Pat Narduzzi Offers Update On Bowl Preparations, Conner’s Battle With Cancer

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Pitt football head coach Pat Narduzzi joined “The Fan Morning Show” on Tuesday to look ahead to next Monday’s Military Bowl, which will pit his Panthers against the No. 21 Navy Midshipmen.

Narduzzi admitted that he doesn’t relish having to go up against a triple-option attack led by a superstar quarterback, with vaunted signal-caller Keenan Reynolds leading the way for a talented Navy offense.

“Keenan Reynolds is better than ‘pretty good,’ that’s for sure,” Narduzzi said. “He’s a great football player. It’s not a whole lot of fun…everything is brand new for our kids when they face something like that, but Josh Conklin and our defensive staff has done a great job of adjusting to it, and we will make the best out of it.”

Narduzzi said that it has been up to Dane Jackson and Manny Stocker to emulate Reynolds for the scout team in practice.

“Those have been our two quarterbacks that we rotate in there and try to get them as many reps as we can,” Narduzzi said. “And those guys get hit a bunch. We’ve been really full-contact against the option. We felt like we didn’t do a great enough job against Georgia Tech at getting that quarterback on the edge fast enough…so we’ve done a better job with those guys of emphasizing that, because the ball got out to the pitch so quick, we just didn’t see that speed in the game, and it’s hard to emulate that.”

Aside from giving a team time to prepare for its bowl opponent, bowl practices can give a team extra time to grow and improve before next season, and Narduzzi is quite thankful for that.

“These 11 practices that we’ll end up getting in – plus a game – for anybody returning for next year is a huge benefit,” Narduzzi said. “Teams that don’t have it are losing out, and we’re gaining practice time…eleven days. I mean, spring ball only lasts 15 practices, so we’ve got 11 – it’s like getting another spring ball in.”

In addition to discussing Pitt’s bowl preparations, Narduzzi also offered an update on James Conner’s battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“Yesterday, he had his second round of treatment,” Narduzzi said. “Initially, they’re saying that the tumor has already shrunk. That’s how strong he is. In two weeks, it’s already started to shrink. He’s doing great right now. He’s great in spirits, having seen him yesterday, but I’m assuming he’ll be at practice today. He’s been at every practice except one. Every time we have a team meeting here, he’s here. Not only is our team thinking about him, he’s thinking about our team. That’s the type of kid he is.”

The interview can be heard here:

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