Top Five Moments From Penn State & Pitt’s Most Recent Four-Game Series
No. 13 Penn State football will face Pitt for the 100th time in program history at noon Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
After not playing for 16 years, the two squads renewed their rivalry with the “Keystone Classic” in 2016. The Panthers won the first of the four-game series by a final score of 42-39, but the Nittany Lions have taken the past two match-ups with relative ease with 33-14 and 51-6 victories in 2017 and 2018.
As we approach what could be the last matchup between the two historic football programs in a long time, let’s take a look back at some of the best moments the Nittany Lions had in the teams’ most recent meetings.
Marcus Allen’s Forever-Famous Safety
This play was awesome for so many reasons. Not only did Allen’s safety put an end to any of the Panthers’ hopes of a comeback, but it also made for one of the coolest celebrations in recent memory.
After his massive hit, Allen stood over Pitt running back Darrin Hall and gave him his famous, Kodak Black-inspired celebration right in his face before celebrating with the rest of the defense. This was an iconic moment for the Nittany Lions’ 2017 campaign and perfectly exemplified the spirit of who Allen was as a Penn State player.
The former Penn State safety now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers and is no stranger to the in-state rivalry. He even made a wager with former Pitt running back and current Steeler James Conner on who would win last year’s game.
That obviously didn’t end well for Conner, as the Nittany Lions won 51-6 and he was forced to wear a Nittany Lion jacket, which was well-documented on Allen’s Instagram story.
Saquon Barkley Runs From A Shadow
Saquon Barkley did just about everything in his time at Penn State. Breaking records and hurdling people are usually the first things that come to mind when thinking about the running backs ability — not necessarily running from shadows on the football field. But No. 26 did exactly that in 2017 against Pitt.
After catching a pass from Trace McSorley and breaking out to open field, it seemed like the Barkley had an easy touchdown ahead of him. When he saw the defender’s shadow coming near him, though, he managed to cut to his right to ensure that there was zero chance he would be caught.
Like many others in Happy Valley, former Penn State quarterback Tommy Stevens couldn’t hold in his amazement at Barkley’s big touchdown.
There were a lot more days of “26 being 26” that season, which is why Barkley went No. 2 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft after his magical junior season.
DeAndre Thompkins’ Punt Return Dagger
As the rain poured down and Penn State forced Pitt into a quick three-and-out late in the third quarter of the teams’ 2018 meeting, the Nittany Lions needed to make one final big play to definitively stomp their in-state foe’s chances of winning. Enter DeAndre Thompkins.
Thompkins’ final season as a Nittany Lion may not have been his best, but he did produce at least one shining moment. He fielded a wobbly Panther punt at the 39-yard line, weaved through Pitt’s special teams unit, and danced into the back of the end zone to put Penn State up 30-6 late in the third quarter.
That touchdown return was the final nail in Pitt’s coffin on that raining night in Western Pennsylvania, and it was the prelude to a dominant fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Penn State truly exorcised any demons from its 2016 defeat in Pittsburgh by dominating the Panthers and successfully taking over their home stadium in the process.
Sean Clifford Begins His Heisman Run
Sean Clifford’s Penn State career got off to a hot start in garbage time against Pitt last season. The young quarterback came in with 4:32 remaining in the game and proceeded to throw for a 34-yard touchdown to give the Nittany Lions a 50-6 lead.
This was the beginning of a fun year for the now-staring quarterback, who played well enough in garbage time to gain the attention of many Nittany Lion fans. Clifford’s passer rating after that game was 715.6 — a mark that even the greatest quarterbacks in college football history couldn’t hold a candle to.
James Franklin Gives A Shoutout To Akron
It’s safe to say that James Franklin ruffled some feathers in his postgame press conference following Penn State’s victory over Pitt in 2017.
“Most important is we’re 1-0 this week,” he said. “That’s what this was for us. I know last year, for their win, it was like the Super Bowl. For us, this was just like beating Akron.”
While the comment received plenty of backlash (read: angry Yinzers being angry), the head coach’s comment is perhaps the most famous soundbite in Penn State-Pitt history.
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The symbol of our best looks even better in overalls.
Dvir is a Penn State professor who has made revolutionary documentaries that have played a role in changing today’s world.
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