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Pitt-Penn State flame goes out … maybe

Precisely 108,661 saw a 17-10 Penn State victory over Pitt that, had they not been gray haired and in street clothes, Tony Dorsett, Jack Ham and Franco Harris could’ve played in.

Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett gets sacked by Penn State's Shaka Toney in the fourth quarter. - Jarrod Prugar / DKPS

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Precisely 108,661 spectators saw a 17-10 Penn State victory over Pitt that, had they not been gray haired and in street clothes, football legends Tony Dorsett, Jack Ham and Franco Harris would’ve been expected to play in.

It was a flashback to the glory days of the rivalry that saw the battles settled on the field and not the message boards or media rooms. Today was what this rivalry has been about and should always be about: hard-nosed, blue-collar football with toughness and physicality that only these teams can demonstrate against each other.

“It was a physical game,” Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford said.

Clifford spent most of his afternoon under duress from the front of the Panthers that dialed the pressure up when they needed it most against their in-state rival.

“It’s a rivalry game,” Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett said. “It was a chippy game. The crowd was yelling stuff, we were yelling  back. We’re going at it with the players on the field. I think it’s a great game, an entertaining game today.”

There’s that word rivalry that’s popped up between these two teams, you know the word Penn State coach James Franklin refuses to use against Pitt and really any other team for that matter. Though after the game, even Franklin’s players had mentioned this game as a rivalry despite what their coach may say.

“I mean it’s a rivalry game, Pitt-Penn State, 100th meeting and our last game of the series,” Nittany Lions tight end Pat Freiermuth said. “There’s definitely going to be trash-talking. I thought it was fun.”

While in different areas of the state, the two programs and their players are no strangers to each other with Penn State and Pitt often recruiting many of the same areas and players.

“It’s different…” Clifford said. “Pitt, in high school I knew a bunch of those guys. That’s why it gets a little more talk or trash talk or whatever because you know them. It’s kind of fun.”

The physicality and hard-fought battle on the field is what Penn State running back and Pennsylvania native Journey Brown relishes which makes sense as he ran for 105 yards.

“I love this feeling, feeling beat up I guess you could say.” Brown said. “The level of physicality the two teams played with today is what I love. I love these type of games, good games like this. I feel like we put on a show.”

That show featured a battle of two top-notch defenses which saw Penn State allow only 24 yards on the ground and find the end zone only once on the day despite allowing Pickett to slice up their secondary to the tune of 372 yards.

“Whenever you can keep a team to 24 yards rushing, you have a chance to be successful,” Franklin said.

Pickett played one of, if not the best game of his career despite not finding the end zone and that was not lost on his head coach.

“He played his tail off,” Pat Narduzzi said. “He made some throws you guys have not seen him make before. Kenny had a heck of a ballgame.”

Much will be made of Pickett’s day but the Pitt defense held an offense averaging 62 points a game to only 17. Granted the first two games for the Nittany Lions were against Idaho and Buffalo respectively, the defense for the Panthers held up their end of the ballgame save for some key drives.

“Defensively we held strong all day, played good football, give up 17 points,” Narduzzi said.

It was on the second drive of the second half where the Nittany Linos methodically made their way downfield in 13 plays resulting in running back Noah Cain finding the end zone for a touchdown.

Neither team would get close to scoring until the fourth quarter when the Panthers found themselves faced with first and goal from the 1-yard line and down 17-10.

Pickett would be rushed on first down winding up with an incompletion before rushing for no gain on second. Another rushed pass on third down resulted in an incompletion and a decision for Narduzzi. The decision, which will be questioned for quite some time, was to kick the field goal.

“We could’ve gone for it there and not gotten it,” Narduzzi said. “I thought if we kick field goal there it’s going to be a two-possession game, you need two scores. A field goal is a good play then you come back and score again.”

In reality, Pitt didn’t need two scores in the conventional use of that terminology. They could have gotten the touchdown and PAT to tie or gone for a two-point conversion to take the lead.

The decision backfired that much more as Pitt kicker Alex Kessman missed the 19-yard attempt all but thwarting the Panthers chances at victory.

“I don’t question that call at all, really,” Narduzzi said.

Now, after 100 meetings, the Penn State-Pitt rivalry will be put on hold for who knows how long, but one thing is for sure: This game reinforced why it remains very real.

THE ESSENTIALS

• Boxscore
• Video highlights
Scoreboard
• Standings: Pitt | Penn State

THE INJURIES

• Elias Reynolds, Pitt – (undisclosed) left in the first half and was in street clothes for the second half.

