Pitt begins its final week of the regular season in preparation for Friday's game against Miami. The Panthers were eliminated from contention for the ACC Coastal title but remain in play for their first 9-win season since Pitt went 9-3 in 2009 under Dave Wannstedt.
The Hurricanes (7-4, 4-3 ACC) end their turbulent season at Heinz Field, but have won three out of four games under interim head coach Larry Scott since the program fired Al Golden after Miami's 58-0 loss to Clemson Oct. 24.
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi says the Hurricanes' 3-4 base defense alignment affords the offense some carryover in preparation from last week against Louisville.
"Three-four and some similar stuff with a linebacker that’s big and physical and can run," Narduzzi said. "It’ll be a challenge and we’ll have to focus on what we need to do and execute."
Friday's game also represents Senior Day which will be meaningful for Narduzzi even though it's his first year with the group.
"They’re my guys because they embraced me when I came and walked through this room—a little different looking room—as a head football coach," Narduzzi said. "I look back and they bought in to what we’re doing. That’s important to me."
Ejuan Price earned ACC Weekly honors for his five-sack performance against Louisville Saturday as he was named the league's Defensive Lineman of the Week. The fifth-year senior out of nearby Woodland Hills finished with 10 tackles, six for loss, alongside his five quarterback takedowns.
The five sacks were the most in a single game this season by a Bowl Subdivision player and Price's 11.5 sacks this season are the most by a Pitt player since Bryan Knight's 10.5 sacks in 2000.
Price's impressive season comes after he was limited to only six games over four injury-riddled seasons price to 2015.
"He’s impressive and I knew that when I got here," Narduzzi said. "I was like, ‘Wow, that guy can go.’ The great thing is he stayed healthy all year, too, which was really what we needed to do."
As such, Price's impact this season has momentum building for seeking a sixth year of eligibility for him from the NCAA after the season ends.
"I might hand deliver that to the NCAA and take a walk to wherever they are," Narduzzi said.
Qadree Ollison topped 1,000 yards rushing for the season Saturday and became the fifth freshman in program history to hit the plateau. He's not the one who many expected would rush for 1,000 yards out of Pitt's backfield, but it was just a matter of when it would happen in his head coach's eyes.
"It doesn’t surprise me at all," Narduzzi said. "I didn’t know we’d get it done before the end of the season. I thought it might take us 12 games."
Narduzzi added that a part of his program's foundation will be the ability to both run the ball and stop it on the other side.
"If we can’t do those two things then we have problems," Narduzzi said. "That’s what I love about coach Chaney, he’s going to continue to pound that football."