Redhawk head football coach was fired, they were still the Redskins, and Tim Rose was the causality back in the 80's. Both Miami's most recent head coaches have gone on to high profile jobs like Terry Hoeppner to Indiana and Randy Walker to Northwestern. We asked Coach Narduzzi why Miami has had so much success in this area, but he was as perplexed as we were. "That's a good question. I really don't know why."
Since the Bearcats have entered into the Big East and the conference wants to retain its BCI bid, does Narduzzi feel any pressure to win this game over a MAC school? "More importantly, we need to win this game for us. Yeah, we're in the Big East, but this is the chance to win another ball game. We're not trying to win this game for the Big East's reputation. We want to win for us."
Pat Narduzzi has been coaching on the college level for fifteen years at four different schools. Has he been a part of any rivalry like this Battle for the Victory Bell? "Not really. This is about as intense as it gets. I've seen it from both sides, but I guess the closest would be the N. Illinois/Toledo rivalry. It's pretty strong too. That's the only one that might be in the same category."
We ended our conversation by asking Coach to identify the toughest part of playing in Oxford. After a little contemplation, Narduzzi got an impish smile and said, "Facing that offense of Coach Montgomery." Facing that potent Miami offense will not be easy, but let's hope Narduzzi's wry smile is still there after the game.