THE NOTES

It was the 100th game between these two teams, Penn State now holds a 53-43-4 record all-time against Pitt. Penn State did not record a sack until the third quarter and wound up notching three. The game featured a 40 minute weather delay when lightning was spotted in the area prior to kickoff. Pitt out-gained Penn State 396-389 while only rushing for 24 yards. Penn State kicker Jordan Stout notched a team-record 57-yard field goal to tie the game entering the half.

THE SCHEDULE

If or when Pitt and Penn State will take the field against one another again isn’t certain. However, they will both head off into the remainder of their schedules. Penn State has next weekend off before heading to Maryland Friday, September 27 while Pitt hosts UCF next week at Heinz Field.

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Tjmac18
Tjmac18

Didn’t realize this story was on here, but I appreciate it. As my subscription is set to expire tomorrow, primarily due to the lack of Pitt coverage, I wish the site the best.

Tim Tamasy
Tim Tamasy

Great Article. Nice to see some college football on the site!!

bluesguitar
bluesguitar

Jarrod, great article. Thanks for the coverage and player comments. Miss this coverage on an ongoing basis. Great game, really hard fought. Hopefully the knuckleheads in charge will figure out a way to keep this game on their schedules. Thanks again!!

Bryan
Bryan

It was exactly what I wanted as a football fan. Local kids putting it on the line is a really physical battle. Disappointed as a Pitt fan, but happy as a PA football fan.

JAR
JAR

It felt good to have the live feed yesterday and this awesome game article. Love seeing
College football on the site.

Now, in regards to the game. I think penn st is over ranked they should have waxed Pitt. That was Pitts game to lose and they lost it. On the 1 and can’t score a point.

Joe in Nebraska
Joe in Nebraska

Gotta say, for all the preseason talk about Kessman’s leg strength, he’s already missed a couple of chip shots this year.

OnLikeDonkeyKong
OnLikeDonkeyKong

Narduzzi’s ridiculous explanation makes sense if the team is down 10. You need two scores to ties so you take one there, even though it’s a field goal from the 1 yard line. The team was down 7. This buffoon didn’t even know that?

Still 5 more years with this guy.

Jay Roberts
Jay Roberts

Whipples play calling shows his age. Three time first and goal inside 3 yard line and only 1 TD. He can follow Nards out the door.

Two rollouts and a QB boot leg? Seriously?

Pitt heading for a 1-6 start based on how inept this offense is. Let’s see:
First down – run up middle
Second down – three yard pass
Third down – QB scrambles and throws it up for grabs

Brilliant Whipple, brilliant….

mikomark
mikomark

Thank you, Jarrod and yes, it would’ve been a 2-score game only after Kressman missed a chip-shot FG. The team obviously wanted to go for it and Pickett is big enough and with no fear, I can’t believe they wouldn’t have made the 1 yard. Then it’s on the defense, that did a fine job all day. If PSU then makes a winning FG, at least Pitt gave it the shot. I have a hunch that Whipple wanted to go for it and Narduzzi overruled it.

The adage is “On the road, go for the tie; at home, the win.”

JCA
JCA

No, it’s the opposite. The adage says to go for the win on the road, go for the tie at home.

bblove83
bblove83

Narduzzi may not question that call but most do. Even before that weak decision they were first goal from the one and ran NO plays forward or gave the ball to a RB. I guess power football is gone from both Pittsburgh teams that practice at same site. Maybe the water?

emoneypitt
emoneypitt

I didn’t get the result that I wanted yesterday, but this game proved that Pitt and Penn State belong on the same field. Some of these so called adults need to get their heads out of their asses and make this an annual game. No reason why Pitt, Penn State and WVU shouldn’t be playing each other, if not every year, then at least on a semi regular basis.

Zach1016
Zach1016

I am a lifetime PSU fan but I felt Pitt was the better team yesterday. For some reason , Pitt always finds ways to lose games and did once again yesterday. It was a fun game to watch ! Sad it won’t happen again anytime soon .

scoman203
scoman203

I think they were pretty even yesterday but Pitt and Narduzzi find a way to loss.

Popsfan
Popsfan

Both defenses looked good – Pitt better than PSU. Pickett looks like a winner. Clifford needs to spend some quality time working on timing with his receivers. Game-day coaching weak on both sides. Bad call by the Big Ten replay officials on that punt.

bigchinook
bigchinook

I miss the Pitt and Penn State coverage, thanks for doing this game.

