1976 Pittsburgh Panthers football team

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1976 Pittsburgh Panthers football
Pitt Panthers wordmark.svg
Consensus national champion
Sugar Bowl champion
Eastern champion
Sugar Bowl, W 27–3 vs. Georgia
ConferenceIndependent
Ranking
CoachesNo. 1
APNo. 1
1976 record12–0
Head coachJohnny Majors (4th season)
Offensive coordinatorJoe Avezzano (1st season)
Offensive schemeVeer
Defensive coordinatorBobby Roper (1st season)
Base defenseBasic 50
Home stadiumPitt Stadium
(Capacity: 56,500)
Seasons
← 1975
1977 →
1976 NCAA Division I Independents football records
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
No. 1 Pittsburgh         12 0 0
No. 17 Rutgers         11 0 0
San Diego State         10 1 0
No. 12 Notre Dame         9 3 0
Colgate         8 2 0
Boston College         8 3 0
Cincinnati         8 3 0
Memphis State         7 4 0
North Texas State         7 4 0*
Penn State         7 5 0
Villanova         6 4 1
South Carolina         6 5 0
Virginia Tech         6 5 0
Army         5 6 0
Florida State         5 6 0
Illinois State         5 6 0
Richmond         5 6 0
West Virginia         5 6 0
Georgia Tech         4 6 1
Temple         4 6 0
Air Force         4 7 0
Dayton         4 7 0
Louisville         4 7 0
Navy         4 7 0
Indiana State         3 7 0
Hawaii         3 8 0
Holy Cross         3 8 0
Miami (FL)         3 8 0
Syracuse         3 8 0
Utah State         3 8 0
Northeast Louisiana         2 9 0
Southern Miss         2 9 0
Tulane         2 9 0
  • North Texas State (originally 6–5–0) awarded a forfeit win after Mississippi State was found to be using an ineligible player.[1]
Rankings from AP Poll

The 1976 Pittsburgh Panthers football team represented the University of Pittsburgh in the 1976 NCAA Division I football season and is recognized as a consensus national champion.[2] Pitt was also awarded the Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy as the best Division I team in the East.

During the 1970s, the top-ranked team won its bowl game only three times: Pittsburgh joined Nebraska (1971) and USC (1972).

Kiosk in the Great Hall at Heinz Field celebrating Pitt's 1976 national championship
A football signed by the 1976 Pittsburgh Panthers football team, including Tony Dorsett and head coach Johnny Majors.

Schedule[edit]

DateTimeOpponentRankSiteTVResultAttendance
September 114:20 pmat No. 11 Notre DameNo. 9ABCW 31–1059,075
September 187:30 pmat Georgia TechNo. 3W 42–1443,424
September 251:30 pmTempleNo. 3W 21–738,500
Sat. Oct. 21:30 pmat DukeNo. 2W 44–3137,200
October 91:30 pmLouisvilleNo. 2
  • Pitt Stadium
  • Pittsburgh, PA
W 27–634,000
October 161:30 pmMiami (FL)No. 2
  • Pitt Stadium
  • Pittsburgh, PA
W 36–1942,434
October 232:00 pmat NavyNo. 2W 45–026,346
October 301:30 pmSyracuseNo. 2
  • Pitt Stadium
  • Pittsburgh, PA (rivalry)
W 23–1350,399
November 61:30 pmArmydaggerNo. 2
  • Pitt Stadium
  • Pittsburgh, PA
W 37–745,753
November 131:30 pmWest VirginiaNo. 1
ABCW 24–1656,500
November 269:00 pmNo. 16 Penn StateNo. 1ABCW 24–750,250
January 112:30 pmvs. No. 5 GeorgiaNo. 1ABCW 27–376,117

Roster[edit]

