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Pittsburgh Sports Now

Opinion

Does Penn State Think It’s A Rivalry Now?

Well, James Franklin should just look at it this way: At least now he can move on and focus on his team’s true rival… Temple

And he better win. It’s tough to “dominate the state” if you have a three game losing streak against it.

The University of Pittsburgh beat Penn State University in a highly entertaining football game Saturday at Heinz Field. From a Penn State point of view, it’s a shame that James Franklin didn’t elevate the importance of that game for his players heading into it juuuuuuussssst a little bit.

Mike Gesicki after INT in final mins September 10, 2016 (Photo credit: David Hague)

Mike Gesicki after INT in final mins September 10, 2016 (Photo credit: David Hague)

Instead of spending all week bending over backwards to minimize the ancillary appeal of the rivalry, maybe if he bought into it a little bit more Penn State’s offensive line would’ve actually blocked a little harder than it did for the first 30 minutes.

Maybe DaeSean Hamilton gives a better effort on that slightly overthrown bomb with 3:56 left.

Maybe in the fourth quarter, you and Joe Moorhead have potentially more focused play calling and hand the ball to Saquon Barkley at least once instead of tinkering on 1st and 10 from the 11 after a gift fumble from James Conner. Instead you wind up with just a field goal and fail to tie the game.

Yeah. As the old cliche goes, sometimes a rivalry brings out the best in you. Well, James Franklin doesn’t think Pitt is a rival and his team surely didn’t play it’s best.

Or, if that is Penn State’s best, the Nittany Lions are going to have a hard time competing against their Big Ten, uh, rivals once the conference seasons begins.

For their part, the Panthers certainly noticed the dismissive attitude coming from State College this week toward the recently regenerated Pitt/Penn State affair. And they used it as motivation.

QB Nate Peterman: “I don’t know if there was too much trash talk by us on the field. We were just motivated by all their talk leading up to the game. Everything that they said on twitter throughout, it really drove us. And maybe now they’ll think it’s a rivalry game. Coach Narduzzi showed us a few things saying it wasn’t a rivalry. That’s fine if they think that. We’ll see about next year.”

LB Mike Caprara: “You’ve got to respect the rivalry. There is no denying it. With family and tradition. My personal family (He has two great uncles that played at PSU). What it means to me. What it means to Pittsburgh. What it means to Pennsylvania. You just have to respect the rivalry, that’s it.”

WR Quadree Henderson: “Their defensive backs coach (Terry Smith) said that we weren’t competition. Just going into that game today we were humble. We kept that in the back of our head.”

Whether Smith said they weren’t “competition” or “weren’t in a rivalry” is up for debate. But you get the point.

Aaron Matthews September 10, 2016 (Photo credit: David Hague)

Aaron Matthews September 10, 2016 (Photo credit: David Hague)

The point is how Pitt interpreted views like that. They interpreted them the same way Narduzzi’s old Michigan State teams did when Michigan would snub the Spartans. And then the green and white started to shift the narrative of that rivalry too.

As James Franklin infamously said this week, “a rivalry isn’t something that we should have to have a discussion about.”

No we shouldn’t. And when you see that many Penn State fans making that much of an effort to pay exorbitant scalper fees, or buy Pitt season plans, and show up at 7:00 AM to start tailgating on the road, and flooding the internet to banter for a week straight against their Pitt backing foes… discussion shouldn’t be necessary to see how much emotion was on the line for the fans in white too.

But Franklin can continue to deny as much as he chooses. I’d ask him this though, if PSU had won… would he have called it a “big victory?”

He probably would have. But then again, he really wouldn’t know. He has yet to get one as coach at Penn State.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker

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