Sammy C
Sammy C

This is the Eastern style football I grew up loving. It’s a shame they won’t play again until who knows when. Watched it with my dad, PSU Class of ’58. Might be the last of this rivalry we watch together. If so, couldn’t ask for anything more.

towens1950
towens1950

I for one appreciate the write ups from DK for this game and seemed a lot of interest judging from the comments. I do not expect articles every week but chosing a game such as this is well worth the effort.
And having a competitive contest doesn’t hurt either. Nicely done.

Taylor Siwik
Taylor Siwik

Just like beating Akron.

Bisonbuff
Bisonbuff

Except not at all.
But you got to be snarky and I guess that felt good.

sforsyth01
sforsyth01

I’ve always wondered….is the life of an internet troll fulfilling?

Dante
Dante

Field goal decision is a fireable offense. Even with the field goal you need another TD. Worst case you are on the 1 yard going the other way. Someone please explain the decision…. to me it was fundamentally simple minded. I don’t get it.

Taylor Siwik
Taylor Siwik

He wasn’t thinking so it can’t be explained

Ralphie
Ralphie

Do we have a football coach in Pittsburgh that can add, subtract and read a clock all at the same time?

Ktmsmitty
Ktmsmitty

Doesn’t appear so….

Straight Outta Tomlin
Straight Outta Tomlin

You answered your question: simple minded

bilbobagins
bilbobagins

Don’t ask Mike Tomlin.

BK8687
BK8687

I didn’t see the whole game but I felt like Penn State’s o-line struggled big time. Pitt did a good job pressuring the QB. If this was at Heinz Field I feel like Pitt would have won.

RS711
RS711

That’s a good assessment. The PSU line really struggled with blitz pickups and stunts. The Pitt offensive line wasn’t that great either especially with run blocking. The line play on both sides (and the lack of turnovers) led to the low score more than anything else I saw.

Mariomera8
Mariomera8

The key to the whole game was just how bad Penn States O Line was.

Joe in Nebraska
Joe in Nebraska

Unfortunately, one of the side effects of sharing facilities with the Steelers is that Narduzzi has become the college version of Tomlin, living and coaching in his fears. 😳

On the positive side, Pitt’s defense appears legit. It’s too bad we won’t see how good they would’ve been with Weaver and Camp.

BillF'nMurray
BillF'nMurray

Pitt’s just not good. Prove I’m wrong.

Joe in Nebraska
Joe in Nebraska

Neither is Penn St.

timpj5
timpj5

1-0 today

PittSlim21
PittSlim21

I thought Pitt was better than Penn St. Bad coaching decisions did them in. I wasn’t impressed with the Lions at all.

OnLikeDonkeyKong
OnLikeDonkeyKong

Penn State really doesn’t have much of a reason to continue this rivalry. They are a national program. Pitt is a local one. Look at Michigan and Michigan State. Michigan is a national program. Michigan State local. The only reason they play is because they are in the same conference. And no one affiliated with Michigan views that as the big rivalry game. Realistically, Pitt should look to West Virginia, another locally relevant program and try to rekindle that as the annual rivalry. They have more of a reason to be a willing participant than does Penn State.

pml2090
pml2090

You are the stereotype that gives penn state fans a bad name. I can assure you that the image you have of penn state in your head is not the image the rest of the nation has, especially if you think penn state is on the same level as Michigan, Ohio state, etc…penn state has the potential, but they can’t beat ranked teams…and, apparently, they can’t even convincingly beat “local” ones. Until that changes, comparing your mediocre football team to the “national” programs is very disrespectful to these organizations that have actually accomplished something.

Ned Flanders
Ned Flanders

Love the college coverage being back, even if just for one day. Thanks Jarrod.

efejr
efejr

It was great

Sammy C
Sammy C

Could not agree more

Jay Roberts
Jay Roberts

Man up, put in your jumbo package, pull out some Knute Rockne speech on how you will go for two when they score to end PSUs season and then relese the dogs. Run power four straight times. If you can’t score then you went Mano e Mano.
Just like VTech from 2 years ago. Too cute at the goal line….

Unfortunately that call pretty much ended any respect Narduzzi had left with Pitt fans. Just like how Tomlin has worn out his welcome, so has Nards….

OnLikeDonkeyKong
OnLikeDonkeyKong

Yup!

Narduzzi didn’t even know the difference between strategy in that situation down 7 vs down 10.

How much you want to bet that he was unaware that a missed field-goal put the ball at the 20 yard line, whereas getting stuffed on a dive or a sneak put the ball at the one?

