Penn State–Pittsburgh football rivalry
November 6, 1893|
Penn State 32, Pittsburgh 0
September 10, 2016|
Pittsburgh 42, Penn State 39
|Next meeting||September 9, 2017|
|All-time series||Penn State leads, 50–43–4|
|Current win streak||Pittsburgh, 2|
Once considered one of the most important college football rivalries north of the Mason–Dixon line, this intrastate rivalry was deemed the biggest annual game for both schools for a large part of their histories. The game often had regional and national implications with the winner often claiming Eastern college football supremacy and its respective Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy. The rivalry began a slow death in the 1990s when both schools left the ranks of college football independents and chose to join different conferences. Penn State accepted an invitation to join the Big Ten Conference while Pitt's football program joined the Big East Conference where the majority of the school's athletic programs already participated. The conference affiliations of the two previously independent football programs resulted in fewer scheduling opportunities.
The last scheduled game in the series was played at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA, on September 16, 2000 when Pitt shut out Penn State 12–0. 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.
Penn State won 12 of the first 15, but Pitt dominated afterwards, going 21–2–2 (1913–40). Pitt at one point won 14 straight times (1922–38). Pitt coach Jock Sutherland never lost to Penn State (1924–38). From 1941 to 1951, the rivalry was much more even, as Pitt went 6–5 against Penn State in that span. From 1952 on, Penn State dominated, going 31–12–2. Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno went 23–7–1 against Pitt (1966–92, 1997–2000).
Several games are of historic note:
The first game was played on November 6, 1893, in State College, PA, with Penn State prevailing 32–0. Penn State won the first six meetings.
Pitt's first victory in the series occurred on November 24, 1904 in Pittsburgh, 22–5.
The 1963 game was originally scheduled for Saturday, November 23, but was postponed to December 7 following the assassination of John F. Kennedy the day before. The once-beaten Panthers were being touted as a possible Cotton Bowl participant, but the bowl representatives expressed desire to invite Pitt only if they had one loss. With the game postponed until December 7, the Cotton Bowl could not wait. Pitt went on to beat Penn State 22–21, finishing the season at 9–1, with no bowl.
The 1976 game pitted undefeated Pitt, ranked number one in the nation, against Penn State at Three Rivers Stadium on the night after Thanksgiving, November 26. The score was tied 7–7 at the half. Pitt's coach Johnny Majors moved Tony Dorsett to fullback for the second half, and the Panthers went on to beat Penn State 24–7, finishing the regular season 11–0, on their way to a Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia and their first National Championship in 39 years.
The 1981 game was one for the ages. Pitt was once again undefeated at 10–0 and number one in the nation, ready to claim the title, "Beast of the East". The Nittany Lions had other ideas when they came to Pitt Stadium on November 28. The game featured two junior quarterbacks, Dan Marino for Pitt and Todd Blackledge for Penn State. Pitt went up 14–0 in the first quarter; Penn State tied it at 14 at the half. The second half belonged to Penn State, scoring 34 second-half points while holding the Panthers scoreless. The 48–14 final cost Pitt a chance for its second national title in five years.
The 1982 game again featured two of the nation's best teams. Pitt had been ranked preseason #1, but had lost to Notre Dame to enter the game at 9–1. Penn State also entered the game 9–1, having lost only to Alabama. Again, it would be Marino vs. Blackledge in their last regular season game at a windswept Beaver Stadium. Penn State prevailed 19–10 on the strength of one Blackledge touchdown pass to Kenny Jackson, four field goals and a tenacious defense, and was on its way to a Sugar Bowl upset of Georgia, earning its first National Championship.
The rivalry went on hiatus in 2000, but resumed in 2016 with a 42–39 home victory by Pittsburgh. This game was the first of a four-game series from 2016–19, with the teams playing at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2018, while battling at Beaver Stadium in State College in 2017 and 2019.
|Penn State victories||Pittsburgh victories||Tie games|
- Panaccio, Tim (1982). Beast of the East: Penn State vs. Pitt: a game-by-game history of America's greatest football rivalry. West Point, NY: Leisure Press. ISBN 0-88011-068-6.
- Fittipaldo, Ray (2011-06-14). "Pitt, Penn State to renew football rivalry in 2016". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh, PA. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- Cook, Ron (August 30, 2004). "Pitt-Penn State series is bigger than Paterno". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
- "Penn State and Pitt to Renew Football Rivalry From 2016–19". Penn State Official Athletic Site. December 7, 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-07.