Penn State visits Pitt Saturday night; Here’s what you need to know about the game

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IOWA CITY, IA - SEPTEMBER 23: Penn State cheerleaders display their banners after a touchdown during a Big Ten Conference football game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the University of Iowa Hawkeyes on September 23, 2017, at Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA. Penn State won on the final play, 21-19. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH — It might not have the juice it once had back in the glory days, but the Penn State-Pittsburgh rivalry will resume Saturday night when the Nittany Lions visit Heinz Field to meet the Panthers for the 99th time.

The prime-time game on ABC will kick off at 8 p.m.

Penn State, ranked 13th and 10th in both national polls, will return to Pitt for the first time since 2016, when the Nittany Lions dropped a 42-39 decision that might have played a factor in their exclusion from the four-team College Football Playoff at the end of the year.

The Lions returned the favor last year in Beaver Stadium, besting the Panthers 33-14.

Here’s what you need to know about the rubber match in the Keystone Classic:

ABOUT PENN STATE: The Nittany Lions escaped a major upset bid from Appalachian State in their season opener last week, rallying to force overtime and eventually prevailing 45-38. KJ Hamler’s 52-yard kickoff return helped set up a game-tying drive with under two minutes left in regulation, capped by Hamler’s TD catch on a pass from Trace McSorley. Then Miles Sanders scored on a TD run in the extra session, and Amani Oruwariye sealed the game with an interception in the end zone.

The win gave Penn State its 15 straight victory at home, which is tied for the sixth-longest in school history. It’s the longest home winning streak since the Lions won 21 in a row at home from 1970-74.

Last week’s win marked the 24th consecutive game in which Penn State scored more than 20 points. That’s the longest streak in school history.

McSorley’s TD toss to Hamler in the fourth quarter gave him a touchdown pass in 29 consecutive games, dating back to the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl. That’s a school record and the longest active streak in FBS.

Sanders finished with 95 yards on 19 carries against App State, and added three catches for 20 yards. He scored twice on the ground for the Nittany Lions.

Juwon Johnson led all Penn State receivers with six catches for 67 yards.

Linebacker Jan Johnson led Penn State’s defense with 11 tackles. Safety Nick Scott added nine stops and recorded one of the Nittany Lions’ four sacks.

ABOUT PITT: The Panthers opened their season last week with a 33-7 victory over Albany. Quarterback Kenny Pickett accounted for three scores (two passing, one rushing), and the Panthers rushed for 238 yards as a team. Pickett, a sophomore, completed 16 of 22 passes for 154 yards and two TDs and added 42 yards and a score on six carries.

Seven Pitt ball carries combined to record the Panthers’ 238 rushing yards.

Pitt’s defense, which returns nine starters from last year, allowed 342 total yards against Albany.¬† Oluwaseun Idowu was the leading tackler, with eight total stops.

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi guided the Panthers to back-to-back 8-5 seasons in 2015 and 2016. Last year, the Panthers stunned No. 2 Miami 24-14 in their final game of the season. They were not bowl eligible after going 5-7 overall.

In 2016, Pitt handed eventual national champion Clemson its only loss of the season.

Before taking over at Pitt, Narduzzi served eight years as defensive coordinator at Michigan State. A former linebacker at Youngstown State and the University of Rhode Island, Narduzzi also ran the defense at Cincinnati and Miami (Ohio) before heading to East Lansing.

 

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