ImEasyEd
ImEasyEd

As an alum, I’m happy PSU won, but Pitt put up a great fight and arguably was the better team much of the game. It’s a shame none of us knows when we’ll see this matchup again. Pitt/PSU/WVU should play each other every year.

Good luck the rest of the season Pitt fans.

Stc2412
Stc2412

If Clifford was able to connect on some of those deep balls. Psu steam rolls Pitt. He had Hamler open few times on those plays. Clifford is just not there yet. Also rahne play calling is trash. So is not having Cain took over as the number one rb.

pml2090
pml2090

I don’t know how you look at any of the statistics of this game and decide that penn state was just a catch or two away from steam rolling Pitt, that’s just nonsense

jjvesco99
jjvesco99

PSU wants guaranteed wins on the non conference schedule, Pitt is good enough to upset them once in awhile but not good enough to be considered a quality win. I don’t like it but I understand it.

Bisonbuff
Bisonbuff

Well written, a fun game to watch, wish Pitt would’ve just run it up the gut 4 times instead of any of the plays chosen there. Otherwise – a classic day of great college football.
Thanks very much for the coverage.

PaulieGee
PaulieGee

No moral victories In losing, at least from a fan’s view.

tpm66
tpm66

I see Narduzzi as the Buccos’ new manager next year. Buffoon.

Orsulak11
Orsulak11

Hard fought game by both sides, but I don’t think that either of these teams are very good -at least at the moment.

Spydey629
Spydey629

I wish they played more often, but as a Penn State alum, I get why it’s going away (again).

Penn State looks for 10 wins (or more) every year, while Pitt seems to find a way to go 6-6.

It’s become more of the fans’ rivalry than the schools’ rivalry. It’s a textbook example of what conference expansion has done to some of the sports best rivalries.

I know this sounds condescending, and I don’t mean it to, but this game really doesn’t do anything for State other than fill it’s Big Ten vs. Power-5 schedule requirement. Pitt is a pretty average program 9 out of every 10 years, so yes, Penn State is routinely the heavy favorite and supposed to win. A loss for Penn State hurts them a ton more than Pitt.

Playing VT, Auburn, and WVU helps/hurts that year depending on if that program is up or down – it can move the needle, pending on how the rest of season plays out. Beating a ‘meh’ Pitt team just doesn’t have the same effect.

pml2090
pml2090

I still don’t buy this…scheduling Pitt is not holding penn state back in any tangible way. Not being able to beat ranked teams, especially on the road, is what’s holding penn state back. Not denying that penn state has been a superior program to Pitt for a while now, just saying I don’t buy that logic at all. Could you explain how not scheduling Pitt is the smart decision? Seems to me you either want to schedule more elite teams (very doubtful), or schedule less skilled teams (very weak)

Spydey629
Spydey629

Penn State’s non-conference schedules for the next 8 years are all the same format, Power 5, MAC, and a random school they’ll be favored by 50 (there’s a mix of 1-A and 1-AA). The Power-5 schools are the ones I mentioned in my original post. There’s still a regional rival in there (WVU), and Auburn is definitely in a different status level from Pitt.

I know Clemson/South Carolina and Georgia/Georgia Tech make it work. It’d be awesome if Pitt and Penn State could. I understand why it’s not as high on PSU’s priority list as it is for the fans.

PittSlim21
PittSlim21

It’s a rivalry game. Period. Not just with the fans. With the schools, the programs, the alumni, the STATE. Penn State isn’t really as dominant as Penn State fans think. Franklin is kind of a jackass and it’s hard to believe he’s from PA if he doesn’t think Pitt Penn State is a rivalry. Cmon. Not sure where he or anyone else grew up, but if you grew up in PA & you are a Pitt fan, there’s two teams to hate and that’s Penn State and West Virginia. Figure out how to play the damn game. I live in Michigan now. Trust me, no one here thinks Michigan Penn State or Michigan State Penn State is a rivalry. .

huke20
huke20

Not sure what value there is in a rivalry but Penn State really has none in football. Maybe Rutgers ?

Stc2412
Stc2412

Penn state is really dominant over Pitt. Look at paterno record against them 23-7-1. Now franklin 3-1. I would say that this series with those two teams has been one sided.

Cpt. Delicious Pants
Cpt. Delicious Pants

I agree with a lot of what you say but listening to the players talk it definitely seems like they see it as more than just a “fans rivalry”.

kr70
kr70

Narduzzi, “I don’t question that call at all” ….You ‘re the only one Pat, you’re the only one.