1976 Pittsburgh Panthers football team roster
Players Coaches
Offense
Pos. # Name Class
C 67 Tom Brzoza Jr
QB 12 Matt Cavanaugh Jr
TE 81 James Corbett Sr
RB 33 Tony Dorsett Sr
RB Jo Jo Heath Fr
QB 10 Robert Haygood Injured Sr
LG 66 George Link Jr
WR 24 Gordon Jones So
WR 19 Randy Reutershan Jr
WR 29 Willie Taylor Jr
FB 34 Elliott Walker Jr
QB Tom Yewcic Sr
Defense
Pos. # Name Class
LB 55 Al Chesley So
DT 75 Ed Gallagher So
DE 70 Randy Holloway Jr
DE 60 Cecil Johnson Sr
CB 31 Bob Jury Jr
DT 78 David Logan So
DT 68 Don Parrish Sr
DE 91 Al Romano Sr
CB 21 J.C. Wilson Jr
Special teams
Pos. # Name Class
P 41 Larry Swider Sr
Head coach
Coordinators/assistant coaches

Legend
  • (C) Team captain
  • (S) Suspended
  • (I) Ineligible
  • Injured Injured
  • Redshirt Redshirt

Coaching staff[edit]

1976 Pittsburgh Panthers football staff
Coaching staff
  • Johnny Majors – head coach
  • Joe Madden – assistant head coach/defensive secondary
  • Joe Avezzano – offensive coordinator/offensive line
  • Bobby Roper – defensive coordinator/defensive line
  • Bill Cox – quarterbacks/receivers
  • Jim Dyar – defensive secondary
  • Larry Holton – defensive ends
  • Harry Jones – offensive backs
  • Bob Matey – middle guards/junior varsity
  Support staff
  • Henry Lee Parker – administrative assistant to the head coach
  • Keith Schroeder – coordinator of computer scouting
  • Ray Olsen – graduate assistant
  • Dave Wannstedt – graduate assistant
  Strength and conditioning staff

Regular season[edit]

The previous season saw Pitt win the Sun Bowl over Kansas for an 8–4 record, highlighted by wins at Georgia and Notre Dame. The stage was set for 1976, with Pitt ranked ninth in the AP preseason poll, for the Panthers to make a run for the national championship.

In the first game of the 1976 season, the Panthers faced off against Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. A year earlier, Tony Dorsett had finished with 303 yards rushing in Pitt's 34–20 victory over the Irish. "They even grew the grass high," said Carmen DeArdo, a diehard Pitt alumnus, "and everyone knew Tony would get the ball." "They didn't let that grass grow long enough," Dorsett said later. He darted 61 yards on his first run of the season and tacked on 120 more by the end of the 31–10 Pitt win.[3][4]

The season continued with a 42–14 win at Georgia Tech and a 36–19 win over Miami. The Panthers traveled to Annapolis on October 23 to face Navy and Dorsett broke the NCAA career rushing record on a 32-yard touchdown run in the 45–0 victory. Dorsett's achievement prompted a mid-game celebration in which even Navy saluted the feat with a cannon blast.[5] Pitt won a tough, hard-fought battle against struggling rival Syracuse.

On November 6, the second-ranked Panthers hosted Army at Pitt Stadium and won handily, but the significant action was taking place several hundred miles west, in West Lafayette, Indiana, where the Purdue Boilermakers held off the top-ranked Michigan Wolverines 16–14 in the closing seconds. The Pitt Stadium crowd erupted in celebration when the stadium public address announcer dramatically gave the final score from Purdue. For the first time in the modern era, Panther fans could legitimately claim, "We're number one!" Pitt defended its ranking in a close Backyard Brawl against West Virginia to go 10–0 heading into the regular season finale on national television against instate rival Penn State (7–3).[6]

At a packed Three Rivers Stadium on the night after Thanksgiving, the Nittany Lions scored first and held Dorsett to 51 yards in the first half; the game was tied at seven at halftime.[7] Majors adjusted for the second half by shifting Dorsett from tailback to fullback, enabling him to explode for an additional 173 yards as Pitt rolled to a 24–7 victory to cap an undefeated regular season.[7][8]

In December, Dorsett became the first (and remains the only) Pitt Panther to win the Heisman Trophy as the nation's best college football player. Dorsett also won the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, and was named UPI Player of the Year. He led the nation in rushing with 1,948 yards and was selected as an All-American. Dorsett finished his college career with 6,082 total rushing yards, then an NCAA record for career rushing.

