PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Pitt found a variety of ways — 57, perhaps? — to lose to Penn State here at Heinz Field.
And in the end, Pitt could only blame ittself.
And itts head coach.
Patt Narduzzi did, after all.
“First thing I want to do is apologize to the Pitt Nation out there,” the Pitt head coach said after losing 51-6 to Penn State in the rain here Saturday night. “That was not Pitt football right there.”
In the second half, the Panthers yielded 37 unanswered points.
And minutes after the second half ended, Narduzzi answered for the trainwreck that was Pitt football for the final 30 minutes.
“Even being down eight points at the halftime,” Narduzzi said, "I walked in and said, ‘Guys, we didn't do anything right, missed extra points, missed field goals.’ Obviously, we had a holder issue with injury” as regular Pitt holder Jake Scarton was out, and was replaced by punter Kirk Christodoulou.
“But,” Narduzzi continued, “ultimately everything lays right on my chest. I'll take it all. We obviously didn't have them ready to go in any capacity — offensively, defensively or special teams. I thought field position was major. I've never seen so many penalties in one game. It starts with my 15-yarder. But 14 penalties, embarrassing, and there were some good calls, too.
“I'm not saying the officiating was bad. We just had some stuff that just snowballed on us. It starts with me.”
In many ways, Pitt dominated the first half, even though Penn State led 14-6 at halftime.
But just as Narduzzi shot off his mouth in the days leading up to the penultimate and 99th game of the in-state series, the Panthers shot themselves in the foot. Again, again and again.
And, in that way, it was proof positive that a team is an extension of its coach.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
How many different ways did Pitt make a Nar(doozy) of a bad decision that led to no points for Pitt or points for Penn State?
Answer: At least three:
A failed fourth-and-3 from the 4 when a field goal would have given the Panthers a 9-7 lead; a deep shot intercepted by Amani Oruwariye when Pitt had driven 49 yards on the ground; and a pass play out of Pitt’s own end zone that ended up in a hold and a safety.
How many times did Pitt’s punter, that kid named Kirk, from Australia make a Christodouloubooboo?
Answer: Three, to be exact (or, inexact):
A bobbled hold by Christodoulou on a failed PAT, a bobbled hold by him again on a failed 35-yard field goal and a dropped punt snap by him again that led to a lost fumble, which three plays later led to a K.J. Hamler touchdown.
Then there was Pitt’s five-yard penalty for having 12 players in the field, which was paired with a warning issued to Narduzzi for yelling at the referees.
Which was followed by Narduzzi’s 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for yelling at the referees.
And itt was downhill after thatt.
The Panthers never scored another point.
And that’s the points. Or, in Penn State’s case, 37 more points. James Franklin’s squad kept grinding and Pitt did not.
After rushing for 214 yards (and passing for just 17) in the first half, Pitt’s offense had negative 2 yards on 12 plays in the third quarter as Penn State extended its lead to 30-6, then 37-6. Then 44-6. Then 51-6.
Overall, Pitt had 14 penalties for 116 yards and three turnovers. (Penn State had 4 for 45 and two turnovers.)
As much as Pitt was in the game in the first 30 minutes they were out of it in the final 30. They lost their focus, their fight, their voice, their pride and their head coach as State dominated their fate.
SALTING IT AWAY
In the second half, the Pitt offense had just 69 total yards on 39 plays, with only five first downs and failing to convert six third downs.
Defensively, the Panthers couldn’t stop the Nittany Lion offense as five different Penn Staters not named K.J. Hamler — who scored both of Penn State’s TDs in the first half, on a 32-yard run and a 14-yard TD pass from Trace McSorley — had touchdowns: McSorley, on a 4-yard run; DeAndre Thompkins, on a 39-yard punt return; Mac Hippenhammer, on an 11-yard pass from McSorley; Mark Allen, on a 4-yard run; and Brandon Polk, on a 34-yard TD pass from back-up quarterback Sean Clifford.
To rub salt in their wound, Pittsburgh native Miles Sanders ran for the first 100-yard game of his PSU career, carrying 16 times for 118 yards.
And to rub further salt in Narduzzi’s wound, with Penn State ahead 44-6, Clifford connected with Polk with just 261 seconds left on the clock — giving the Nittany Lions one point more than half a hundred.
Combined with Penn State’s 33-14 victory over Pitt in Beaver Stadium, the lopsided win gave the Nittany Lions an 84-20 advantage in its last two games against the Panthers.
The 45-point margin of victory was Penn State’s biggest in the series since 1968, when Penn State beat Pitt 65-9. And it was the most points Penn State has scored against Pitt since 1992, when the Nittany Lions won 57-13.
Next year’s Penn State-Pitt game in Sept. 14 in Beaver Stadium concludes the series, at least for awhile, at game No. 100.