Penn State–Pittsburgh football rivalry

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The Beast of the East
First meetingNovember 6, 1893
Penn State 32, Pittsburgh 0
Latest meetingSeptember 14, 2019
Penn State 17, Pittsburgh 10
TrophySpalding Trophy (former)
Meetings total100
All-time seriesPenn State leads, 53–43–4[1]
Longest win streakPittsburgh, 14 (1922–38)
Current win streakPenn State, 3
Locations of Penn State and Pittsburgh

The Penn State–Pittsburgh football rivalry is a long-standing American college football rivalry between the Penn State Nittany Lions and Pittsburgh Panthers. As of the 2019 season, the teams have played 100 times. Penn State has not played more games against any other opponent, whereas Pitt has only played more against West Virginia University. After the rivalry resumed in 2016, it was branded "The Keystone Classic" with Peoples Natural Gas as its corporate sponsor.[2]

Penn State won 12 of the first 15, but Pitt dominated afterwards, going 21-2–2 (1913–40). Pitt at one point won 14 straight times (1922–38). Pitt coach Jock Sutherland never lost to Penn State (1924–38). From 1941 to 1951, the rivalry was much more even, as Pitt went 6–5 against Penn State in that span. From 1960 on, Penn State has dominated, going 30–10–1, including wins in ten of the last twelve games. Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno went 23–7–1 against Pitt (1966–92, 1997–2000).

Series history[edit]

Pitt versus Penn State at Pitt Stadium on November 27, 1958

Once considered one of the most important college football rivalries north of the Mason–Dixon line, this intrastate rivalry was deemed the biggest annual game for both schools for a large part of their histories.[3] The game often had regional and national implications with the winner often claiming Eastern college football supremacy and its respective Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy.[4]

The first game was played on November 6, 1893, in State College, PA, with Penn State prevailing 32–0. Penn State won the first six meetings. This was also the first game to be played in Old Beaver Field.

Pitt's first victory in the series occurred on November 24, 1904, in Pittsburgh, 22–5.

The 1963 game was originally scheduled for Saturday, November 23, but was postponed to December 7 following the assassination of John F. Kennedy the day before. The once-beaten Panthers were being touted as a possible Cotton Bowl participant, but the bowl representatives expressed desire to invite Pitt only if they had one loss. With the game postponed until December 7, the Cotton Bowl could not wait. Pitt beat Penn State 22–21, finishing the season 9–1, with no bowl.

The 1976 game pitted undefeated Pitt, ranked number one in the nation, against Penn State at Three Rivers Stadium on the night after Thanksgiving, November 26. The score was tied 7–7 at the half. Pitt's coach Johnny Majors moved Tony Dorsett to fullback for the second half, and the Panthers went on to win 24–7, finishing the regular season 11–0, on their way to a Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia and their first National Championship in 39 years.

1998 game at Pitt Stadium

The 1981 game was one for the ages. Pitt was once again undefeated at 10–0 and number one in the nation, ready to claim the title, "Beast of the East". The Nittany Lions had other ideas when they came to Pitt Stadium on November 28. The game featured two junior quarterbacks, Dan Marino for Pitt and Todd Blackledge for Penn State. Pitt went up 14–0 in the first quarter; Penn State tied it at 14 at the half. The second half belonged to Penn State, scoring 34 second-half points while holding the Panthers scoreless. The 48–14 final cost Pitt a chance for its second national title in five years.

The 1982 game again featured two of the nation's best teams. Pitt had been ranked preseason #1, but had lost to Notre Dame to enter the game at 9–1. Penn State also entered the game 9–1, having lost only to Alabama. Again, it would be Marino vs. Blackledge in their last regular season game at a windswept Beaver Stadium. Penn State prevailed 19–10 on the strength of one Blackledge touchdown pass to Kenny Jackson, four field goals and a tenacious defense, and was on its way to a Sugar Bowl upset of Georgia, earning its first National Championship.

The rivalry began a slow death in the 1990s when both schools left the ranks of college football independents and chose to join different conferences. Penn State accepted an invitation to join the Big Ten Conference while Pitt's football program joined the Big East Conference (who had rejected Penn State's application to join by a single vote in 1982[5]) where the majority of the school's athletic programs already participated. The conference affiliations of the two previously independent football programs resulted in fewer scheduling opportunities.

The last game prior to the series hiatus was played at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on September 16, 2000, when Pitt shut out Penn State 12–0. The desire of the Penn State Athletic Department to host an unbalanced number of home games (proposing 2–1 and 3–2 series) at Beaver Stadium was a significant factor in not agreeing to renew the series.[6] The basis for this request stemmed from the fact that of the 96 games played by the two teams at the time, only 23 occurred in Happy Valley.

