CUTrevor 2018-11-30 11:05:39

I'll have video for Dabo and Pat Narduzzi in a bit. Stay tuned!

CUTrevor 2018-11-30 12:27:21

Just finished with Narduzzi and waiting for Dabo. Stay tuned!

CUTrevor 2018-11-30 13:05:00

Just wrapped up with Dabo. A lot of repeat questions, but I asked him about Jamie Skalski and what he will bring to the defense and special teams moving forward. He has only played in the one game this season at GT when Kendall Joseph was hurt. So he should be ALL IN moving forward. He should bring a lot to the defense and special teams in the post-season. Dabo also said that there are a few other guys they've been "saving" for the post-season so they can still red shirt.

CUTrevor 2018-11-30 13:07:38

Swofford talking now. The ACC just announced that the first game on the new ESPN ACC Network will be Georgia Tech at Clemson, the season opener on Thursday night in Death Valley!

CUTrevor 2018-11-30 13:14:20

CUTrevor 2018-11-30 13:14:49

CUTrevor 2018-11-30 13:15:25

DABO: It's always great to see y'all on the Friday before the ACC championship game. That means we have had a great year. We're excited to be back up here, really proud of our football team, our staff. It's been an amazing season to this point. Obviously being 12-0, can't do any better than that.

But just it's an honor to be here and represent our division, play for the overall championship. Man, Pat is awesome. Got a great amount of respect for Coach Narduzzi, his team, what they've done. Both teams have earned the opportunity to be here, a chance to compete for the overall ACC title.

You have two champions, you got one trophy. So we're excited about competing for it tomorrow night here in Charlotte. This is an awesome venue. I appreciate all the work that goes into this from all the Charlotte folks, the hospitality. Our ACC office, they do a great job of coordinating this, making it a wonderful event for our players.

We got the ACC banquet tonight. Always look forward to being a part of that when we get in this game. Congratulations to all the people that won the awards, all conference players, so forth. It's a good night for all the ACC folks to come together. Got a bunch of legends. I think Joe Bostic is our legend. Excited about seeing Joe. We have a unique connection that we both played for Gene Stallings. Coach Stallings was his coach with the Arizona Cardinals, obviously my coach at Alabama. We're excited about it.

Pitt is a tough, physical team. If you know anything about Pat, man, that's kind of who he is. His team epitomizes everything that I think he stands for and really has in his whole coaching career. They're going to challenge us in every regard. Defensively they're in your face. Linebackers are downhill. They're pressed outside. Safeties are downhill. They're incredibly disciplined. They know their system. They don't make a lot of busts. They get after you.

I think they had 13 guys back last year that started four games or more. This is one of the most experienced defenses that we've seen all year. Then on the flipside, offensively, man, if you don't have your mind right, you're in for a long night because these guys are going to come right at you. They're toe-to-toe. I mean, they're going to get in that I-formation, backed up, middle of the field, going in, fullback is a heck of a player.

They are really good on the outside. They've done a nice job at receiver. The one kid that transferred in there, 11, I believe, has really come on in the last part of the year here. He has a huge average per catch.

Both backs, one of them is right at 1200 yards, the other one is right at 1000 yards. They just kind of hammer you. Three runs, bam, bam, bam, here comes some play-action shot. Everything they want to do is be efficient in the run game. Everything is going through that. A lot of shifts, a lot of motions, a lot of trades that force you to have to be very disciplined in how you line up.

They do a great job in coordinating their offense. You think we're going to turn around, hand it off. But they create angles, edges, extra gaps. How you fit is that critical. It's not just the front level, it's the second and third level, your backers, your run support from the secondary, everybody being on the same page. If you don't do it right, you don't communicate it right, you don't have your eyes on the right things, they're going to expose you.

Been impressed with them, studied them on tape. Again, they've played some tough teams, too. They played Notre Dame, undefeated. Played Central Florida, undefeated. They played a really good Penn State team. They've seen some tough opponents in this season.

