Rivals not scheduled to meet after Saturday’s game at Beaver Stadium
With the 100th meeting between Penn State and Pittsburgh this week, Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi sounded pessimistic Monday about the future of the series.
The teams are not scheduled to play after they square off Saturday at noon (TV-ABC; WEEU-AM/830) at Beaver Stadium.
“I’m going to emphasize to our kids,” the 53-year-old Narduzzi said, “that ‘you might be the last team to ever get to play this game.’ It might be. I don’t know if it’ll be played. I’m either going to be in a coffin or retired probably. I don’t know which one it’ll be.”
No. 13 Penn State (2-0) will look for its third straight win over Pitt (1-1) and its 10th victory in the last 12 meetings.
Narduzzi and Pittsburgh officials have made it quite clear that they want to see the series continue. The Lions and the Panthers first faced each other in 1893 and played every year from 1935-92, the year before Penn State joined the Big Ten.
After playing a four-game set from 1997-2000, they began another four-game series in 2016. Saturday will be the fourth and final game.
“Of course, I do,” Narduzzi said about his desire to continue the series, “but it doesn’t matter what I think. Nobody cares what I think. I think everybody in the state of Pennsylvania that’s not sitting in a football office somewhere in the state would say, ‘Hey, why do we play this game?’
“It’s another game for us, but it’s a big game because it’s a rivalry game, in state.”
Playing Penn State means so much to Narduzzi that he’s keeping all Pitt players off-limits from the media for the third time in four years. He allowed two players to talk to the media before last year’s game, a 51-6 win for Penn State.
“I want to keep things tight this week again,” he said, “just kind of what we do when there’s a big opportunity. I just want to keep it tight with our kids and let them focus on what they need to focus on.”
Narduzzi had high praise for the Lions, who rank second in the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring with 62.0 points a game after wins over Idaho and Buffalo.
“We’re looking forward to heading out to Happy Valley and playing a very good football team, an explosive football team,” he said. “They’re very talented up front with their front seven. On defense they create havoc in the backfield.
“They’re explosive on offense. They’re explosive on defense. They’re obviously very talented. We’ll have our hands full.”
Later, he was asked about his relationship with Penn State coach James Franklin. The two have taken veiled shots at each other’s program since Narduzzi was hired in 2015.
“James is a great guy,” Narduzzi said. “We go on the Nike trip every year, and I would call that a vacation, so we do vacation and socialize. But when it’s game day, it’s game week.”
Pitt opened with a 30-14 loss to Virginia two weeks ago at Heinz Field before beating Ohio University 20-10 last week. In the win, junior quarterback Kenny Pickett completed 26-of-37 passes for 321 yards and one touchdown to senior wide receiver Maurice Ffrench, who had 10 catches for 138 yards.
Berks Catholic products Brandon George, a freshman linebacker, and Shane Murphy, a freshman offensive lineman, are on the Panthers roster, but they’re not on this week’s depth chart.
“I certainly think we made improvement from week 1 to week 2,” Narduzzi said. “What’s the percentage of improvement? I think pretty good. We did a lot of things better. There were some things we did worse, which maybe was a lack of focus.
“But I still believe we can make some pretty darned good improvement from week 2 to week 3, and we have to.”
Contact Rich Scarcella: 610-371-5070 or [email protected]
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