During the years the rivalry was dormant, both schools went through a major transformation. At Pitt, the school's basketball program became more prominent at the expense of the football team, seen most notably by the placement of the Petersen Events Center in the footprint of old Pitt Stadium. While the football team's attendance remained comparable after moving to Heinz Field in 2001 (almost 45,500 at Pitt Stadium in its final years and almost 42,000 at Heinz Field), it often appears empty due to the venue's much higher capacity (56,500 at Pitt Stadium and 68,400 at Heinz Field).[7] This became more pronounced after Pitt joined the Atlantic Coast Conference and especially after West Virginia University joined the Big 12 Conference, also putting the Backyard Brawl on hold. Since moving to Heinz Field, years Pitt hosted the Backyard Brawl were among the few times Pitt filled Heinz Field, mostly due to the influx of WVU fans making the 70-mile trip up Interstate 79 from Morgantown, West Virginia and other parts of the state in addition to the large amount of WVU alumni in Western Pennsylvania.[8] Meanwhile, the Penn State child sex abuse scandal was made public, leading to Pitt fans to chant "Joe Knew" as a reference to longtime head coach Joe Paterno allegedly knowing about the allegations but not reporting it to police. This, as well as other general insults, has gained some controversy among sports fans, including Pitt students and alumni.[9][10]

The rivalry was renewed after 16 years of dormancy for the 2016 season under the Keystone Classic moniker.[11] This game was the first of a four-game series from 2016–19, with the teams playing at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2018, while battling at Beaver Stadium in State College in 2017 and 2019.[12]

In 2016, Pitt went up 28–7 during the second quarter. Penn State rallied back during the second half, but was still down 42–39 late in the fourth quarter. In the final minutes, the Nittany Lions drove the ball almost within field goal range before going for a deep pass in the end zone. Quarterback Trace McSorley's pass was intercepted, effectively ending the game. The loss was cited as a key reason the Nittany Lions failed to make the College Football Playoff.[13] This game became the largest attended sporting event in the history of the city of Pittsburgh.[14]

In 2017, Penn State won by a score of 33–14. After going up early off the back of an opening-drive interception, the Nittany Lions never surrendered the lead. The recorded attendance was 109,898, the tenth largest (seventh largest at that time) ever at Beaver Stadium and the largest since 2009.[15] This was also the largest crowd to ever attend a game in the series. The renewal has been highly successful, showcasing competitive games and setting major attendance records in its first two years.

In late April 2018, Pitt athletic director, Heather Lyke, was reported to have sent a proposal to her Penn State counterpart, Sandy Barbour, regarding a four-game series renewal in 2026. This would come after much discussion between both universities and athletic directors. As the Nittany Lions have yet to fill their non-conference Power Five slot for that season, this would be the first opportunity for the two to play again. However, a couple weeks later in May, Barbour stated that she had yet to sign the proposal, calling non-conference scheduling a “complicated puzzle.” Because of the Big Ten's nine conference games requirement, Penn State has a smaller degree of flexibility for scheduling compared to Pitt, as the ACC only has an eight conference game schedule. Barbour went on to say that both she and Lyke had agreed that the universities were unlikely to do something presently and that they were looking at post-2030 for a series renewal.[16]

The 2018 game in Pittsburgh had long been rumored to be a nationally televised, prime time, night game. This was further supported when the Pittsburgh Pirates of the MLB changed the start time of their game at PNC Park on September 8 from 7:05 p.m. to 1:05 p.m.[17] On May 16, Pitt and Penn State announced that the game would officially be played at night. In the rain and wind caused by the wake of Tropical Storm Gordon, Penn State prevailed 51–6. This was the first night game in the series since 1987.[18]