At the end of the day they won their division on the field and have earned the opportunity to be here. It's what I tell our guys, It comes down to these four quarters. Doesn't matter what you have done in the previous games, you don't get to carry that over. It comes down to this game. It's not like baseball or basketball, best-of-seven, best-of-five, have a bad night, play again tomorrow. It's the best of one, so you better be ready for this moment.

We're excited again, representing the Atlantic and Clemson in this great championship event.

Q. You come in as heavy favorites. How do you balance that with your team, make sure they come in ready to play, given you are such a heavy favorite?

DABO: Well, we just really don't ever pay any attention to that. I've had that question to me a couple times. My answer is, I think we've been a heavy favorite in every game. I don't think there's a game that we've played that we haven't been a heavy favorite in. Same things that we did all the way back against Furman, same things. We just make it about us. We prepare every week. We respect every opponent. We know anybody can beat us. This very team has beaten us. I'm sure they've had that running on a loop all week (smiling).

A lot of those guys that beat us are still there. This senior class, this is their only ACC team they hadn't beaten, that they've got a losing record to. I think it's ironic, their last conference game ever comes down to having a chance to play Pitt, a team our guys have respect for.

For us, at the end of the day, it's never about the opponent, who we play, it's always about how we play. There's a winning performance at every position. We have a lot of accountability to that. We just make it all about that, week in, week out. Then we celebrate every win.

Like I said, that's not anything different. I have no idea what we're favored by. I have no clue. To me, it's 0-0 when you kick it off. You got to prove it every week.

Q. You have a couple of guys from around here. Talk about Justin and Tanner, what they mean for your program?

DABO: Tanner has been one of our most improved players, one of our most consistent players. From where he was last year as a first-year starter, he has been a very steady guy. Unbelievably committed. Has just grown up as a player, and more importantly his mindset of how he prepares every week. I mean, he goes above and beyond. He puts a lot of work in on his own. He's just become an excellent leader. He's a very, very talented player.

His weaknesses that he had coming out of last season, you just love to see guys -- obviously part of our job is to critique, give guys, Here is what you got to do to become a better player. He's worked on those things relentlessly. I'm really proud of him.

Justin has quietly become a heck of a player for us, he really has. Wish we could have redshirted him last year. Glad we had him. It paid off for us. He has some freaky All-American type guys in front of him, but he's quietly become a very good player. I think he's got a bright future in front of him. I got a lot of confidence in him, just a guy that fits our program to a T.

Q. Talk about Pickett, the quarterback for Pitt. What do you see on film that might give you a problem tomorrow night?

DABO: He's a crafty player, man. He buys time. He does a nice job of extending plays. They support him with their run game. I mean, they want to be efficient to where they can kind of stay on schedule, then he's popping big plays.

In the passing game, they like to get him out of the pocket, the boots, they love that part of the game, but he's a good thrower. He's a great competitor. He can get the ball down the field. But he makes plays with his legs. Those are things he does well.

You can tell that he's very confident in what they're asking him to do. Good player.

Q. The fact that this is now a four-year process of coming back to this event, three of the four have been here, every game you have an organized buildup, but does it maybe bring a sense of calm because it's very much routine for you and the staff and the players?

DABO: Well, I definitely think experience is a positive. I don't think it's a negative. I think when you have a lot of experience doing something, there is some confidence that can come from that.

You still got to go do it. We still got a lot of guys on our team, this is their first experience. So I think no matter how much we've experienced things as coaches, you always have new players that it's a first experience for them. So you kind of rely on the veteran guys to help you.

But I did not have to have directions to get here. Ross did. I was telling Ross where to go, Pull into Panthers lot, go left, we'll come around the back. Kind of nice to know where we were going. Nice to walk out in the stadium when I got here. Man, it's a beautiful stadium. We've had some great moments. It's neat to be able to come back to a place you have some really good memories.

Hopefully we can do it one more time tomorrow night.

Q. You have spoken about the senior class, the success they've had. What do you think they've learned the most about playing in these big games that you don't know when you are an 18-year-old and a freshman?

DABO: Just don't make the moment too big. Just really stay true to what you do. I mean, I think kind of our approach helps them in that. We just try to make every game the biggest game of the year. They kind of become a little numb to that.

