Late pick seals Pitt win, jumpstarts state rivalry
Pitt and Penn State spent the days leading up to the renewal of their once annual series in a semantic argument over whether they’re still rivals.
The Nittany Lions tried to downplay the stakes, with coach James Franklin pointing out the current roster on both sides were toddlers the last time the two schools faced each other in 2000. The Panthers went the other way, with coach Pat Narduzzi bringing in the 1976 national championship team to give a pep talk on what facing Penn State used to — and still could — mean.
Four quarters, nearly four hours and one well-timed interception by a fifth-year cornerback later, consider the debate over. Pitt-Penn State is still very much a thing.
James Conner ran for 117 yards and a touchdown and caught another and senior Ryan Lewis picked off Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley in the end zone with just over a minute to play as the Panthers held on for a 42-39 victory on Saturday in front of the largest crowd to watch a sporting event in the city’s history — 69,983.
“I would say going to next year, they’re going to think it’s a rivalry now,” said Pitt safety Jordan Whitehead.
One that shouldn’t lack for juice when the two teams meet at Beaver Stadium next fall. Penn State nearly made it all the way back from a 21-point deficit. The Nittany Lions had the ball at the Pitt 31 with less than 90 seconds to play when McSorley dropped back and lofted a rainbow toward the back of the end zone to no one in particular
Lewis cradled it in his arms for the first pick of his career.