The Pitt Panthers defeated both the ACC and Big Ten champion during the 2016 season. They were the only team to knock off the eventual national champion Clemson Tigers, but head coach Pat Narduzzi is preparing his team for bigger and better things in 2017.
“I want to win an ACC championship,” Narduzzi said this week according to Triblive.com. “I would gladly give up the Penn State and Clemson wins to win the ACC championship.”
“Anyone in this building would trade those wins to be ACC champion,” Pitt redshirt junior tackle Brian O’Neill said. “It’s anyone’s game in the Coastal Division. It’s right in front of us. We’ve got to go get it. No one is going to hand it to us.”
Despite those impressive wins, Pitt didn’t win the Coastal Division and receive another chance to beat Clemson in the ACC Championship Game because of losses to North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Miami. The Panthers held a 13-point lead on the road against the Tar Heels with 11 minutes to go but lost by a point. Pitt also lost to Northwestern in the Pinstripe Bowl.
The Panthers have won eight games in each of Narduzzi’s first two seasons, which is something Pitt hasn’t done since 2009-10. But with success comes new expectations, and eight wins for Pitt probably won’t be viewed as kindly this fall.
“It is about taking the next step. The two big victories we had put a target on your back,” Narduzzi said. “The ‘Take It’ (Pitt’s motto this season) is more about the losses than the wins. It’s such a game of little things and how close we are to winning every game. Our kids know how close we were to winning every football game.”