We don't prepare any differently. In fact, we probably prepared a little less this week than we did early part of the year just simply because it's game whatever, 13, week 14 for us. There's certain things early part of the year that we do that this time of year we don't do simply because of the calendar and where we are, the tread on the tires, so to speak.

I think the biggest thing is we just make everything routine. We don't ever try to make the stage any bigger week in and week out. We try to make every game the biggest game of the year. We put everything we got into it. We prepare the same. I think that helps more than anything with these guys. They all understand it.

But at the end of the day you got to play well. Same things that won those other 12 games will win this one. So you got to make a decision on how you're going to play. Continue to prepare with the same commitment, then you got a chance.

Q. The experience carries over, not necessarily the outcome. From 2009 in Tampa, 2018 in Charlotte, what has been the difference? What do you think Coach Narduzzi is experiencing in his first go of this?

DABO: Well, yeah, the first one was down there in Tampa in '09. We didn't punt in that game. Georgia Tech didn't punt either. Only game I've ever been a part of where neither team punted once. That was an unbelievable experience. I think that was new for everybody because I don't think they'd had it in Tampa before. That was kind of a one-and-done maybe. I can't remember if it was there in '10 or not. It was a great experience for us.

Then when we had an opportunity to get back in it two years later in '11. We had a lot of guys that were in that game, they wanted to finish, and we played maybe one of our best games of the year in that moment.

The main thing for me back in '09, it was my first year. I was so excited to win the division because I hadn't done that. I was excited to have a chance to go compete for a championship first time in 20 years. I kind of had it all scripted in my mind on how it was supposed to go. Man, it didn't go that way.

I think they went 86 yards on us there to win that game at the end. I remember walking off the field in Tampa, oranges were being thrown at us. I'm like, Man, this is just like man. I always told myself, God never says oops. I don't like that, but that's kind of what I live by.

I was like, We're supposed to be going into the Orange Bowl, 30 years since going to the Orange Bowl, hadn't won an ACC championship in 20 years. It was a very disappointing moment.

It's ironic that six years later we were back in Tampa and won the national championship. I think the biggest thing is just don't let one moment define you, just keep working to get better, keep growing, learning lessons. That's what we did.

I think Pat is probably the same way. He's probably thrilled to be in the game, because his team has earned that. You start the season, everybody's kind of running the race, if you will, but only one is going to win. Man, they came out on top. That's all that matters.

So I know that they're probably super excited to have the experience for the first time, they're going to do everything they can to win the game. They certainly are capable of beating us, no question about it.

Nothing matters. You don't carry over the touchdowns, the sacks, the mistakes either. It's all about this game. In championship football, anything can happen. But regardless of what happens, if they win the game, man, what a great opportunity for him to continue to grow their program.

For us, it's all built together year after year after year, just trying to have consistency. We've been able to do that. But the biggest thing that's changed is we have a consistent venue. When I first got the job, it was a different venue a bunch. Now we've had the consistency in the venue. You kind of know what you're shooting for, so you have this visualization year in and year out as opposed to, all right, where we playing, that type of deal. I think it's given us a lot of stability in our league and credibility.

Q. Jamie Skalski played in the one game at Georgia Tech. How much can he help you on defense and special teams in the post-season?

DABO: Yeah, I mean, he's a guy that probably could have competed for a starting spot this year. It's kind of nice to have a guy back like Skalski. He's got three games left. Hopefully we can get three games. That would be awesome.

It's huge to get a player like that to be available. We got a couple young guys, as well, that we've kind of saved, if you will, for kind of this time of the year, we're kind of green lighting, and hopefully can get some help in the post-season from a couple of them.

Q. This Pitt team, is it much different or better than the team that beat you in 2016?

DABO: You ask me that after the game (laughter). That one was pretty good. Peterman, was that the quarterback? Man, they were really good.

That was a crazy game. Deshaun had the game of his life, threw for 580 yards, but we had three interceptions. A couple were down in the red zone. That was an unbelievably competitive game on both sides. We couldn't stop them, they couldn't stop us. We had more turnovers than they did, that ended up being the difference in the game. They stuffed us on fourth-and-one at the end of the game where we could have put it away and didn't. They made a great kick.

