Had this game been played in a vacuum, it really would have been no big deal. Two non-conference opponents playing early in the season, and let's face it, both teams could generously be described as mid-level teams within their own conferences. Of course, it was PITT versus PENN STATE for the first time in sixteen years, so this game was definitely not played in a vacuum. It was, as my friend Dan Bonk has been reminding us since 2011, a BIG GAME, and man, oh, man, did it live up to all of the hype.
George Aston scores Pitt's first TD of the day.
Let me clear on my loyalties. I was rooting for Pitt all the way, and I was delighted when they bolted to a 28-7 lead in the second quarter. Who would have envisioned that it was going to be this easy? Well it wasn't. Penn State scores right before the half and once again early in the third quarter, and all of a sudden it was 28-21 and it was real ball game. In the waning minutes of the game, Penn State was driving, trailing by three points, and they appeared to be unstoppable, when Pitt intercepted a pass in the end zone to seal the three point win.
Some final observations...
- I have been a part of this Pitt season ticket group since 2013, and in all that time, I can point to only one "signature win" for Pitt during that time, a win over Notre Dame in 2013. That changed today for Pitt and Coach Pat Narduzzi. If ever there was a Signature Win, this was it.
- It is said that a loss today would raise the heat in Happy Valley under James Franklin. Maybe it will, maybe it won't, but before Lions' fans come down too hard on Franklin, be aware that he sure as hell did something at halftime for his team. PSU was getting whipped in the first half, but they dominated the second half and almost won it.
- All of my fears about bad behavior among the fans of the two teams appeared to be unfounded, or at least they were in what I saw in the parking lots, tailgate parties, and stands today. That was refreshing.
- It is said that watching a game on TV these days is superior to actually going to the stadium, and for the most part, I agree, but I have to say, that for today at least, it sure was better being at Heinz Field than sitting at home watching on TV.
Finally, the attendance was announced today to be 69,983. It is the largest crowd ever to see any sporting event in Pittsburgh, and I was a part of it. Of course, as friend Fred Egler has noted, this does not count the 350,000 people who claim to have been at the Immaculate Reception game in 1972 or the 130,000 who claim to have been at Game Seven of the 1960 World Series.
Very cool to be able to say that I was a part of a record crowd for ANY sporting event in this city. And in case you were wondering who the best looking people were at that game, well, here they are:
Bob Sproule, Len Martin, Dan Bonk, John Sebastian
Photo courtesy of Donna Sebastian