In a game only fitting for their 100th meeting, Pitt and Penn State exchanged scores in the first half after a delay due to severe weather. After the Nittany Lions struck first with a touchdown in the first quarter, the Panthers answered with ten points in the second. In the waning seconds of the half, Penn State drove the ball into enemy territory and within field goal range. However, a sack by Pitt moved them back considerably to bring up fourth and long. With little chance of converting, the Nittany Lions elected to attempt a school record 57-yard field goal. Kicker Jordan Stout punched it through the middle of the uprights to tie the game going into halftime, breaking the record. The second half was marked with both big offensive breaks and strong defensive stands. Penn State notched the sole score of the third quarter to go up 17-10. However, after converting on multiple fourth downs and third and longs, the Panthers threatened to tie the game up late in the fourth quarter. With less than six and a half minutes remaining in the game, Pitt converted on 2nd and 19 to get the ball to the Penn State 1 yardline, almost scoring in the process. The Nittany Lions would hold the line and force 4th and 1 with less than five minutes left in the game. Pitt's head coach, Pat Narduzzi, controversially elected to attempt a 19-yard field goal. Kicker Alex Kessman, who had set a school record four 50+ yard field goals the season prior, kicked the ball off the left upright of the goalpost. The Panther's defense would hold up the Nittany Lions on the ensuing drive once again, forcing them to punt and giving their offense one last chance to score. After starting on their own 16 yardline, Pitt drove the ball deep into enemy territory. After gaining a first down in the last few seconds, there was confusion over the game clock, which failed to stop for the ball to be set after the conversion. The clock would run out to 0, leading the Nittany Lions and most of Beaver Stadium to think the game was over. The officials were then forced to clear the teams off the field and back onto the sidelines, announcing the error over the speakers and asking for five seconds back on the clock. This would become six seconds, and later nine, after further review, leaving a confused crowd on the edge of their seats for one last play in regulation. Kenny Pickett's pass would fall incomplete, ending the game and the renewed series (for the time being) with a 17-10 Penn State victory.

Game results[edit]