It was just an awesome game. I don't see much different. I think defensively they're exactly the same, in your grits. If you can beat us, come beat us. They don't give you any layups, they give you no layups. They're not a bend-but-don't-break type of deal. They're going to challenge you, force the issue.

On the offensive side, they're a little different than when Canada was there, but not much. They killed us that day with the shovel. They were running the shovel option the whole game, up the field when we should have squeezed, squeezed when we should have been up the field. The quarterback played great, hit a couple big plays on us.

They're a little different schematically as far as just kind of the style. You haven't seen as much of that. But they still do a lot of shifts, a lot of motions, they're still run oriented, still a very physical approach. That has not changed.

Q. I know coaches sometimes follow each other, some of the strategies, sometimes even copy the strategies. What do you know about Pat before he joined the ACC?

DABO: I knew nothing, other than he was at Michigan State. I knew Mark Dantonio. I've gotten to know him over the years. I really like Mark. I watched them play, always had great respect of the defenses that they had there, their style of play.

I just knew of him professionally, but I didn't know him. Then when he came in the league, it was pretty cool to get to know him. He's a lot like Addazio. There's no gray area with Pat. He's very passionate. He just loves what he does. He loves the players.

I think he's about all the right things. It's easy to see that in him, when you spend some time. He really loves his players. He's passionate about building a consistent program and being a winner, all those things. He just puts his heart in everything. I love that about him.

I've gotten to know him when he came in the league, then he's one of the coaches that gets to go on the Nike trip every year, so I've had a chance to spend some time with him there, as well, just get to know him on a little more personal level. That's really it. That's the extent of it prior to him coming into the league.

Really like him a lot.

Q. How do you feel about your defensive team's practice this week? How satisfied are you that they're going to improve on those areas that were of concern last weekend?

DABO: Well, they've had a great week. They responded well. We did not play well last week, but I thought South Carolina played great. I mean, their quarterback played lights out. Their receivers were outstanding. They made some critical plays.

But from our perspective on some things that we got to do better, we did not line up well, we were really poor with our eyes, and we did not play proper technique and leverage. But we played hard, played with great effort. They have some formational things we didn't adjust well to.

We've had a great week. A different presentation this week. Oftentimes in this business it's kind of professional courtesy to see if you fixed a few things. Wouldn't be surprised to see if they check, make sure we fixed it. We've worked hard.

Our guys have had an awesome year. They've had an unbelievable year, unbelievable year defensively. Had a bad night last week, but they did some good things, too. They were eager to get back to work this week. I think we'll play well.

Q. Back to your relationship with Coach Narduzzi. Will you tell us some funny story about Costa Rica?

DABO: I'm a wimp. I'm from Alabama. I don't like the cold. That water was, like, freezing cold. Cath will tell you. I put my toes in, There's no way I'm getting in that. It was freezing.

Dantonio and Narduzzi are out there. I'm like, I'm going to have to get in the water. I cannot go down like this. So we literally -- I'm in that water. I was numb after 10 minutes. We just hung out and talked. This was a couple years ago. We just hung out and talked for like an hour in this freezing cold water. They were like there's nothing to it. Both of them. I'm the biggest pansy you've ever seen. I didn't want to jump in, but I'm like, I have to get in this water. We had a good laugh about that.

Q. How valuable can the next couple of games be for a guy like Derion Kendrick?

DABO: All the games have been valuable. I think if you've watched us down the stretch, he's become a guy that's been more and more involved. He's just a great football player. His confidence has grown. The game has slowed down for him. He's electric. He's tough. He's passionate about it.

He's one of my favorite guys because he and Christian Wilkins are two guys that probably like to practice more than any football players I've been around. DK loves to practice. It's so cool to see a kid like that rolling in here as a freshman. He just likes practice.

So I just think he's going to be a great player. He's already been a great player this year, but I think he's got a really bright future. I think all of these games are going to pay huge dividends for him as he comes back next year for a his sophomore year, just the experience and the knowledge and the confidence, having a mental picture of what it looks like, what he's got to do to get himself ready for the season.

