The Pitt vs. Penn State Rivalry and Other Things Best Left in the Past

I helped the Pitt Panthers defeat the Penn State Nittany Lions for the national championship in 1994.  I was Eleven.

It was played in the stadium made up of both my parents and the neighbors backyards.  I rolled out from intense pressure and threw my neighbor Johnny Lavia the game winning pass in the corner of the end zone.  He had to dive around my neighbors tree to haul it in.

Funny thing is that just two weeks later we both defeated Penn State to win the NCAA basketball tournament, which that year was played in his parents backyard.  He was the starting shooting guard that made the last second shot under pressure and I was the power forward who tipped it in for the win.

We played for Pitt and we played against Penn State because that was the rivalry, and even though it was no longer the year’s marquee game of the eastern football schedule we were surrounded by family members and neighbors who remembered when it was.

I remember the last Pitt/Penn State game at Three Rivers Stadium. Yes, THAT Three Rivers Stadium.  Pitt won 12-0.  It was a weird game.

A freshman at Pitt or Penn State would have been 2 years old when it occurred.  The rivalry hadn’t been meaningful for a solid decade before that.  Perhaps that is why this current version of the rivalry feels slightly meaningless.

The kidz don’t know their history.

I remember sitting at old Pitt Stadium when my cousin Mark would take me to games in the mid to late 90’s.  I remember singing along with the thousand deep student section as they changed the words to the Pitt Fight song so that it said “Freshmen suck! Penn State sucks!  P E N N S T SUCKS!”

It really didn’t make much sense.  They hundreds of kids that make up the current student section don’t sing it anymore.

Pitt Penn State Pitt Stadium 1998
A view of a sold-out Pitt Stadium for the Pitt-Penn State game in 1998. (John Beale/Post-Gazette)

Let’s get to the point…….

The rivalry is never going to be what it used to be, because for very different reasons neither Pitt or Penn State will ever be what it used to be.

Continue reading The Pitt vs. Penn State Rivalry and Other Things Best Left in the Past

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Pitt is not it, the Military Bowl is not legit.

I sat in my Aunt Deb’s living room watching the Military Bowl with two college kids from Penn State who were young enough to not know that there was a time when Pitt was in fact it.  I am barely old enough to know, and most of what I know comes from youtube videos and legends.  I remember Alex Van Pelt as a child, but I was too young to really get it.  The Walt Harris run to Dave Wanstache era I remember vividly, well some of the games I remember vividly, and others I remember a general blur.  I cross-eyed view of a moment in time that could have met something if they could have won one more game a year.  I time when you were more afraid of Toledo than WVU, because those weren’t the types of games we lost.  What we have now is some weird hybrid of tradition and the truth.  Pitt is no longer it, and in the ACC they seem out of place, and out of their element.  Gone is the days of the Big East.

The Military Bowl saw Pitt face Navy, at Navy.  Yes, you read that right.  Our 9 wins this season got us a road game at a military academy, while th midshipmen were on Christmas break.  So not a ton of people were there, they couldn’t fill a smaller stadium.  Pitt ran the opening kickoff back and it was downhill from there.  They seemed unprepared for the Triple Option at worst, and at best they simply couldn’t stop it.  As always Pitt was out of their element, playing a gimmick team in a cold weather bowl game that happens to be at the opponents stadium instead of neutral ground.  They represented the ACC although they are past the mountains, against an AAC team that has been independent until recent history.  There were no traditions at all.  Pitt was once a warm up team that Pitt would roll over before starting their Big East schedule.  Now they were thoroughly outmatched, all though it was the most successful team the school had in the better part of a decade.

Tyler Boyd played his last game as a Panther and went out in a fashion that reminded me of Jonathan Baldwin.  I hope Boyd succeeds in the NFL, in spite of his status as an elite prospect Baldwin did not.  Maybe Boyd will, but I’ve seen it before.  There is something small missing.  It’s all or nothing with that kid.  Just as it is with Pitt.

At least we are going in the correct direction, that is until Pat Narduzzi is gone and we have to rebuild.  Once again used as a stepping stone, by men who are going to fail at the next level, but have earned their way onto the center stage.  Pitt isn’t even off-broadway in comparison to a show like Michigan State’s.  It’s outer Newark.  Near the port, before the toll road.  In a renovated gas station owned by a wall street guy turned drug addict turned reformed drug addict, turned Newark resident.  Pitt is a childs play in that guys backyard compared to the elite schools.  It wasn’t always that way, but now it is.  It’s fairly plain to see, and it is extremely disappointing.

