This past weekend, a state and local football rivalry was renewed. The Pitt Panthers and Penn State Nittany Lions are no strangers to each other…but if you’ve been paying attention to recent history, you wouldn’t know that.
Pitt and Penn State did not disappoint, as the Panthers pulled out an exciting 42-39 win at Heinz Field. This was the first meeting in 16 years between the two in-state rivals. The last was played at…wait for it…Three Rivers Stadium on September 16th, 2000. Much to the chagrin of PSU students and alum, the Panthers won that game as well, recording a 12-0 shutout in what was to be the last of the Penn State-Pittsburgh football series.
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. The game often had regional and national implications with the winner often claiming Eastern college football supremacy and its respective Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy.
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 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.
Due to scheduling conflicts (among other issues), the annual game was suspended indefinitely after the 2000 meeting. Over the course of it’s 96 game original span, PSU led the series 50-42-4. But, we all know he or she who laughs last laughs the loudest, and Pitt’s 2000 win gave the Panthers bragging rights for the past 16 years.
Which brings us to this past weekend. A rivalry renewed. PSU’s 16 year nightmare was sure to come to an end at Heinz Field, right? Well, the Panthers had other plans, as The University of Pittsburgh decided to bookend the series drought with another surprising win. We love you, Penn State, but we love the Panthers a tiny bit more. Until next year…we’ll keep smiling. 🙂
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