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 One of College Football’s most historic rivalries will be revived when the Pitt Panthers will host the Penn State Nittany Lions this Saturday at Heinz Field. This ESPN Nationally-televised game will start at noon. It will be the first time since 2000 that Pitt and Penn State will have played. In that game, the Panthers shut-out the Nittany Lions 12-0 at Three Rivers Stadium. The last time the Panthers played the Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium was 1999 when Penn State won 20-17.

Just like the rivalry, which began November 6th, 1893 (Penn State won 32-0) Saturday’s game will be very historic as it’s the first game without legendary Head Coach Joe Paterno on Penn State’s sidelines for the first time since he became their Head Coach in 1965. It’s also the first time that both teams will play at Heinz Field, the current home of the Panthers and only the second time since their final game in 2000 that both team will not play at Pitt Stadium, which was demolished after the 1999 season.

This year’s contest marks the first of a four-game agreement that will be played from 2016-19 under the new title “The Keystone Classic.” Pitt and Penn State meet for the 97th time with Pitt-Penn State was once an annual affair—the teams played every year from 1900-31 and then again from 1935-92…the last four games took place between 1997-2000 In addition to this season’s renewal, the rivalry will also be played in Pittsburgh in 2018 (Sept. 8). Penn State will host in 2017 (Sept. 9) and 2019 (Sept. 14).

Pitt’s longest winning streak in the series is 14 games, which took place under Coach Jock Sutherland from 1922-38…from 1913-38, Pitt achieved an incredible 20-1-2 run against the Nittany Lions (the lone loss occurring in 1919). Penn State’s longest winning streak against the Panthers is 10 games, achieved under Paterno from 1966-75.

Both teams had played 96 straight games until 2000, when the desire of the Penn State Athletic Department to host an unbalanced number of home games (proposing 2–1 and 3–2 series) at Beaver Stadium was a significant factor in not agreeing to renew the series. The basis for the Penn State Athletic Department request for the unbalanced home games was the fact that of the 96 games played between the two teams, only 23 occurred in Happy Valley.

During the rivalry, both teams had spent many years as independents until Pitt joined the Big East Conference in 1990 and Penn State joined the Big Ten Conference in 1993. Today, the Panthers reside in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) while the Nittany Lions remain in the Big Ten Conference.

As for this season, both teams are coming off opening day victories with the Panthers beating Villanova 28-7 at Heinz Field and the Nittany Lions winning at Kent State 33-13. Both teams are aiming success in their respective conferences along with a berth in a national postseason bowl game.

The Panthers are led by second-year HC Pat Narduzzi who led his team to an 8-4 record and a berth in the Military Bowl in his first season. Narduzzi grew very familiar with Penn State while in the Big Ten as Michigan State’s defensive coordinator from 2007-14. During that span, the Spartans went 3-2 against the Nittany Lions. In facing James Franklin’s team in the 2014 regular-season finale, Narduzzi’s defense yielded just 233 yards—and only 38 on the ground—in a 34-10 victory.

On the field, the Panthers are led by RB James Conner, who scored the Panthers’ first two touchdowns after missing virtually all of last season due to a knee injury. Conner’s journey back to the field has been nothing short of heroic. Three months after his knee injury, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. Declared cancer free in May, Conner is back as Pitt’s starting tailback and was elected a captain by his teammates.

Senior Quarterback Nate Peterman is Pitt starting QB for the second season in a row. In last week’s game, Peterman passed for 175 yards and 2 TDs. On defense, the Panthers are led by Senior DE Ejuan Price who had 1.5 of Pitt’s game-high 6 sacks in Saturday’s victory.

Narduzzi on the Rivalry vs. Penn State: “I guess this is really what all you guys have been waiting for. This has been the moment we’ve been talking about. It’s Penn State week this week. It’s going to be a great week. I think our kids are excited. I think our coaches are excited. The fan base is excited and you guys are fired up. We’re going to be locked in as a football team. We’re excited; it’s obviously an in-state rival. We need to embrace it. You get limited opportunities to do it.

The Nittany Lions are led by 3rd year HC James Franklin (14-12) who led his team to 7-6 record and a berth in the Tax Slayer Bowl in 2015. On the field, Penn State is led by QB Trace McSorely, who passed for 209 yards and a TD in Saturday’s victory. On the ground, RB Saquon Barkley leads the way as he rushed for 116 and a TD in Saturday’s victory and WR Chris Godwin led his team with 67 yards on 7 catches on Saturday.

On defense, LB Jason Cabinda led Saturday’s game with 11 tackles, and LB Shareef Miller had 2 of his team’s 7 sacks in Saturday’s game.

Franklin on the Rivalry: “I think obviously being in the same state and the past history of the game is really going to put a major emphasis on it. To me, a rivalry, there is no doubt it’s there from a historical perspective, but once again, to me, a rivalry isn’t something that you have to have a discussion about. The fans, the media, the players, the coaches, all view it that way. So we’ll see how this thing goes moving forward, and we’re excited about the opportunity this weekend.”

 

Please e-mail Ray at ray@urbanmediatoday.com

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Notes:

Fans Attending Pitt vs. Penn State on Saturday

Pitt is expecting a record crowd for its game against Penn State on the North Shore this weekend. We ask that fans attending the historic rivalry take into account the following:

 

 

  • Fans are encouraged to arrive inside the stadium early to avoid lines entering the stadium just prior to kickoff. Pregame activities begin at 9 a.m. directly outside of the stadium, such as the ACC Football Tailgate Tour, the Panthers Pregame Tailgate Party featuring live music, food and beverage sales and activities for all fans, and the Pitt football team’s arrival at the stadium for the “Panther Prowl.” Pregame fanfare inside the stadium will begin at 11:30 a.m. with the Pitt Band Pregame Show, Team Entrances and more.

 

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