Last summer, you don't know. So now, like any young player who gets some experience, you see him grow.

Q. You just earlier mentioned playing here has helped visualize a win. I know in the past you've talked about the team meditating before. Is that a practice you're carrying through up till tomorrow? Has it been working out for you?

DABO: Yeah, we haven't been meditating as a team. That's one of those things that I think some of those guys, I can't remember what the app was called, we did that once or twice as a team to introduce the app, whatever that thing was. So I don't know how many of them do it.

We do try to encourage them. Everybody has to ready themselves. Everybody gets ready differently. Definitely encourage those guys every week as the game gets closer to kind of quiet themselves. Some of them listen to music. Some of them totally have quiet. Some of theme read. Whatever it may be, get themselves in the right state of mind.

A lot of this game is mental. The mindset, it's not just a skill set, you got to have the mindset and the heart set to go with the skill set. So it's important.

Q. Update on Tre Lamar?

DABO: He's good. He'll be ready to go.

Q. Talk about Pitt's running game. What have you seen since the film and watching them?

DABO: Really nothing's changed since I talked earlier this week. They're going to force the issue. They use both of them, both great players. One gets the hot hand, you might see more of that one than the other one. They're really, really talented. They're a lot like Boston College with the two backs that BC has, with the exception that they're more balanced with how they use them.

They're going to run all the pull schemes, gap schemes, going to run some zone, then all the play-actions off of it. Everything goes through the runningbacks with this team, everything.

Q. Tony was telling us earlier this week how Travis still doesn't know his potential, ACC Player of the Year. What is his ceiling or does he even have one?

DABO: I don't think so. I think he can be as good as he wants to be. Just good Lord keep him healthy. That is just kind of his demeanor every day. He does not carry himself in any regard like he's some type of superstar or anything like that. He's very unique that way. He just kind of blends in, except for when you hand him the ball, then he stands out.

He's a very low-maintenance superstar. He loves his teammates. Doesn't say a whole lot. He's hilarious, though. He has a great personality. Just a sweet kid. I mean, just really has a sweet spirit to him.

Tony has done an awesome job with that group. Really proud of him. I mean, tell him he's player of the year, he's like, What? Couldn't believe it. He's come a long way. He still has a lot more room for growth mentally and physically. I think he'll continue to do that, put the work in.

But he's a special player. He's going to play for a long time if he can stay healthy.

Thank you y'all.

CUTrevor 2018-11-30 13:59:23

I'll have Narduzzi and Swofford posted shortly!

CUTrevor 2018-11-30 15:58:53

NARDUZZI: I'm honored as a head football coach to be able to take this football team to this point. To arrive here in Charlotte is an exciting time I think for our football team. They just arrived, eating lunch.

I want to congratulate Clemson and Dabo Swinney, incredible football team that we get to take on tomorrow evening. We got a great opportunity. It's been four years of a journey for this football team. Never playing in a championship game before, it's really the first ever, especially in the ACC.

I think it's such a tremendous city of Charlotte that we get the opportunity to play in. An unbelievable conference, I think the best conference in the country.

We're excited. We're ready to go. I guess we'll leave it open for questions.

Q. Not only for the football program, what does this mean for the university, the fan base, the city, you guys being here?

NARDUZZI: I think it means everything to the city of Pittsburgh. You think about some of the tragic events probably about a month ago. I think everybody is looking for some good news stories to go out with some bad news stories. You talk about being Pittsburgh strong, I think it means a lot.

Unfortunately I'm stuck in the cocoon of the Duratz Center, you don't really feel the outside world much. We have breakfast there, lunch there, dinner there. You go home, everybody is sleeping.

I don't know how the outside city is feeling. The University of Pittsburgh is buzzing. There will be two million plus viewers watching this game. It means a lot to the former Panthers that played here, to all the Pittsburgh alum throughout the United States.

Q. Talk about Pickett, what does he have to do tomorrow night in, like, monsoon weather conditions?

NARDUZZI: Is that right? You a weatherman, too (laughter)?

