Penn State vs. Pitt: Here’s Everything You Need to Know
It might not have the juice it did decades ago, when it was considered one of college football’s fiercest feuds, but the Penn State-Pittsburgh rivalry is still a big deal in the Keystone State.
The two teams will meet for the 98th time Saturday in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions are looking to avenge last season’s 42-39 loss to the Panthers in Pittsburgh — a defeat that might have ultimately cost Penn State a spot in the four-team College Football Playoff.
This will be Pitt’s first visit to Beaver Stadium since 1999, when the Panthers fell, 20-17. It’s the second meeting of a four-game home and home series dubbed the Keystone Classic presented by Peoples Natural Gas.
Here’s everything you need to know about the game. The information was pulled from game notes available on GoPSUSports.com.
KICKOFF: 3:30 p.m.
THE SERIES: Penn State is 50-43-4 in 97 previous meetings with the Panthers, but Pitt has won the last two games. The series dates all the way back to 1893, though there have been several hiatuses during that span.
FESTIVITIES PLANNED: Prior to the game, “2016” will be unveiled on Beaver Stadium’s East Suites in recognition of Penn State’s 2016 Big Ten Championship. There will also be a pre-game flyover by two U.S. Air Force A-10 Warthogs immediately following the national anthem, the university announced.
At halftime, members of the 1982 National Championship team will be recognized as they celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Nittany Lions’ 11-1 national title season. Before the game, members of the 1982 squad are scheduled to sign autographs in the Pepsi Fan Zone above Gate A from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.
Penn State’s team arrival at the stadium is scheduled for approximately 1 p.m. The Nittany Lions’ eight captains will be tossing footballs signed by the captains and head coach James Franklin to eight fans lined up along Curtin Road as they leave the buses for the stadium.
ABOUT PENN STATE: The Nittany Lions are ranked No. 4 in this week’s AP college football poll, moving up two spots after thumping Akron 52-0 in last Saturday’s season opener. Heisman Trophy candidate Saquon Barkley racked up 246 all-purpose yards in the victory, rushing for 172 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, catching three passes for 54 yards, and reeling off a 20-yard kick return. Barkley’s 80-yard run in the second quarter was the second-longest of his career and is tied for the 10-best rush in program history.
Meanwhile, quarterback Trace McSorley threw a pair of touchdown passes, boosting his career total to 33. That puts him at No. 9 on Penn State’s career chart. Chuck Fusina (37) is ranked eighth.
McSorley’s 280 passing yards against Akron put him over the 200-yard mark for the 12th time in his career. That ranks sixth at PSU. Daryll Clark ranks fifth with 14 games with more than 200 passing yards.
With 328 total yards (280 passing, 48 rushing) against Akron, McSorley now has 4,535 total yards for his career, which ranks 11th in Penn State history. Todd Blackledge (4,911 total yards) is ranked 10th.
Penn State’s 52 points were its highest total since it pinned 62 on Purdue last season. The Lions scored more than 35 points for the eighth straight game dating back to last season, which is a school record.
The Lions’ 569 yards of total offense against Akron were the most since they put up 599 yards in a victory over Iowa last season. Penn State averaged 432.6 yards per game last season, its highest average since 2013.
Meanwhile, the Penn State defense recorded its first shutout in a season opener since 2007, when the Lions dusted Florida International 59-0. Penn State has recorded one shutout in each of the last three seasons; the Lions blanked Rutgers (39-0) last year and Illinois (39-0) in 2015.
ABOUT PITTSBURGH: Pitt opened the season with a 28-21 overtime win over Youngstown State. Jester Weah hauled in an 11-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Max Browne in overtime, while Bricen Garner sealed the win with an interception. Qadree Ollison rushed for 91 yards and two touchdowns, and was the Panthers’ leading receiver with five catches for 35 yards.
Quadree Henderson (nine carries, 77 yards) was Pitt’s second-leading rusher. Henderson was an All-American as a kick returner last season, and was a member of the All-ACC preseason team this year.
Browne will make his second career start against the Nittany Lions Saturday. Browne is a graduate student transfer from USC. Last week against Youngstown State, Browne completed 17 of 24 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown.
Pitt went 8-5 last season, falling 31-24 to Northwestern in the Pinstripe Bowl. But in addition to knocking off Penn State, the Panthers also handed national champion Clemson its only loss of the season, beating the Tigers 43-42.
The Panthers are seeking their third straight victory over Penn State in the series, which is something they haven’t done since 1944-46.