Charles LeClaire

Where does Saturday's PSU game rank among Pitt's most important games of the Heinz Field era? compiles a list of Pitt's 10 most important games from the Heinz Field era. The Panthers' upcoming game with Penn State makes the cut

#1:  no. 15 Pitt (9-2, 5-1 Big East) vs no. 5 Cincinnati (11-0, 6-0 Big East) – Sat. Dec. 5, 2009

FINAL:  Pitt 44, Cincinnati 45

Tony Pike pierced the heart of some 63,387 in attendance at Heinz Field during the game's final drive when he threw a 29-yard touchdown pass with 33 seconds left to lift the Bearcats to a Big East title and a BCS game. Mardy Gilyard collected five catches for 118 yards and he killed Pitt with his 256 yards on kick returns.

#2:  no. 19 Pitt (8-2, 5-0 Big East) at no. 1 Miami (9-0, 4-0 Big East) – Thurs. Nov. 21, 2002

FINAL:  Pitt 21, Miami 28

Miami entered the contest as defending national champions and won 31 consecutive games. A Rod Rutherford-led offensive regime had a golden opportunity to win or send the game into overtime in the game’s descending seconds, but Rutherford overthrew wide-open receiver Yogi Roth at the goal line, and the Hurricanes went on to play for the national title, losing to Ohio State at the hands of a questionable call.

#3:  Pitt (6-2, 3-0 Big East) at no. 3 Virginia Tech (8-0, 3-0 Big East) – Sat. Nov. 2, 2002

FINAL:  Pitt 28, Virginia Tech 21

Pitt knocked the Hokies out of national title contention and moved to 4-0 for the first time in the Panthers’ 11 years in the Big East. Brandon Miree led a fourth-quarter charge capped by his 53-yard touchdown run to put Pitt, which was down 14 in the third quarter, ahead for the kill.

#4:  no. 25 Pitt (6-2, 3-0 Big East) vs. No. 5 Virginia Tech (7-1, 3-1) – Sat. Nov. 8, 2003

FINAL:  Pitt 31, Virginia Tech 28

Virginia Tech running back Kevin Jones rushed for a Hokies’ single-season record 241 yards, Larry Fitzgerald countered with eight grabs for 108 yards and Lousaka Polite bulled ahead for two yards with 47 seconds left to give Pitt a three-point lead it wouldn’t render in a game that saw both teams combine for seven turnovers. Virginia Tech was fresh off a statement win over Miami, and the Hokies’ loss to Pitt following an appearance from the College GameDay crew erased hopes of making the BCS.

#5:  no. 19 Pitt (8-3, 5-3 Big East) vs. no. 5 Utah (12-0) (Tostitos Fiesta Bowl) – Sat. Jan 1, 2005

FINAL:  Pitt 7, Utah 35

Alex Smith and the Utes burned Pitt all night long with their coming-of-age spread offense and scored endlessly to rout Pitt. Smith, who entered the NFL in the weeks after the New Year’s Day bowl, threw for 328 yards and his defensive teammates sacked Tyler Palko a Fiesta Bowl record-setting nine times. Three-quarters of the crowd in Tempe, Az., were decked out in red to see Utah head coach Urban Meyer take an on-field Gatorade bath before peace-ing for the Florida job.

#6:  no. 20 Pitt (8-3, 5-1 Big East) vs. no. 10 Miami (9-2, 5-1) – Sat. Nov. 29, 2003

FINAL:  Pitt 14, Miami 28

With a chance to win the Big East and head to a BCS bowl, Pitt’s poor rush defense folded, allowing Miami’s Tyrone Moss and Jarrett Payton to run for over 100 yards apiece in front of a packed house at Heinz Field. It wasn’t until the third quarter that Heisman candidate Larry Fitzgerald caught a pass, and by then Miami had already grabbed a 21-7 lead.

#7:  no. 9 Pitt (9-1, 5-0 Big East) vs. West Virginia (7-3, 3-2 Big East) – Fri. Nov. 27, 2009

FINAL:  Pitt 16, West Virginia 19

Noel Divine ran for 134 yards and redshirt freshman kicker Tyler Bitancurt made four field goals – one as time expired – to stun Pitt and send the Panthers into must-win mode heading into their final week against no. 5 Cincinnati.

#8:  Pitt (1-0, 0-0 ACC) vs. Penn State (1-0, 0-0 Big 10) – Sat. Sept. 10, 2016


From Pitt Athletics’ game notes:

• One of college football's most historic rivalries returns as Pitt and Penn State meet for the first time in 16 years. Pennsylvania's lone "Power 5" programs have not met since the 2000 season when the Panthers blanked the Nittany Lions, 12-0, in Three Rivers Stadium.

• At one time an annual Keystone State clash, the series began in 1893 and has pitted former high school teammates and even family members against one another. This year's contest marks the first of a four-game agreement that will be played from 2016-19.

• Pitt head coach Pat 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.

• Pitt opened the season in winning fashion, defeating Villanova, 28-7. The game marked the highly anticipated return of running back 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.

• Quadree Henderson had the longest kickoff return on college football's opening Saturday. His 96-yard kick return for a touchdown to open the second half gave Pitt a 21-0 lead and marked his second kick return TD in as many games. Henderson had a 100-yard kickoff return to open the Military Bowl against Navy last season.


Pitt and Penn State meet for the 97th time in a series that dates back to 1893...the Nittany Lions lead the all-time series, 50-42-4...despite being located less than three hours apart, the schools have not played since the 2000 season...the Panthers won that last meeting, 12-0, in Three Rivers Stadium...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...Pitt and Penn State embark on a new four-year agreement that will run from 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 Joe Paterno from 1966-75.


Series Began: 1893

Series Overall: PSU leads 50-42-4

At Pittsburgh: Pitt leads 35-28-4

At Penn State: PSU leads 17-6

At Neutral Sites: PSU leads 5-1

OT Games: DNA

Last Meeting at Pitt: Sept. 16, 2000 (Pitt 12, Penn State 0)

Last Meeting at PSU: Sept. 11, 1999 (Penn State 20, Pitt 17)

Current Series Win Streak: Pitt has won 1 (2000)

Longest Pitt Series Win Streak: 14 games (1922-31, 1935-38)

Longest PSU Series Win Streak: 10 games (1966-75)

Largest Pitt Victory Margin: 35 points (41-6, 1931)

Largest PSU Victory Margin: 59 points (59-0, 1903)

#9:  Pitt (6-3, 3-2 Big East) at no. 21 West Virginia (8-2, 4-1 Big East) – Thurs. Nov. 26, 2004

FINAL:  Pitt 16, West Virginia 13

Darrelle Revis picked off a late-game pass from Mountaineers quarterback Rasheed Marshall, and Tyler Palko converted it into Pitt’s lone touchdown to upset WVU at Heinz Field on Thanksgiving. Josh Cummings was responsible for Pitt’s nine other points, and the win paved way for a BCS berth.

#10:  Pitt (6-1, 2-0 Big East) vs. no. 19 Rutgers (6-0, 1-0 Big East) – Sat. Oct. 21, 2006

FINAL:  Pitt 10, Rutgers 20

Pitt cut Rutgers’ lead to three points in the fourth quarter, but Scarlet Knights’ phenom Ray Rice nearly ran the length of the field on the ensuing drive, and Pitt, 6-1 and knocking on the door of the AP poll, lost the first of five consecutive games to end its 2006 campaign.

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