Sugar Bowl[edit]

The 11–0 Panthers accepted an invitation to the Sugar Bowl to face fifth-ranked Georgia. Pitt defeated the Bulldogs 27–3 and was voted number one by both the Associated Press and Coaches polls, claiming their ninth national championship.[9] This was Pitt's first undefeated national championship since 1937. The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) named Majors the 1976 Coach of the Year. Following this historic season, Majors returned to his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, to take the head coaching job.[10]

Game summaries[edit]

at #11 Notre Dame[edit]

Overall record Last meeting Result
12–29–1 1975 W, 34–20
#9 Pittsburgh Panthers at #11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
1 2 34Total
#9 Pittsburgh 7 14 01031
#11 Notre Dame 7 3 0010

at Notre Dame StadiumNotre Dame, IN

Game information

Statistics

Statistics Pittsburgh Notre Dame
First downs
Total yards
Rushing yards
Passing yards
Turnovers
Time of possession
Team Category Player Statistics
Pittsburgh Passing
Rushing
Receiving
Notre Dame Passing
Rushing
Receiving

at Georgia Tech[edit]

Overall record Last meeting Result
4–2 1974 W, 27–17

Robert Haygood tore knee ligaments in the victory.

#3 Pittsburgh Panthers at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
1 2 34Total
#3 Pittsburgh 7 7 141442
Georgia Tech 0 7 7014

at Grant FieldAtlanta, GA

  • Date: September 18
  • Game time: 7:30 PM EDT
  • Game attendance: 43,424
Game information

Statistics

Statistics Pittsburgh Georgia Tech
First downs
Total yards
Rushing yards
Passing yards
Turnovers
Time of possession
Team Category Player Statistics
Pittsburgh Passing
Rushing
Receiving
Georgia Tech Passing
Rushing
Receiving

Temple[edit]

Overall record Last meeting Result
4–1–1 1975 W, 55–6
Temple Owls at #3 Pittsburgh Panthers
1 2 34Total
Temple 7 0 007
#3 Pittsburgh 0 6 8721

at Pitt StadiumPittsburgh, PA

  • Date: September 25
  • Game time: 1:30 PM EDT
  • Game attendance: 38,500
Game information

Statistics

Statistics Temple Pittsburgh
First downs
Total yards
Rushing yards
Passing yards
Turnovers
Time of possession
Team Category Player Statistics
Temple Passing
Rushing
Receiving
Pittsburgh Passing
Rushing
Receiving

at Duke[edit]

Overall record Last meeting Result
8–8 1975 W, 14–0
#2 Pittsburgh Panthers at Duke Blue Devils
1 2 34Total
#2 Pittsburgh 7 23 14044
Duke 7 0 16831

at Wallace Wade StadiumDurham, NC

  • Date: October 2
  • Game time: 1:30 PM EDT
  • Game attendance: 37,200
Game information

Statistics

Statistics Pittsburgh Duke
First downs
Total yards
Rushing yards
Passing yards
Turnovers
Time of possession
Team Category Player Statistics
Pittsburgh Passing
Rushing
Receiving
Duke Passing
Rushing
Receiving

Louisville[edit]

Overall record Last meeting Result
First meeting
Louisville Cardinals at #2 Pittsburgh Panthers
1 2 34Total
Louisville 0 0 066
#2 Pittsburgh 10 17 0027

at Pitt StadiumPittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Date: October 9
  • Game time: 1:30 PM EDT
  • Game attendance: 34,000
  • [11]
Game information

Matt Cavanaugh sustained a hairline fracture in the left ankle during the first half.

