By: Colin Dunlap

Boy, was I wrong.

And I’m not afraid to admit it.

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Wrong as the day is long.

How about this nonsensical drivel I tossed together back in early-September on this very website, in the immediate aftermath of Pitt losing standout running back James Conner for what looked like the season to a knee injury in the Youngstown State game.

It went like this:

“This one really could put a sort of end to the Pitt football season before it so much as gets off the ground.”

Good call, huh?

Remind me never to give you the lottery numbers, as I’m clearly no Nick Perry.

All that said, however, there was a feeling — to varying degrees — of despair and anguish when Pitt’s top runner sustained an injury that would take a huge chunk of firepower out of the Panthers’ offense.

There were questions as to which direction the offense would go.

There were questions as to how good Qadree Ollison could be as the feature back.

There were question as to if Tyler Boyd could handle getting 4,352 touches a game if that’s what it took.

There were questions as to who Pitt’s quarterback was going to be moving forward.

There were questions about the defense, the ability to withstand five games in a six-game stretch on the road and just how, plainly put, this team could rebound emotionally from one of their leaders being felled for the season.

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There was never a question about Pat Narduzzi.

Did you hear that? There was never a question about Pat Narduzzi.

And that’s why this Pitt team has persevered. That’s why this Pitt team has persisted. That’s why this Pitt team — headed into a regular-season finale with Miami on Friday — is 8-3 overall and 6-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

It’s because of Pat Narduzzi.

You can talk about players all you want; you’ll never have me believe that some of the previous coaches in recent Pitt vintage (particularly in their first season) could have sustained a loss to such a big-time player and gone on to achieve all that Narduzzi has.

Narduzzi has made me look foolish and, with it, Pitt looked damn good this season —- and for that, I couldn’t be more happy than to be wrong as the college football landscape in these parts is much, much more exciting when the Panthers are playing well.

Asked to look back a bit, Narduzzi wouldn’t fully take the bait when he appeared on The Fan Morning Show on Monday morning.

“I would think most people, anybody sees any wins over six, I guess, thinks we’re ahead of schedule.” he said. “You don’t really have time to look back and see where you are. You’re just worried about the moment that you’re in now, and preparing for that next game.”

That they are, and with it a next game that could yield Pitt a ninth regular-season victory and continue this instant credibility Narduzzi has mustered in his first season on the job.

A large portion of that has been because he hasn’t been afraid to make a brash call here or there. He’s gone for a fake punt when needed, he’s run risky plays, he’s coached against the grain when he felt it could lift this Pitt team — however precarious the chance — to a victory.

When James Conner went down for Pitt this season, to me, it looked like the end of the world for Pitt. Instead, it showed me just how quickly and brilliantly Pat Narduzzi has grown into his new job as a head coach.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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