I don't know the weather. I know both teams have to go through it. Kenny Pickett or Trevor Lawrence, they both have to go through the same conditions. I think we're prepared for that. We've played through a some monsoons. We've been there, done that.

Kenny Pickett has to play his game, just like the other 10 guys on offense, the 11 guys on defense, any guy that's honored enough to step on the field special teams-wise. They have to play their football game. They have to be detailed and focused, all the other things you ask, whether it's sunny and 82, or 57 and 90% chance of hail.

Q. How did you like practice this week? What was the mindset of the guys as they headed to Charlotte?

NARDUZZI: Practice was as normal. You sit there and think that you're going to get maybe something different. It's championship week. But that's been our football team. Really any football team I've been around.

I think if you have a football team that practices like this, hey, it's a big game this week, we're going to be here. I didn't notice anything different, to be honest with you. Sometimes you wish you did see maybe something a little bit different.

Based on everything I've seen, it's status quo, the way our kids prepare mentally and physically. I know there's been a lot of attention to the details, watching videotape. Maybe there's been a little bit more of that. Even with that, they have their iPads. They go away to their room, lay in bed at night and watch videotapes. A different world than back when you and me were playing.

Q. Can you use anything from the 2016 game for this game?

NARDUZZI: I think you can. 2016 is really irrelevant, what happened that year, who played in this game, what happened to us, what happened to them. You can look at what we did out on the field that day schematically. I think Clemson offensively and defensively have the same coaches, so it's stuff that they like to do. You take a lot what they did that year, had success doing it on both sides of the ball. You say we're going to see similar stuff. You see similar stuff this year. Itself going to come to the one-on-one matchups and how we execute.

Q. We talked this week sort of about the players, the biggest game in their careers. You've coached these in the Big Ten. As a head coach, first time championship game, any kind of nerves for you coming into this one?

NARDUZZI: I think there's nerves to kids, coaches, nerves for the players. I'm nervous before every game. I don't usually talk to the media on Friday. Usually Thursday afternoon I'm done, I can kind go like this, be done with it. I'm kind of a grumpy guy on Friday. It's 24 hours out, a little bit more.

There's always nerves. If you don't have nerves, you probably aren't ready.

Q. When you look at your schedule, your team's results defensively, you look at the teams you played this year, can you find someone comparably that is like a Clemson as far as scheme and attack?

NARDUZZI: You tell me, you're the Clemson guy (laughter).

I say no. We faced some pretty good football teams now. It's not like we've played the Sisters of the Poor. When you look at Notre Dame, they're right now potentially a playoff team, I think. We played them probably as good as anybody did in the country. I haven't followed their results. I don't know if anybody played them that good. I know Syracuse didn't. I was hoping they would play them a little bit better, I thought they would.

You look at Central Florida. I don't know if anybody would want to play them in the country. I've said that. I think I'd rather play Notre Dame than Central Florida. Also send out best wishes to McKenzie and his injury. It's unfortunate in this game of football, especially for a great kid like that. I said something to him after the game, saying, Tell your coach not to run you so much. So you feel bad when things like that happen.

He's an athletic guy. Sometimes that happens with those scrambling quarterbacks. They're a good football team, as well. Penn State is a good football team as well.

We've been through a journey at Pittsburgh, maybe a little bit different than Clemson. We've had some bumps in the road. Our guys won five of the last seven games to get to this game today. We've earned it, to come here. We've played some pretty good football teams through the season. I guarantee you that.

Q. What did you take from looking at Clemson's game film against South Carolina last week, especially what South Carolina did with some of their formations on offense that led to their big offensive night?

NARDUZZI: They did some nice things. Will Muschamp, obviously a great football coach, got a great staff. Did some things offensively to mix them up. I think that's what you got to do with Clemson. You got to give them some different looks. If you just line up and try to line up toe-to-toe with them, maybe doesn't work out so well. Obviously you still have to do that. Can't be trick 'em all day.

They did a great job, took advantage of some things. See what we can do.