Penn State victoriesPittsburgh victoriesTie games
1 November 6, 1893 State College Penn State 32–0
2 October 3, 1896 State College Penn State 10–4
3 September 30, 1900 Bellefonte Penn State 12–0
4 September 29, 1901 Bellefonte Penn State 27–0
5 September 27, 1902 State College Penn State 27–0
6 October 24, 1903 Pittsburgh Penn State 59–0
7 November 24, 1904 Pittsburgh W.U.P. 22–5
8 November 30, 1905 Pittsburgh Penn State 6–0
9 November 29, 1906 Pittsburgh Penn State 6–0
10 November 28, 1907 Pittsburgh W.U.P. 6–0
11 November 26, 1908 Pittsburgh Penn State 12–6
12 November 25, 1909 Pittsburgh Penn State 5–0
13 November 24, 1910 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 11–0
14 November 30, 1911 Pittsburgh Penn State 3–0
15 November 28, 1912 Pittsburgh Penn State 38–0
16 November 27, 1913 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 7–6
17 November 26, 1914 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 13–3
18 November 25, 1915 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 20–0
19 November 30, 1916 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 31–0
20 November 29, 1917 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 28–6
21 November 28, 1918 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 28–6
22 November 27, 1919 Pittsburgh Penn State 20–0
23 November 25, 1920 Pittsburgh Tie0–0
24 November 24, 1921 Pittsburgh Tie0–0
25 November 30, 1922 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 14–0
26 November 29, 1923 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 20–3
27 November 27, 1924 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 24–3
28 November 26, 1925 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 23–7
29 November 25, 1926 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 24–6
30 November 24, 1927 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 30–0
31 November 29, 1928 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 26–0
32 November 28, 1929 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 20–7
33 November 26, 1930 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 19–12
34 October 31, 1931 State College Pittsburgh 41–6
35 October 26, 1935 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 9–0
36 November 7, 1936 Pittsburgh #5 Pittsburgh 34–7
37 November 20, 1937 Pittsburgh #1 Pittsburgh 28–7
38 November 19, 1938 Pittsburgh #5 Pittsburgh 26–0
39 November 25, 1939 State College Penn State 10–0
40 November 23, 1940 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 20–7
41 November 22, 1941 Pittsburgh Penn State 31–7
42 November 21, 1942 State College Penn State 14–6
43 November 20, 1943 Pittsburgh Penn State 14–0
44 November 25, 1944 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 14–0
45 November 24, 1945 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 7–0
46 November 23, 1946 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 14–7
47 November 22, 1947 Pittsburgh #5 Penn State 29–0
48 November 20, 1948 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 7–0
49 November 19, 1949 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 19–0
50 December 3, 1950 Pittsburgh Penn State 21–20
51 November 14, 1951 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 13–7
52 November 22, 1952 Pittsburgh Penn State 17–0
53 November 21, 1953 Pittsburgh Penn State 17–0
54 November 20, 1954 Pittsburgh Penn State 13–0
55 November 19, 1955 State College #15 Pittsburgh 20–0
56 November 24, 1956 Pittsburgh Tie7–7
57 November 23, 1957 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 14–13
58 November 27, 1958 Pittsburgh Penn State 25–21
59 November 21, 1959 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 22–7
60 November 19, 1960 Pittsburgh Penn State 14–3
61 November 25, 1961 Pittsburgh Penn State 47–26
62 November 24, 1962 Pittsburgh #9 Penn State 16–0
63 December 7, 1963 Pittsburgh #4 Pittsburgh 22–21
64 November 21, 1964 Pittsburgh Penn State 28–0
65 November 20, 1965 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 30–27
66 November 19, 1966 Pittsburgh Penn State 48–24
67 November 25, 1967 State College Penn State 42–6
68 November 23, 1968 Pittsburgh #3 Penn State 65–9
69 November 22, 1969 Pittsburgh #4 Penn State 27–7
70 November 21, 1970 State College #20 Penn State 35–15
71 November 20, 1971 Pittsburgh #6 Penn State 55–18
72 November 25, 1972 State College #6 Penn State 49–27
73 November 24, 1973 State College #6 Penn State 35–13
74 November 28, 1974 Pittsburgh #10 Penn State 31–10
75 November 22, 1975 Pittsburgh #10 Penn State 7–6
76 November 26, 1976 Pittsburgh #1 Pittsburgh 24–7
77 November 26, 1977 Pittsburgh #9 Penn State 15–13
78 November 24, 1978 State College #1 Penn State 17–10
79 December 1, 1979 State College #11 Pittsburgh 29–14
80 November 28, 1980 State College #4 Pittsburgh 14–9
81 November 28, 1981 Pittsburgh #11 Penn State 48–14
82 November 26, 1982 State College #2 Penn State 19–10
83 November 19, 1983 Pittsburgh Tie24–24
84 November 24, 1984 State College Pittsburgh 31–11
85 November 23, 1985 Pittsburgh #1 Penn State 31–0
86 November 22, 1986 State College #1 Penn State 34–14
87 November 14, 1987 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 10–0
88 November 12, 1988 State College Pittsburgh 14–7
89 November 25, 1989 Pittsburgh #22 Penn State 16–13
90 November 24, 1990 State College #11 Penn State 22–17
91 November 28, 1991 Pittsburgh #6 Penn State 32–20
92 November 21, 1992 State College #23 Penn State 57–13
93 September 6, 1997 State College #1 Penn State 34–17
94 September 19, 1998 Pittsburgh #8 Penn State 20–13
95 September 11, 1999 State College #2 Penn State 20–17
96 September 16, 2000 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 12–0
97 September 10, 2016 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 42–39
98 September 9, 2017 State College #4 Penn State 33–14
99 September 8, 2018 Pittsburgh #13 Penn State 51–6
100 September 14, 2019 State College #13 Penn State 17–10
Series: Penn State leads 53–43–4[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Winsipedia - Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Pittsburgh Panthers football series history". Winsipedia.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Panaccio, Tim (1982). Beast of the East: Penn State vs. Pitt: a game-by-game history of America's greatest football rivalry. West Point, NY: Leisure Press. ISBN 0-88011-068-6.
  4. ^ Fittipaldo, Ray (2011-06-14). "Pitt, Penn State to renew football rivalry in 2016". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh, PA. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
  5. ^ Chi, Samuel (March 21, 2014). "How Penn State Could've Saved Big East Football". Bleacher Report. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  6. ^ Cook, Ron (August 30, 2004). "Pitt-Penn State series is bigger than Paterno". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
  7. ^ "Breakdown of Pitt Football Attendance - Part I". Cardiac Hill. June 9, 2014.
  8. ^ "/ccpa/".
  9. ^ Writer, Dan Sostek / Senior Staff (September 9, 2016). "Sandusky saga has no place in Pitt-Penn State rivalry".
  10. ^ "Pitt fans wore 'JoePa Knew' shirts in game vs. Penn State".
  11. ^ "Pitt-Penn State Series Tagged as the Keystone Classic". Pitt Panthers #H2P.
  12. ^ "Penn State and Pitt to Renew Football Rivalry From 2016–19". Penn State Official Athletic Site. December 7, 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-07.
  13. ^ "Why Penn State is in the Rose Bowl and not the Playoff, despite winning the Big Ten". Vox Media, SB Nation. January 2, 2017. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  14. ^ "Pitt-Penn State Game Draws Record Crowds". CBS Pittsburgh. September 10, 2016. Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  15. ^ "109,898 IN ATTENDANCE FOR PITT-PENN STATE RANKS SEVENTH ALL-TIME IN BEAVER STADIUM HISTORY". Basement Media Works, Roar Lions Roar. September 9, 2017. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  16. ^ "Penn State-Pitt series' future 'a complicated puzzle' that may not be solved before 2030". Land of 10. May 8, 2018. Retrieved 2018-05-09.
  17. ^ "Penn State football will play night game at Pitt in 2018, according to Pittsburgh Pirates". Land of 10. April 13, 2018. Retrieved 2018-05-09.
  18. ^ "Pitt-Penn State football game gets prime-time kickoff". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. May 16, 2018. Retrieved 2018-05-22.