Apparently there’s no love lost between Pat Narduzzi and Michigan State football.
Narduzzi, who served as Spartans defensive coordinator under Mark Dantonio from 2007-14, was one of the most beloved coaches on a staff that turned MSU from an afterthought into a Big Ten powerhouse.
Nowadays, those times seem long ago.
Narduzzi, the Pittsburgh Panthers’ head coach, on Thursday appeared on Bazzy’s Black and Gold Banter — a predominantly Pittsburgh Steelers podcast — and took a shot at his former team.
The Panthers and Spartans played in the Peach Bowl last December when Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett sat out to protect his NFL draft status. Narduzzi said that is the only reason the Panthers lost.
“He is a 21-point difference, OK,” Narduzzi said of Pickett. “Michigan State gets their butt kicked in. It’s at least a 14-point difference if (backup quarterback) Nick Patti plays the whole game.
“I can tell you that. That’s how I feel.”
Instead, Patti got hurt in the first quarter and the Panthers had to turn to third-string quarterback Davis Beville. The Spartans scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to finish a 31-21 win and secure an 11-2 record in Year 2 under coach Mel Tucker.
The Panthers won the Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time since 2013, finishing with 11 wins for the first time in 40 years (1981).
Coming off the best season of his tenure, Narduzzi didn’t restrict his comments to his former team, taking aim at his former conference, as well.
“If that’s one of the best Big Ten teams,” Narduzzi began, “let’s go to the Big Ten and win it every year.”
What Narduzzi failed to mention is MSU was also without its best player — Walter Camp Player of the Year and Doak Walker Award winner Kenneth Walker III. Walker, who was also a first team All-American and a second-round pick by the Seattle Seahawks, didn’t play in the Peach Bowl after rushing for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns in his lone season in East Lansing.
Narduzzi also conveniently left out his team’s performance against another team from Michigan: The Panthers lost, 44-41, to Western Michigan on Sept. 18. That game did have Pickett taking snaps; the future first-round pick passed for 382 yards and six touchdowns, but Narduzzi’s defense was torched for 517 yards as the Panthers trailed or were tied with the Broncos for the final 48:42 of game time. (Western Michigan lost its opener to eventual Big Ten champ Michigan, 47-14.)
Instead of walking his comments back on Friday, Narduzzi doubled down when speaking as a guest on KDKA-FM (93.7) in Pittsburgh, after one of the hosts suggested he made MSU fans upset with his comments.
“That’s tough luck, it’s called facts,” Narduzzi said. “We didn’t have Kenny Pickett play, we didn’t have (defensive back) Damarri Mathis play, two of our guys who got drafted. Nobody was going to run the ball on us.
“It’s just the way I felt, it came about talking about Kenny Pickett not playing in a bowl game and all that stuff, it didn’t mean to really come out, but it’s the absolute truth really. If that’s one of the best teams (in the Big Ten), then what are we talking about here?”
Pat Narduzzi is 1-6 in seven games against the Big Ten since he took over the Panthers in 2015.
Contact Tony Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @realtonygarcia.