After spending much of the past week playing down the nature of the contentious matchup with Pitt, the Nittany Lions opened up following Penn State’s 33-14 win on their thoughts of the treatment from Pitt they received during last year’s showdown at Heinz Field.
“I did not like the disrespect Pitt had for Penn State [last year],” redshirt sophomore defensive end Shareef Miller said. “I took this game real personal.”
Pitt took down the Nittany Lions in a back-and-forth battle last year that ended with a Trace McSorley interception in the end zone on the final drive of the game with Penn State trailing 41-38.
The loss played a role in the Nittany Lions just missing out on the College Football Playoff — finishing the season at No. 5. The matchup was the first between the two in-state foes in 16 years.
“They were just too excited,” Penn State star running back Saquon Barkley said. “It was week two and they acted like they won the national championship. They held on to that win the whole season.”
A couple Penn State players also took offense to the treatment from Pitt’s fans that they received following the loss.
“The only thing I felt disrespected last year about realistically was just how the Pitt fans reacted,” Barkley said. “I think there’s a point where you can take it to, and I think they took it too far.
“It was on social media, for one,” Miller said. “Last year walking out of that stadium, the fans, all the type of stuff they said when we walked off. I ain’t ever going to forget that.”
Wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton may have taken the most heat following the loss. Prior to McSorley’s interception on the final drive, Hamilton dropped a pass in open field that likely would have gone for a touchdown to give the Nittany Lions the lead.
For the redshirt senior who is just 13 catches away from the Penn State career receptions record, he is excited to get the result today, but wishes things could have been different last year.
“I would’ve liked it to have been last year,” Hamilton said.
“I’m not really dwelling on the past or anything like that, but this one feels good,” Hamilton said.
Much like it did last season, Pitt billed this game as its big rivalry heading into the weekend — with the team’s head coach Pat Narduzzi talking up the big game nature, while also holding his players from the media and closing practice sessions.
In senior safety Marcus Allen’s eyes, this matchup doesn’t live up to that type of buildup.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a rivalry, to be honest,” Allen said. “We came into this game prepared, and ready to play. Of course, any team that beat us we’d want to get back at them, but I wouldn’t say it’s a rivalry.”
Penn State head coach James Franklin was not willing to buy in to his opponent’s grudge either, saying all week that this game is no more important than the other games on the schedule.
Well, some things never change.
“For their win last year it was like winning the Super Bowl,” Franklin said. “For us this year, it was like beating Akron.”