Kovacevic: Anyone doubting this rivalry just got one extraordinary lesson


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Pitt's Ryan Lewis makes the clinching pick in front of Penn State's Irvin Charles. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

"It is a rivalry."

It would have taken a blink to miss that sentence buried amid a verbal blur from Pat Narduzzi, still sweaty, still shuffling his visor, still speaking with so much motor at his press conference you'd think his next remark would be an audible.

But that line was in there. It was unmistakable, inflection and all.

And of course, he was right.

Not just because Pitt wound up with the upper hand over Penn State, 42-39, Saturday at Heinz Field,

Not just because it climaxed with Ryan Lewis' late end-zone interception that could have swung the outcome violently in either direction.

Not just because James Conner, with his 118 yards, and Saquon Barkley, with his five touchdowns, somehow exceeded the hype inherent in matching two of the nation's best running backs.

Not just because the Panthers' faithful stirringly and yeah, surprisingly, held their own among the 69,983 who made for the biggest crowd ever to witness a sporting event in our city.

Not just because of emotions that were tugged to extremes all around ...

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="700"] photo phil_zps6kxc5yud.gif Shots from Pitt-Penn State at Heinz Field. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

No, this rivalry always was and always will be so much more deeply rooted than any of that. Because, with all due respect to all involved in this extraordinary event, the veracity of this rivalry wasn't theirs to decide.

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