PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Pat Narduzzi’s players didn’t have much to do during the weekend. Aside from a standard injury check Friday, the last few days were theirs to do with what they wished after their coach gave Pittsburgh’s players little instruction but to enjoy themselves.
None of the Panthers enjoyed Pitt’s 26-19 loss to North Carolina last Thursday, which knocked Pitt out of first place in the ACC Coastal Division and the national rankings. After the short week, Narduzzi gave his players extra time to recover and prepare to rebound from the loss.
The time for rest is over now as the Panthers host No. 8 Notre Dame on Saturday.
“They bring in a great football team,” Narduzzi said of the Fighting Irish. “Obviously very well-coached, a Top 10 football team that’s probably one of the most talented teams that will walk into Heinz Field this year.”
If not the most talented, the Irish are at least the highest-ranked opponent Pitt figures to play this season.
The last four games between the teams have been decided by an average of 4 1/2 points. Notre Dame last visited Pittsburgh in 2013, when the Panthers beat the then-No. 23 Irish 28-21.
A year earlier, an unranked Pitt team took then-No. 2 Notre Dame to the wire in South Bend, Indiana, before losing in triple overtime.
“We’ve got to focus on us,” Narduzzi said. “It’s not about what North Carolina did Thursday, it’s about what we didn’t do.”
One thing Pitt didn’t do Thursday was wrap up dynamic Tar Heels quarterback Marquise Williams, who threw for two touchdowns and evaded four or five sacks in Narduzzi’s estimation. The Panthers led the ACC in sacks after five weeks but have only one in their last three games while facing mobile quarterbacks.
Defensive lineman Darryl Render noted the need for Pitt’s defense to focus back in on the little things as it prepares this week.
Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer is next in line and Narduzzi hopes his team learned its lesson from the previous three weeks.
“You’re going to have to put your chest on him,” Narduzzi said, “not just your hands. You’ve got to put your chest on him. When you have an opportunity, you’ve got to take advantage of it.”
Render and the rest of Pitt’s front seven has had chances to bring down opposing quarterbacks lately, but haven’t capitalized.
“We’ve got to do a better job of keeping him in the pocket,” Render said. “Pass rush lanes are going to be huge this week like they’ve been in the last couple weeks so seeing how the last couple teams exploited our holes and stuff like that, we can try to get that stuff corrected.”
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