Bryan Nardo’s OSU defense follows Clemente’s forget-and-play advice

Bryan Nardo’s OSU defense follows Clemente’s forget-and-play advice

It was a sort of homecoming for Nardo, a native of Shadyville, Ohio who spent last season coaching at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. Nardo had 50 family members in attendance, and one on the opposing sideline.

Ben Hutchens

By Ben Hutchens

| Oct 21, 2023, 10:24pm CDT

Ben Hutchens

By Ben Hutchens

Oct 21, 2023, 10:24pm CDT

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia — Bryan Nardo was the one who did the quoting Saturday. 

The OSU defensive coordinator is a self-described big Pittsburgh Pirates fan and didn’t stutter when reciting a line from one of his heroes in black and yellow.

“The best quote from Roberto Clemente is, ‘Why does anyone care what I did yesterday? All that matters is what I did today,’” Nardo said.

Nardo’s defensive unit continues to give up big plays for touchdowns, and just like Clemente advised, forget about them, and play well enough at the end of the game to win. That was the recipe the Cowboys followed in a 48-34 win over West Virginia on a dreary Saturday afternoon in Milan Puskar Stadium, 55 miles from where Clemente’s statue stands outside of PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

It was a sort of homecoming for Nardo, a native of Shadyville, Ohio who spent last season coaching at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. Nardo had 50 family members in attendance, and one on the opposing sideline. 

Luke Nardo is a graduate assistant who helps coach the West Virginia offense. 

“Just being in the room with (Bryan Nardo) every day, he talked about it,” OSU safety Kendal Daniels said. “I knew it was going to be hard for him if we lost the game to go back on Thanksgiving or anything.”

Kathy Nardo, 92, the grandmother of Bryan and Luke even made the trip from her farm in Key, Ohio. It was the first time she’d even been to a college football game. Nardo choked up seeing her waiting at the team bus.

“She was crying and I wasn’t crying at all, I didn’t cry, I had sunglasses on,” Nardo said. “No, I’m an emotional person, I wear my heart on my sleeve. And I love my family and I don’t hide from that. And the fact that I got to see her when in college coaching you don’t get to see your family very much really made it a special moment.”

With just more than four minutes left in the game, a fourth-and-two stared the Mountaineers in the face. They were trailing 34-27 and junior quarterback Garrett Greene looked ready to break OSU’s heart again. To that point, Green had converted five first downs with his legs and compiled 81 rushing yards.

It was no wonder who WVU was turning to to pick up the first down. When the Mountaineers substituted three large blockers into the game, OSU stood pat in a run-stopping package.

Greene faked a handoff, tucked the ball in his left arm and ran left. Safety Trey Rucker got to Greene first, forcing him laterally and Daniels swooped in from the secondary, dragging him down along the boundary for a four-yard loss.

“We got what we were anticipating,” Nardo said. “We thought that’s what they were going to do…(Greene) is a good football player and the guys executed exactly what we wanted to get done and finished at the point of attack. Effort solves a lot of problems, Rucker was there, but he bounced off him, slipped away from him. It was like ‘Oh, shoot,’ but here comes (Daniels) playing hard.”

Nardo said OSU works fourth down drills regularly in practice and the specific package that stopped Greene was one they practiced this week.

The Mountaineers never regained the lead after the fourth-down stop. It was the realistic end of a competitive game where the Mountaineers hurt the Cowboys with downfield passing plays. 

Greene had touchdown passes of 45 yards and 32 yards. The score from 32 came when WVU receiver EJ Horton got behind the cover-two defense freshman safety Cameron Epps was playing late in the third quarter and gave West Virginia a 24-20 lead.

“(Epps) could have been all the way in whatever is south of here, North Carolina, for all I care, and he should have never got run by,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “Nardo had a great call and he didn’t play it right. And again, they’re freshmen, and when you’re playing with freshmen they’re going to make mistakes. Unfortunately, 3 (Cam Smith), 8 (D.J. Mckinney), 7 (Epps) and 11 (Dylan Smith) are going to learn on the run.” 

The long touchdown passes have been a recurring problem for the Cowboy defense, which has now given up seven touchdown throws between 30-49 yards over the past two games. The secondary, leaning on three freshmen and a sophomore for significant snaps, was better against K-State, allowing no long touchdown passes, but struggled against Iowa State, giving up scores of 38, 29 and 26 yards.

“You know, young guys are going to mess up sometimes,” Daniels said. “I’ve been a young guy in their shoes before. So just trying to keep those guys up. Big plays happen, I mean, it’s football, we’ve been getting big plays put on us since we were little, so you just got to bounce back.”

But in the four-game stretch after the more-experienced sophomore safety Lyrik Rawls got hurt in practice and the secondary has sprung leaks, the Cowboys have gone 3-1. The fourth-down stop Daniels made Saturday was a winning play, and the result springboards OSU into the top-half of the Big 12 picture. Nardo feels like that’s the Clemente-Effect: Forget the mistakes and go make a play.

“It has to be true as a defensive football player,” Nardo said. “I need to do the best job I can do on the next play regardless of what happened.”

No Images found.

Share with your crowd
Ben Hutchens and his twin brother Sam cover Oklahoma State for the Sellout Crowd. After a decade of living in the state, Ben finally feels justified in calling himself an Oklahoman. You can reach him at [email protected] and continue the dialogue @Ben_ Hutchens_ on social media.

The latest from Sellout Crowd

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; The Oklahoma City Thunder bench watch the final minute of their game against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Does OKC need more Aaron Wiggins?

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder fans cheer as their team scores against the Dallas Mavericks during the second quarter of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Thunder-Mavericks: Why these playoffs might spawn a new OKC rival

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives to the basket beside Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    OKC fans chanted ‘Luka sucks,’ but Doncic’s play said otherwise

  • Tailgating on The Grove on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford, Ms., on Saturday September 15, 2018.

Pre309

    OU’s move to the SEC: Listing the things to look foward to

  • Ireland travelblog: Farewell to the Emerald Isle, which keep Americans coming

The latest from Sellout Crowd

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; The Oklahoma City Thunder bench watch the final minute of their game against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Does OKC need more Aaron Wiggins?

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder fans cheer as their team scores against the Dallas Mavericks during the second quarter of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Thunder-Mavericks: Why these playoffs might spawn a new OKC rival

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives to the basket beside Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    OKC fans chanted ‘Luka sucks,’ but Doncic’s play said otherwise

  • Tailgating on The Grove on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford, Ms., on Saturday September 15, 2018.

Pre309

    OU’s move to the SEC: Listing the things to look foward to

  • Ireland travelblog: Farewell to the Emerald Isle, which keep Americans coming