On Saturday afternoon in the town of State College, Pa., young men from the University of Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania State University will take a brief break from their studies to get some exercise and engage in a high-spirited game of tackle football. The affair will be televised on ABC at 3:30 p.m. and the stands will be full of young people loudly proclaiming over and over again who they are.
The two schools also met on a football field last year — with Pitt winning 42-39 — and 96 other times before that. Here are the 10 most memorable games in the history of that matchup … although if you’re reading an article in order to jog your memory of these memorable games, perhaps they’re not very memorable at all.
10. Nov. 6, 1893 at Penn State: PSU 32, Pitt 0.
Ah, yes, who can’t remember the first-ever matchup between the schools in 1893? The answer is absolutely everyone on the planet, because the oldest person currently alive was born in 1900. Duh. And, believe it or not, even Joe Paterno didn’t see this game, although he would have loved it because Penn State won and the game was played without the forward pass.
9. Nov. 24, 1910 at Forbes Field: Pitt 11, PSU 0.
This game was played on Thanksgiving Day, 47 years before Congress passed the Poultry Products Inspection Act. Hey, who wants seconds on E. coli? Pitt won the game at Forbes Field — AN ON CAMPUS STADIUM! — and finished their season 9-0, outscoring opponents by the score of 282-0. Yes, Pitt gave up ZERO points for the whole season. Joseph H. Thompson was Pitt’s head coach at the time, and while he has been dead since 1928, it might be worthwhile having him consult Pat Narduzzi on how to coach defense.
8. Dec. 7, 1963 at Pitt: Pitt 22, PSU 21.
This game was pushed back two weeks due to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Undoubtedly there were columns written about how that put sports in perspective, a lesson American has never forgotten. Either way, the game was won late by No. 5 Pitt on a touchdown drive led by quarterback Fred Mazurek. Penn State had a chance to win the game in the last seconds on a field goal attempt, but it missed.
College kickers: A thing to complain about for generations.
7. Sept. 16, 2000 at Pitt: Pitt 12, PSU 0.
With Penn State joining the Big T-Eleven and Pitt staying in the Big East, the 2000 game marked the end of the series for 16 years. And Penn State honored the ’00 game by scoring 00 points, as Paterno was no match for the football acumen of Pitt head coach Walt Harris. The loss dropped the Nittany Lions to 1-3 on the season. But the most humiliating thing of all that day for Penn State? They lost to a Pitt wearing the Dino Cat helmet. It gets no more embarrassing than that.
6. Nov. 19, 1983 at Pitt: Pitt 24, PSU 24.
This game had a little of everything. Penn State running back D.J. Dozier caught a pass off a carom with six seconds left with Penn State trailing 24-21 to get the Lions within field goal range. (How lucky. Pittsburgh football fans would never accept a running back getting lucky off a tipped pass.) Then — in the most Paterno coaching move ever — he called a counter play from the 19 yard-line with just six seconds to play. Thinking the game was over, Pitt fans stormed the field … only to discover there were somehow still four seconds on the clock. Penn State then kicked a game-tying field goal and that’s how it ended. Way to go for it, Joe.
5. Nov. 22, 1986 at Penn State: PSU 34, Pitt 14.
This game wasn’t all that close, but it was a testy affair throughout that had several shoving matches and late hits between the teams. Near the end of the game, Paterno ran across the field after a hit out of bounds and was picked up by a sideline microphone yelling: “You guys are a disgrace to the game!”
4. Nov. 26, 1982 at Penn State: PSU 19, Pitt 10.
Pitt entered the game as the No. 5 team in the country, and Penn State was No. 2. The Nittany Lions won a close game behind four field goals from Nick Gancitano. Penn State then went on to beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl the 11-1 Lions were named national champions over undefeated SMU. #smh
3. Nov. 26, 1976 at Pitt: Pitt 24, PSU 7.
Pitt entered the game having dropped 10 in a row to the Nittany Lions. But this 1976 team was the best Pitt team ever, undefeated and boasting the best player in the country and that year’s eventual Heisman winner: Tony Dorsett. How good was Dorsett? Approximately half the country learned how to say his last name. Dorsett ran for 224 yards and two touchdowns in the game, Pitt handed Paterno his first loss in the series and five weeks later the Panthers won the national title with a 27-3 victory over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
Surely that game marked the day Pitt was forever over a big hurdle, as the school would never blow big games from that day forth.
2. Nov. 28, 1981 at Pitt: PSU 48, Pitt 14.
The official Pitting game in Pitt history. The Panthers entered the game as the No. 1 team in the country and took a quick 14-0 lead behind permed phenom QB Dan Marino. Pitt led Penn State in total yards at the end of the first quarter, 143 to minus-1, and nine first downs to zero. It wasn’t even competitive. Pitt was going to coast to another national title. Except Penn State went and scored the next 48 points and won in a blowout. The defensive mastermind who schemed a way to shut down Marino that day? Ehhhh … let’s move on.
1. Sept. 10, 2016 at Pitt: Pitt 42, PSU 39.
Recency bias? Maybe? Awesomecy bias. No doubt. After taking a 28-7 lead right before the half, Pitt began Pitting the game away and looked to be doomed in the final moments with Penn State driving down just 42-39. But senior and not-Macklemore-collaborator Ryan Lewis picked off Trace McSorley and Pitt kept Penn State winless in the series in this century.