Statistics

Statistics Louisville Pittsburgh
First downs
Total yards
Rushing yards
Passing yards
Turnovers
Time of possession
Team Category Player Statistics
Louisville Passing
Rushing
Receiving
Pittsburgh Passing
Rushing
Receiving

Miami (FL)[edit]

Overall record Last meeting Result
7–7–1 1970 W, 28–17
Miami (FL) Hurricanes at #2 Pittsburgh Panthers
1 2 34Total
Miami (FL) 0 0 61319
#2 Pittsburgh 9 13 01436

at Pitt StadiumPittsburgh, PA

  • Date: October 16
  • Game time: 1:30 PM EDT
  • Game attendance: 42,434
Game information

Statistics

Statistics Miami (FL) Pittsburgh
First downs
Total yards
Rushing yards
Passing yards
Turnovers
Time of possession
Team Category Player Statistics
Miami (FL) Passing
Rushing
Receiving
Pittsburgh Passing
Rushing
Receiving

at Navy[edit]

Overall record Last meeting Result
12–10–2 1975 L, 0–17
#2 Pittsburgh Panthers at Navy Midshipmen
1 2 34Total
#2 Pittsburgh 7 7 102145
Navy 0 0 000

at Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland

  • Date: October 23
  • Game time: 2:00 PM EDT
  • Game attendance: 26,346
Game information

Statistics

Statistics Pittsburgh Navy
First downs
Total yards
Rushing yards
Passing yards
Turnovers
Time of possession
Team Category Player Statistics
Pittsburgh Passing
Rushing
Receiving
Navy Passing
Rushing
Receiving

Syracuse[edit]

Overall record Last meeting Result
16–13–1 1975 W, 38–0
Syracuse Orangemen at #2 Pittsburgh Panthers
1 2 34Total
Syracuse 7 0 6013
#2 Pittsburgh 3 7 7623

at Pitt StadiumPittsburgh, PA

  • Date: October 30
  • Game time: 1:30 PM EDT
  • Game attendance: 50,399
Game information

Statistics

Statistics Syracuse Pittsburgh
First downs
Total yards
Rushing yards
Passing yards
Turnovers
Time of possession
Team Category Player Statistics
Syracuse Passing
Rushing
Receiving
Pittsburgh Passing
Rushing
Receiving

Army[edit]

Overall record Last meeting Result
11–6–2 1975 W, 52–20
Army Cadets at #2 Pittsburgh Panthers
1 2 34Total
Army 0 0 707
#2 Pittsburgh 3 10 21337

at Pitt StadiumPittsburgh, PA

  • Date: November 6
  • Game time: 1:30 PM EST
  • Game attendance: 45,753
Game information

Statistics

Statistics Army Pittsburgh
First downs
Total yards
Rushing yards
Passing yards
Turnovers
Time of possession
Team Category Player Statistics
Army Passing
Rushing
Receiving
Pittsburgh Passing
Rushing
Receiving

West Virginia[edit]

Overall record Last meeting Result
43–17–1 1975 L, 14–17
West Virginia Mountaineers at #1 Pittsburgh Panthers
1 2 34Total
West Virginia 3 0 7616
#1 Pittsburgh 7 7 3724

at Pitt StadiumPittsburgh, PA

Game information

Statistics

Statistics West Virginia Pittsburgh
First downs 15 25
Total yards 169 399
Rushing yards 99 350
Passing yards 70 49
Turnovers 1 5
Time of possession
Team Category Player Statistics
West Virginia Passing
Rushing
Receiving
Pittsburgh Passing
Rushing
Receiving

vs. #16 Penn State[edit]

Overall record Last meeting Result
35–36–3 1975 L, 6–7
#1 Pittsburgh Panthers vs. #16 Penn State Nittany Lions
1 2 34Total
#1 Pittsburgh 0 7 71024
#16 Penn State 7 0 007

at Three Rivers StadiumPittsburgh, PA

Game information

Statistics

Statistics Pittsburgh Penn State
First downs
Total yards
Rushing yards
Passing yards
Turnovers
Time of possession
Team Category Player Statistics
Pittsburgh Passing
Rushing
Receiving
Penn State Passing
Rushing
Receiving

vs. #5 Georgia (Sugar Bowl)[edit]

