Pitt (1-1, 0-1 ACC) and Penn State (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) meet for the 100th time in a series widely regarded as one of college football’s classic rivalries. This also marks the final game in a four- year scheduling agreement that began in 2016.
“But obviously a big game this week.” Said Pitt Head Coach Pat Narduzzi “We’re looking forward to heading out to Happy Valley and playing a very good football team, explosive football team.”
In a series that dates back to 1893, the Nittany Lions lead the all-time series, 52-43-4, and have won each of the past two encounters, 51-6 at Heinz Field in 2018 and 33-14 at Beaver Stadium in 2017…prior to this current two-game skid, Pitt had won back-to-back games in the series: 42- 39 in 2016 and 12-0 in 2000…both of those victories took place in Pittsburgh.
“Obviously it’s the same football team.” Said Narduzzi “Penn State is the same football team they were — it’s just different guys wearing different numbers. Maybe they’re bigger, maybe they’re faster, I don’t know. We’ll find out Saturday at noon. But to me, it’s a culture they’ve built over there offensively and defensively, what they do, and special teams.”
The Panthers are 36-29-4 all-time at home against the Nittany Lions. In contrast, Pitt is 6-18 at Penn State and just 1-5 against PSU in neutral site games. The Panthers’ last road victory in the series was a 14-7 decision in 1988. Pitt is 4-7 in its last 11 games at Penn State, dating back to 1979, when the Panthers triumphed, 29-14. Pitt’s longest overall winning streak in the series is 14 games, achieved under legendary coaches Pop Warner (1922-23) and Jock Sutherland (1924- 31, 1935-38).
“Of course, we all want to play this game.” Said Narduzzi “Nobody — it’s just a close game. We’re going to jump on the bus on Friday, it’s close enough to get on a bus. We don’t have to go wait at an airport, don’t have to go through customs, we don’t have to do anything. We don’t have to empty our pockets. We jump on a bus and we go. So, we certainly want to play that game.
But it doesn’t matter. And it’s a big game. It’s another game for us, but it’s a big game because it’s a rivalry game, in state. You know, again, I’m going to emphasize to our kids, you might be the last team to ever get to play this game. It might be. I don’t know if it’ll be played. I’m either going to be in a coffin or retired probably, so I don’t know which one it’ll be. Do you have any idea?”
Through two contests, the Panthers rank 24th nationally in total defense, surrendering just 261 yards per game. Penn State’s offense will provide Pitt’s stiffest test to date. The Nittany Lions are averaging 515 yards (26th in FBS). Despite losing two defensive line starters to injury (end Rashad Weaver and tackle Keyshon Camp), the Panthers have displayed a potent pass rush, collecting nine sacks thus far.
The defense has been solid.” Said Narduzzi “But you know, when I watch tape, it ain’t good enough. To be honest with you, we’ve still got a ways to go. There are some details, details, details that aren’t good enough right now. And that’s why I say the improvement from week 2 to week 3 can be better than what it is.”
Nittany Lions QB Sean Clifford is the team’s leading passer (559 yards) and rusher (Tied with RB Devyn Ford-108) and KJ Hamler leads with 177 receiving yards.
“Obviously Sean Clifford is a baller, just another quarterback that they’ve developed in their system and knows what he’s doing. Said Narduzzi “He’s got a nice arm throwing the ball all over the place. The Hamler kid, again, I remember sitting in the tower at Michigan State watching that guy run around as a sophomore (in high school) going, holy cow, that guy is a football player. He’s impressive. We’ll have to know where he is all the time. They move him around quite a bit.”
Junior quarterback Kenny Pickett is coming off one of the finest games of his career. Pickett fueled Pitt’s 20-10 win over Ohio by connecting on 70% of his passes (26 of 37) for a personal- best 321 yards with one TD and zero interceptions.
For the season, Pickett leads Pitt with 506 passing yards, 2 TDs and 2 interceptions. RB AJ Davis leads with 114 yards (89 in the win at Ohio) and 2 TDs. WR Maurice Ffrench leads with 192 yards and a TD. He had 138 yards in the win vs. Ohio, including a 76-yard TD pass from Pickett.
Saturday’s game is Nationally Televised on ABC. The game begins at Noon. “So, they’re explosive on offense. They’re explosive on defense. Obviously very talented, and we’ll have our hands full on Saturday afternoon, I guess Saturday at noon.”-Said Pickett.
Notes-Pitt senior wide receiver Tre Tipton has been named to the 2019 Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team®, a prestigious honor that recognizes football student-athletes for their leadership in local communities and commitment to giving back. Tipton is one of 22 players nationwide named to this year’s team, which was selected from a pool of 137 nominees by an esteemed panel of judges, including ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit and former Florida Gators and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.
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