As One Classic Penn State Rivalry Goes Into Hibernation, Another One Prepares To Reawaken
When the final horn at Beaver Stadium blares on September 14, 2019, Penn State will have played its last down against in-state foe Pitt for the foreseeable future, after what has already shaped up to be an exciting four-year match-up — on game day, on the Internet, and in the media.
After the programs decided not to extend the series beyond 2019, many fans were disappointed to see the match-up discontinued, while others celebrated the end of the annual week of amplified drama.
Whether or not you loved it, the series against Pitt, monikered the Keystone Classic, revived one of the northeast’s great football rivalries and injected some excitement into Penn State’s otherwise bland out-of-conference slate.
Before they took a 16-year hiatus, the two Pennsylvania state-related universities squared off 92 times in 107 years, including every year between 1935 and 1992. The programs were quite evenly matched during the original run, with Penn State winning 50 of 92 meetings and both teams notching win streaks that lasted longer than ten years.
Although Penn State will play no true out-of-conference rivalry game in 2020 and neither of the yet-to-be-finalized 2021 and 2022 schedules have one, the 2023 season will reawaken another sleeping college football giant of yesteryear: Penn State’s rivalry with West Virginia, the Nittany Lions’ other estranged little brother of 31 years.
With the Nittany Lions winning 48 of 59 meetings and at one time, 25 straight, the all-time series may lack the parity that Penn State versus Pitt had for more than a century. Still, it will provide an early season spark of excitement against a Power Five team and an opportunity for a meaningful non-conference win, which Penn State has lacked in its previous two seasons.
Bad blood has historically run rampant between the two programs that met every season between 1947 and 1992, before Penn State entered the Big Ten. Both programs combine for 1,622 wins and are both among the top 15 programs on the all-time wins list. Additionally, a mere three-hour drive separates the two campuses, so both schools will likely have strong showings from their dedicated fanbases at away games.
Here are a few examples of what was said about each team and the rivalry during its original run:
“We’re the new Beasts of the East.” — Major Harris, West Virginia quarterback after the Mountaineers beat the Nittany Lions 51-30 in 1988
“If Penn State wants to come out of hillbilly country with a win…” — Bob Buday, Daily Collegian sports writer “Lions like to keep WVU Thirsty,” October 22, 1976
“The Mountaineers have come to hate the Lions more than ‘revenoo’ agents.” — Dan Donovan, Daily Collegian assistant sports editor “Lion, Mountaineers Resume Old Feud,” October 11, 1969
In recent years, the teams have crossed paths on the recruiting trail while battling for western Pennsylvania high school players like Kwantel Raines and Lamont Wade. But by almost all accounts, the rivalry has been silent since the Clinton administration.
By kickoff on September 2, 2023 at Beaver Stadium, the two programs will have not faced each other in 31 years– well before any of the game’s players had been born and way back when James Franklin (whose current contract will expire in 2022, one year before this scheduled matchup) was a 20-year old backup quarterback for East Stroudsburg.
Like the Keystone Classic, the reawakened match-up represents Penn State’s continued return to its rich history of asserting itself amongst its neighbors. The two-year set will reignite dormant bitter feelings while writing a new chapter in one of the oldest non-conference pairings in the nation.