Pittsburgh, Iowa brace for familiar faces, schemes

Pat Narduzzi’s time as Michigan State’s defensive coordinator took him to Kinnick Stadium four times, so the visiting locker room will bring no surprises to the first-year Pittsburgh head coach.

“Pink toilets, pink everything,” Narduzzi said at his weekly press conference. “I don’t think there’s any pink water coming out of the faucets, but everything is pink.”

Far less clear is who will be under center for the Panthers this weekend when they look to do to the Hawkeyes what the Hawkeyes did to them last year: Hand the home team its first loss of the season.

Tennessee graduate transfer Nathan Peterman relieved Chad Voytik in Pitt’s win at Akron and, at least in that game, played better. The way Narduzzi sees it, though, the decision is not his to make; it will be decided by the quarterbacks themselves by how they prepare and practice.

“We have to go with whoever has the hot hand,” Narduzzi said. “We have two very capable quarterbacks and you become a good football team when there is competition. I feel comfortable with both of those guys. When you have a team like this, Nathan and Chad spend at least one night out of the week together. They’re close. We have a tight-knit football team.”

Narduzzi said he will assign a starter Thursday. He hopes one guy will separate himself from the other.

“So you guys don’t ask me questions about it anymore?” he quipped. “I think eventually you’d like to have that, yeah.”

For now, Pitt hopes its defense can build off its performance at Akron, where the Panthers held the Zips to just seven points and 110 yards of offense after allowing 37 points and 407 yards to FCS Youngstown State in the opener.

It might all look familiar to Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, who coached against former Pitt head coach Paul Chryst in the Big Ten (and last year at Pitt) and faced Narduzzi's Michigan State defenses seven different times, going 4-3.

“There was a real Wisconsin flavor to the ballclub a year ago and now you throw the film on there's a real Michigan State flavor to it,” said Ferentz, who played his prep ball in Pittsburgh. “Wish I could say I was smart enough to anticipate that when we got involved in scheduling. Just one of those logical matchups.”

Though his Spartans teams went just 2-2 in Iowa City, Narduzzi never experienced the primetime environment that will accompany this upcoming trip.

“I can imagine that it’s going to be a good atmosphere for our kids and theirs,” Narduzzi said. “We told our guys (Sunday) that preseason is over. This is a big time for us to find out what we have.”