Overall record Last meeting Result
1–0–1 1975 W, 19–9
1977 Sugar Bowl: #1 Pittsburgh Panthers vs. #5 Georgia Bulldogs
1 2 34Total
#1 Pittsburgh 7 14 3327
#5 Georgia 0 0 303

at Louisiana SuperdomeNew Orleans, LA

Game information

Statistics

Statistics Pittsburgh Georgia
First downs 24 14
Total yards 480 181
Rushing yards 288 135
Passing yards 192 46
Turnovers 1 6
Time of possession
Team Category Player Statistics
Pittsburgh Passing Matt Cavanaugh 10/18, 192 yards, 1 TD
Rushing Tony Dorsett 32 carries, 202 yards, 1 TD
Receiving Willie Taylor 4 receptions, 72 yards
Georgia Passing
Rushing
Receiving

Team players drafted into the NFL[edit]

Player Position Round Pick NFL Club
Tony Dorsett Running back 1 2 Dallas Cowboys
Larry Swider Punter 7 185 Denver Broncos
Jim Corbett Tight end 7 194 Cincinnati Bengals
Al Romano Defensive lineman 11 289 Houston Oilers
Carson Long Kicker 11 302 Los Angeles Rams
Don Parrish Defensive end 12 314 Atlanta Falcons

[12]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Tony Dorsett, Heisman Trophy [13]
  • Tony Dorsett, Walter Camp Award[14]
  • Tony Dorsett, Maxwell Award
  • Tony Dorsett, led the nation in rushing with 1,948 yards
  • Tony Dorsett, All-America selection

Media[edit]

Radio[edit]

Flagship station Play-by-play Color commentator Sideline reporter Studio host
WTAE–AM 1250 Bill Hillgrove John Sauer

References[edit]

  1. ^ https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/years/1976-standings.html
  2. ^ Official 2009 NCAA Division I Football Records Book (PDF). Indianapolis: The National Collegiate Athletic Association. August 2009. p. 85. Retrieved 2009-10-16.
  3. ^ "CNNSI.com – College Football – Heisman Heroes – Suzuki presents Heisman Heroes: Tony Dorsett – Friday August 25, 2000 01:29 PM". CNN.
  4. ^ Gorman, Kevin (2008-10-30). "Pitt-Notre Dame series produces phenomenal performances". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Archived from the original on 2013-01-04. Retrieved 2010-04-29.
  5. ^ "Tony Dorsett No. 1". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). Associated Press. October 24, 1976. p. 77.
  6. ^ Axelrod, Phil (November 26, 1976). "Pitt, State, maybe Tennessee". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 18.
  7. ^ a b Parascenzo, Marino (November 27, 1976). "Panthers claw Nittany Lions, 24-7". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 1.
  8. ^ Mackin, Mike (2008-06-12). "Let's Learn From the Past: The 1976 Pitt Panthers". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2010-04-29.
  9. ^ "Yearly National Championship Selections: 1976 National Championships". College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved 2009-04-15.
  10. ^ Fitzgerald, Francis J., ed. (1996). The Year the Panthers Roared. Louisville, Kentucky: AdCraft Sports. ISBN 1-887761-06-3.
  11. ^ "Pitt loses quarterback, but Dorsett nears record." Eugene Register-Guard. 1976 Oct 10. Retrieved 2018-Dec-30.
  12. ^ https://www.pro-football-reference.com/draft/1977.htm
  13. ^ "1976 – 42nd Award Tony Dorsett Pittsburgh Back". HeismanTrophy.com. Archived from the original on 2013-10-04. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
  14. ^ http://collegefootball.about.com/od/collegefootballawards/a/award-camp.htm

Further information[edit]

External links[edit]

Video

  • 1976 Pitt at Notre Dame complete game video on YouTube: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
  • 1977 Sugar Bowl, Pitt vs Georgia for the national championship, first half video on YouTube: Part 1