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It’s Always Big When Penn State Beats Pitt

by on September 09, 2017 10:00 PM

It wasn't a Big Ten game.

But Penn State's 33-14 victory over Pitt on Saturday was big.

109,898 big.

Biggest crowd in the series' 98-game series — home or away, in Three Rivers, Heinz Field or Beaver Stadium — big. (The old record: 97,115 at The Beav in 1997.)

Bigger than the crowd for the 2016 Ohio State scoop & score big.

Long car lines that pushed near #unrivaled parking back-ups into the nether regions of Penn State's cow pastures a mile-and-a-half walk to the stadium big.

One of the crazier Friday nights in downtown State College in recent memory big.

Revenge for the Nittany Lions' 42-39 loss last year at Heinz, punctuated by poor-mouthing from Panthers' fan and shade-throwing from the likes of Tony Dorsett on the Penn State players' minds big.

With big chips — albeit largely unseen to the outside world leading up to The Big Game — on their shoulders big.

"I'll never forget last year walking out of that stadium, the fans and the types of stuff they said when we walked off," PSU defensive end Shareef Miller said on Saturday after the game. "I won't ever forget that."

That memory loomed large for Miller, who responded with the biggest game of his life — with two sacks and a 2.5 tackles for a loss, 17 minus yards in all. Miller was part of a defense that gamely withstood 86 Pitt plays, and came up big in the red zone, when it mattered most, holding Pitt to field goals of 24 and 28 yards in the game's first 50 minutes while the Penn State offense alternately limped then sprinted to a 28-6 lead.

It was the first time Penn State hosted Pitt in Beaver Stadium since 1999 and the crowd acted like it. The Nittany Lions' 24-21 victory over Ohio State in Beaver Stadium last year may have bigger in some ways, but for the baby boomers who are Penn Staters this game was big, too.

Bigger than Akron was.

Bigger than Georgia State will be.

That's why Penn State unveiled the "2016" along the stadium's east side, to commemorate the team's Big Ten championship, on Saturday and not during the season-opener last week, which is traditionally the case. And why the 1982 national championship team was recognized over the weekend, its 35th anniversary. The core of that group was at the heart of the 1981 team that feel behind 14-0 to No. 1 Pitt on the road, only to score 48 consecutive points to win 48-14. A nice two bits of understated shade.

The day was so big, in fact, that Todd Blackledge, Penn State's '82 star quarterback-turned-star broadcaster, lobbied his bosses at ABC to be in the booth to call the game. Blackledge was 29-3 as a starter, and 2-1 against Pitt. He lost 14-9 to the Panthers in 1980, but his '81 win over Pitt cost them the national title and his '82 win paved the way for PSU's first national title.

To him, Pitt will always be big.

For Penn State in the present, the victory was big — in a dominating way. Now, Penn State fans can truly say what James Franklin said on the day he was hired, back on Jan, 11, 2014 — Penn State truly dominates the state (completing the Temple-Pitt quinella on the field; off the field, Franklin dominated the recruiting in full and complete fashion). Again.

Miller wasn't the Penn State player for whom Pitt was it.

"No one is naive," Penn State senior safety Marcus Allen said after the game. Allen has Pittsburgh roots. His father grew up in Homewood and thus Marcus spent summers visiting his grandparents. His grandmother died in the winter of 2016 and his grandfather passed away days before the 2016 contest.

"Guys had grudges, chips on shoulders coming in to this game," said Allen, who had a dozen tackles, nine of them solo. Big, right? "I definitely did, due to my grandmother passing and not being able to see this game last year. I took that to heart."

A big heart, at that.

Which always helps in a big game.

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
Next Article
Even Not At Their Best, Nittany Lions Still Better Than Most, And Pitt In 33-14 Win
September 09, 2017 9:10 PM
by Ben Jones
Even Not At Their Best, Nittany Lions Still Better Than Most, And Pitt In 33-14 Win
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