Tandy
Tandy

I’m a Penn State fan and definitely feel that the FG was a terrible call. Pitt had all the momentum after the 4th down completion and pass to the 1. 7 points there would have been huge for Pitt. 3 didn’t even make sense since Pitt still needed a TD. I think if you’re a dog trailing on the road, tying the game up should be priority #1. Give yourself a chance in OT. Nard seemed to want to win it in regulation with his comment about needing two scores.
Great game by Pickett. And good effort by Pitt. Shame we won’t get to do it again for awhile.
Oh, and am I being a PSU homer or did the gunner time the tackle on that punt perfectly? Seemed like a BS call.

Years of Control
Years of Control

I’m glad that I wasn’t the one to have had to make that call – whisker close

Dante
Dante

Or get the TD and go for 2. Play to win comment is comical.

timpj5
timpj5

Perfectly timed… terrible call

Next Man UP
Next Man UP

It is an interference foul if, before the receiver touches the ball, Team A player enters the area defined by the width of the receiver’s shoulders and extending one yard in front of him. When in question it is a foul. (A.R. 6-4-1:X-XIII).

Perl
Perl

Gotta let the guy catch the ball…he didn’t.

Koz
Koz

2 yard sphere necessary by rule. He didn’t provide it

PittSlim21
PittSlim21

No, it was the right call. You have to let the returner catch the ball and give him space. He hammered him. Close, though.

Tandy
Tandy

Yeah, upon watching again I agree. At the time, perhaps homerism took over, ha. Fractions from being a beautiful play though

Straight Outta Tomlin
Straight Outta Tomlin

Looks like both clubs that occupy the South Side facility have been drinking water full of their fears…

Never understand why a team that has nothing to lose plays as if it does each and every week…

Hats off to the D and Pickett. Hope they can build on this for the rest of the year.

Guido1960
Guido1960

Up cup for the name

PurpleMoose
PurpleMoose

We have seen both of the cities football coaches make unbelievably stupid decisions this week by kicking FGs. Our pro coach decided to do that while 3 scores down which kept them 3 scores down and our college coach did it while a TD down meaning that they still needed a TD. Can anybody here coach?

Jeremy B.
Jeremy B.

lets see….get within 4 points with under 5 minutes(1 timeout left) then kick off and psu gets the ball around the 25….that’s not smart strategy at all…the football gods pushed the fg off the upright for making that decision

Donnie
Donnie

“A field goal is a good play then you come back and score again.” 🤦🏻‍♂️ No, Pat, just no. In the famous words of Herm Edwards, you play to WIN the game. Or try to tie it and at least force OT.

Guido1960
Guido1960

Excellent write-up and angle, Jarrod. And thanks to DK for allowing it to happen.

Jay Roberts
Jay Roberts

And all goes down the tubes because of archaic play calling and a scared chicken s*** Coach that always seems to panic in crunch time.

No creativity in this offense since Canada left. None. Today was run up middle, throw 3 yard pass or chuck it up and hope WR makes a play on it. Brilliant.

Tomlin and Narduzzi can discuss their kicking FGs from the 1 on the golf course hopefully.

PittSlim21
PittSlim21

Boom. There it is. I was screaming for Canada like it was the freaking Olympics. Where IS he??

Dante211
Dante211

What a great opportunity missed for Pitt for another signature victory. I was expecting a blowout. Whatever happened to that deep backfield they had?

huke20
huke20

That’s some serious spin from Narduzzi. The absolute worst that can happen there is you leave Penn state on their own 1.

BigFiddy
BigFiddy

That idiot doesn’t question the call? What a pompous jerk! His team is on the road in the biggest game of the year and u try to kick it when u are at the 1? F him!

Hey Patty, it’s time to win or STFU. U took a great opportunity from those kids today. Unbelievable.

Marc
Marc

I don’t think you can call a non-conference game the “biggest game of the year”

PittSlim21
PittSlim21

What?! It’s Pitt Penn State, man! Yes, it’s the biggest game of the year!!

Next Man UP
Next Man UP

Doesn’t go for the tie from the one but he went for it on fourth down on the same drive from his own territory I believe. DK said Tomlin was living in fear against the Pats what do you call this.

Rocco
Rocco

As a Pitt fan have to say I’m impressed by the defense. On the other hand, as a Pitt fan I have to say I fully expected them to find a way to NOT score from the 1 on first and goal. That was soooo Pitt.

richmp47
richmp47

QB sneak had to be the call on 2nd down from the half yard line