Pitt made a point all week to embrace the renewal of a rivalry with Penn State.
The Nittany Lions on the other hand tried to downplay the first meeting with Pitt in 16 years as just another game.
It was clear in the first half which team had the adrenaline rush going of a rivalry game.
Pitt stormed out to a 28-7 lead, while a Penn State rally in the second half fell short in a Pitt 42-39 win.
For Pitt, they gashed Penn State on the ground as James Conner recorded 117 of Pittsburgh’s 341 rushing yards.
In front of 69,000+, Pat Narduzzi got the most significant win of his tenure as Pitt coach and the program’s most prominent win in many years.
Almost every Pitt season there is talk locally of whether Pitt can evolve into an elite football problem.
Unless Urban Meyer is coming through the door, it’s just not going to happen and that’s not a knock on Pat Narduzzi.
That said this was a gigantic day for Pitt and another step forward.
Very few games if any are going to bring out the type of atmosphere that was seen today at Heinz Field, but if you’re a recruit looking at Pitt and Penn State in the same light, today’s game, atmosphere on National TV against a prestigious school (by name) is going to pay dividends for the Pitt program moving forward.
Maybe the biggest takeaway should be that Pat Narduzzi’s program has the look of being the better program in the present/future and it has nothing to do with Pitt coming out of this game with a three point win.
Penn State likes to think of themselves as being on par with the Ohio State’s, Alabama’s in being one of the premier college football programs.
They used to be but that all died five years ago and name recognition alone isn’t going to turn this ship around in the sense of being an elite program again.
It’s probably going to take an elite coach coming through that door.
While recruiting is trending upwards, there is no evidence that James Franklin is the guy to be the elite coach that can turn things around on a dime like an Urban Meyer did right away at Ohio State and Jim Harbaugh is in year 2 at Michigan.
Schools like Ohio State and Michigan always have a leg up over a school like Pitt because they are ‘Ohio State’ and ‘Michigan’ and top recruits are drawn to the named schools, but both schools along with many others like Florida have showed it often takes a big name coach to get particular programs back on track as elite football programs on the field.
Name recognition of being a historic elite program is a major ingredient you need that only 8-10 schools in all of college football have, Penn State has that luxury (or did?) that Pitt doesn’t, but it only goes so far and that’s the conundrum the Penn State program is in as the honeymoon stage is coming to an end for James Franklin.
It’s only two games into year three but where is the improvement?
Penn State might enjoy thinking they’re above Pitt and are too good of a program to embrace the renewal of a rivalry, but Penn State has become what Pitt has been for years, a middle of the pack football program.
And I’d have more confidence in Pat Narduzzi building the better program over the next three to four years.