Q. You have 19 seniors. How important is it to have that kind of maturity, that kind of experience so these guys don't get overwhelmed by the big stage?

NARDUZZI: I think it's real important. We have some mature guys on both sides of the football. When you look at Dennis Briggs and Quintin Wirginis. And Qadree Ollison will be one of our game time captains with Alex Bookser offense.

We have guys, we have leadership. Leadership will have to take over because coaches won't be on the field with these guys. After the first play of the game, no more nerves, game time, like playing Pop Warner football all over again.

Q. I was recalling I think three years ago I was in this room when the news came out about James being diagnosed with cancer. Have you heard from him this week with a message for your team? What is his lasting legacy with your team?

NARDUZZI: James is an important guy to this program. James texted me good luck, all that stuff. James is University of Pittsburgh. He's one of our guys. He's obviously really important to what we've done. We play for James still. He plays in our backyard. Obviously he's having a great season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

James is with us. He helped build what we're doing today. This just didn't happen in a year. This has been a four-year process. Every senior that has gone through this program in the last four years knows this is a goal that we have had, something we walk down our steps, down to our training room, locker room, weight room, walk back up to our team meeting rooms. In the coach's office there is a picture of the Charlotte stadium, Panther Stadium, which is where we wanted to be.

Our kids are thinking about that every day when they walk up and down those steps, that's the stadium we want to be in, and now we're here. James is a big part of that.

Q. When did you know you have a special team this year? Between that rain delay home against Syracuse, or when you went to Notre Dame?

NARDUZZI: I think we had a special team, like, four years ago. That's kind of who I am. I think we've had a special team every year. The people are what make a team special. I've got a love for every kid that I've coached for the last four years.

This is a special team because it's right now, it's right here, right now in Charlotte. These kids have put the work in to get here. Not every kid can get that done. These kids have been persistent. They've been on a mission, since that Syracuse game, whatever it may be. They've been on a mission to get what they wanted.

We broke down on ACC chances for a long time. Now we got a chance to be there and do that against a great football team in Clemson, so...

Q. I was at your luncheon right before the season started. I remember your remarks. Your last remark you said before you left the stage was, I'll see you in Charlotte. There were a few chuckles in the room.

NARDUZZI: I wish I remembered saying that. I'm going to have to get video of that (laughter).

I guess things happen for a reason. Some people said last year, 2017 season, that Miami game at halftime, just making some statements. My wife said, You say a lot of things sometimes.

We're here. I guess there were some chuckles. I didn't hear them. I didn't feel it. We are here, so... I'm glad I didn't make any predictions either.

Q. Clemson is here fourth consecutive year, going for their fourth consecutive title. What do you make of their success in the league? Do you feel there's a gap between them and the rest of the league right now?

NARDUZZI: I think there is a gap. They're the benchmark of ACC football. I think there's a lot of great teams in the ACC. Dabo has done an incredible job. I have a lot of respect for him, what he's done, how he's done it. He's done it the right way. I think he's a standup guy.

I think if you look at most conferences, it's the same way. There's always one or two teams that are really controlling the conference. Look at Alabama, look at Clemson, really Ohio State, Michigan State the last couple years. You would think they've been there.

But there's always that case. That's kind of what you work for. That's where we want to be. The only way you do that is go out and beat them, things start to build that way. They're a great football team. Got a lot of respect about how they've done it.

Q. Against a team like this, how important is getting off to a good start and staying with them early, everything on the line?

NARDUZZI: Yeah, I think it will be a big Clemson crowd. I guarantee that, just being a drive up the road. But it's going to be important, a fast start. Again, we can have a slow start and still get it done. I never sit there and say, Guys, we need to get a fast start or watch out.

We've done that all year. We're down at Wake Forest a couple weeks ago, came back and won that game. Done it, doesn't matter. There's going to be adversity in that game, ups and downs. We don't care how it starts, how it finishes, we're going to keep fighting for 60 minutes.

Q. You mentioned that Clemson is sort of the benchmark for ACC football now. What is it about this particular group that differentiates them from some of the years past?