They do not have a campus stadium, they do not have a rabid fan base.  The casual fan has tuned out on Pitt football.  It’s not what it used to be, to the point it’s not worth noticing.  Pitt is on that Cincinnati, University of South Florida, University of Memphis level of non-relelvent, where once in a blue moon they will get mentioned by some sports pundit as a sleeper who months later admit he was wrong on that one, and Pitt isn’t the kind of team that comes through in the clutch.

I miss the good old days of Rod Rutherford and Larry Fitzgerald,  Tyler Palko and Darelle Revis, Shady McCoy and H.B. Blades.  It’s all gone now, and that is OK.  Because life should not revolve around Pitt football, and the Pittsburgh sports fan is better off having one less distraction from the teams worth being a fanatic of.

Pitt vs. #18 Ohio State — 1988

It is crazy to think that for a majority of the history of college football Pitt vs. Ohio State was a legit rivalry.  These two teams are in such different places in the college football landscape these days with Ohio State being a destination for the elite coaches of the football world if and when a job opens up and Pitt being a stepping stone to schools once tiers beneath them.  Even in the 90’s when these two teams still played it was one-sided and awful if you were rooting for the Panthers.

So let us take a look back to a simpler time, the late 80’s, when Pitt was still respected and their games against the Buckeyes both still existed and were competitive.  From the New York Times, who has taken a similar route as Pitt in terms of reputation since 1988 if I may say so myself, like that little zinger fellow snobby sports fans?

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 17— Adam Walker ran for 179 yards and 3 touchdowns, scoring twice in the first six minutes of play following Ohio State mistakes, as Pitt routed the Buckeyes, 42-10, tonight.

Walker, a junior who played sparingly last season behind the tailback Craig (Ironhead) Heyward, scored on runs of 4, 23 and 2 yards as Pitt raced to a 28-3 halftime lead.

The quarterback Darnell Dickerson, constantly beating Ohio State’s defense to the outside on option plays, scored twice and rushed for 88 yards on 11 carries as the Panthers beat Ohio State for the first time since 1952. The Buckeyes had won seven of the last eight meetings, including three in a row.

The 42 points were the most against Ohio State since the Buckeyes’ 49-42 victory over Illinois in 1980. The loss was Ohio State’s worst since a 40-7 defeat to Washington in 1986.

Some Ohio State players said before the game that they had wanted to get even with Pitt (2-0) for routing its former coach, Earle Bruce, and his Northern Iowa team, 59-10, two weeks ago.

Ohio State’s Carlos Snow returned a kickoff 100 yards, the third-longest kick return touchdown in Ohio State history. Penn State 23, Boston College 20

 

NCAA Basketball 2004-2005: Pitt Panthers vs. WVU Mountaineers

Big ups to YouTube user WVUgames, who made this video possible for all of us.  I give him respect as an internet person, all though I would have to suspect that he is a WVU fan, so I kind of don’t like him at all.

From the AP:

Kevin Pittsnogle is so unaccustomed to starting that he had to temporarily leave West Virginia’s game early on against Pittsburgh (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today; No. 16 AP) to catch his breath.

When he returned, he gave Pitt lots of problems.

Pittsnogle scored eight of his career-high 27 points in overtime to lead West Virginia to an 83-78 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night. The 6-foot-11 Pittsnogle, starting for just the second time this season, was averaging 8 points a game. He got the start because center D’or Fischer did not play due to illness.

“When I got my second wind pretty fast, I was ready to go,” said Pittsnogle, whose previous high was 26 points in 2003. “My performance wasn’t enough to write me in the history book, but beating Pitt makes it a lot better.”

West Virginia (13-7, 3-6 Big East) broke a five-game losing streak to their rival 70 miles to the north.

Pittsnogle converted a three-point play and a 3-pointer a minute apart to give the Mountaineers their biggest lead, 73-66, with 2:08 left in overtime.

“Pittsnogle is a hard matchup for us and when he’s shooting the ball from [outside], it becomes very difficult to guard for our bigger guys,” said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. “Sometimes guys step up in the absence of other guys, and that’s exactly what he did.”

Continue reading NCAA Basketball 2004-2005: Pitt Panthers vs. WVU Mountaineers