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Pittsburgh Football still searching for consistency as September closes

PITTSBURGH — The silence coming from the back of the bus offered Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi all the proof he needed that his maddeningly inconsistent team remains fully engaged.

For now, that’s all Narduzzi can ask for. Well, that and the hope the small mistakes that piled up into a messy loss at North Carolina last Saturday will soon be erased. Or at least minimized.

“I’ve been on a lot of team buses through the years where … you come out of the locker room, you jump on the bus and you’re hearing some talk in the back of the bus, and you’re kind of like as a head coach or a defensive coordinator, you’re kind of like, ‘Shut up back there,'” Narduzzi said Monday. “But you know what? I was on the offensive bus, I’m talking the entire time, just silent (elsewhere). So it hurts. And I think when it hurts, that’s when you know your guys care.”

Caring is one thing. Winning is another, something that’s proven elusive all six times the Panthers have faced the Tar Heels since Pitt entered the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013. This one may have been the most painful. The Panthers led at halftime against a team that had won just one of its previous 13 games against Power Five conference opponents.

And then it all went away. A penalty here. A fumble there. A 38-35 loss that dropped Pitt to 2-2 heading into its most difficult stretch of the season. Three of the Panthers’ next four games are against Top 25 teams. Pitt visits No. 13 Central Florida on Saturday, then hosts surprising Syracuse followed by a visit to No. 8 Notre Dame and a meeting with No. 22 Duke.

The Panthers likely need a split to have a legitimate shot at reaching a bowl game after missing out in 2017. Not that Narduzzi wants to talk about it. It’s still September.

“Things happen during a game,” Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “It is moving fast out there, and you’ve got to think fast, you’ve got to be locked in. And again, I think our kids are locked in, but you’re going to have mistakes. I’ve never been in a game where you’re not going to have mistakes. But again, one less mistake and we win the football game.”

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