NARDUZZI: I don't look at all the years past. I remember two years ago. They're just a talented football team. I think everybody has to coach. Dabo does a tremendous job, period. He's got a great staff, continuity on his staff, great leadership I'm sure with their president on down. He's got everything he needs to be a champion.

They've got great players. They're down south. They recruit some of the best. They're able to get all those four- and five-star football players. He can coach them, too. There's some places that get a lot of four- and five-star guys that can't coach them.

He has a great personality about him. He's a businessman. Like I said, I couldn't say better things about Dabo Swinney.

Q. How has your offensive line practiced this week? You and Kenny both said there were some issues with the shuffling of the line against Miami.

NARDUZZI: Definitely. Any time you lose one of your starting offensive linemen, started I don't know how many games straight, but two years straight, in Jimmy Morrissey. When you lose your guy up front, starting center, there's going to be some growing pains there. You move a guard over to center, a new guard in there, there's communication.

Those guys are a group that have to work together. I think in anything you do, sometimes I don't have to tell our offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator what to do. We kind of speak the same language. Any time there's a new guy coming in, it's, Well, make sure we do this.

There's some things that didn't have to be communicated up front before because they all knew. It was kind of a known deal. Now you got a new guy in there that has to be re-communicated, re-taught over and over again.

It was an issue last week. We hope a week removed, a week of coaching, that we can hopefully clean up some of those problems we had a week ago.

Q. Simply being in this game playing on December 1st, facing Clemson in a prime time game, what kind of effect can that have on recruiting?

NARDUZZI: We lost a week of recruiting, so you hope playing in this game does something for you in recruiting. Every young man in high school would like to have an opportunity to play for a championship. One of the reasons I took the job at the University of Pittsburgh, I thought with the chancellor Pat Gallagher, I'm appreciative for the opportunity he's given me to be the head football coach here when he hired me, and Heather Lyke, I thank her, as well.

You want a place you can win a championship. With the support from them, the tools we have in Pittsburgh, western Pennsylvania football, you have an opportunity to do that here.

I wouldn't have taken the job if I didn't think we could be in Charlotte playing in this game at one point. It's been a program goal. As I said, it's one of our four goals we wanted to attain as a head football coach. We're able to play for a championship tomorrow. I think it's an amazing thing. I think it helps in recruiting for sure.

Q. Being in a different division, I would think you probably haven't seen Clemson on film all that much this year. When you have seen them, what are some of the things that jump out to you when you see a guy like Lawrence at quarterback, defensive linemen?

NARDUZZI: Usually when you watch them in a crossover game, you're not focused on them, you're focused on the other team, what they're doing to Clemson.

When you have a close-up look at them, I'm sure we'll get a closer look, I talked to a few coaches throughout the country that played them personally, I talked about Trevor's release. It just, like, comes out. They said it's even faster when you see him live.

You're impressed really at all levels of what they have done in every position. Their D-line is a bunch of first rounders that cause havoc in the backfield, caused havoc against everybody. We have to control them, block them up front to have success Saturday.

Q. Is it hard not to treat this experience differently, this game?

NARDUZZI: I'm going to keep it the same. I don't know if the kids are. I don't know if I can answer that. But it is the same.

Our kids are pumped up because it's a championship game. They know this is what you play for, to have these opportunities to play in a big game like this. It is a little bit different against our opener against Albany, I can tell you that. It's still a game, 60 minutes long, a 100-yard field. We have to move down the field and get in the end zone, stop them from getting in our end zone. It's still a football game still. It's still 60 minutes long.

But every game is a little bit different as far as who you're playing, where you're playing them. It's a championship game, so obviously a little bit different.

Q. Obviously big underdogs. What would you say to all the people out there that are not giving you any chance to win?

NARDUZZI: No comment. I don't know.

Hey, the game is played. I think anybody can beat anybody on any given day, period. We all know that. We can take all the measurables. We can talk about guys that are this tall and this tall, but the one thing I don't think you can really measure is what's inside that heart. Our kids are going to play with a lot of heart, with a lot of effort. Pittsburgh, we have a lot of toughness there, that's what we expect to get out of our football team.

I make no guarantees (smiling). Got that?