If you like what’s left of the Pitt-Penn State rivalry and would like to see it continue, send the Penn State coach a thank you note. His post game comments on Saturday after Penn State’s 33-14 win over Pitt were just what the rivalry needed.
You can tell by the reaction from Pitt fans who took this comment personally: “I know last year beating us for them was like the Super Bowl. This was just like beating Akron for us.”
Pitt fans should take those comments personally because they were meant as a jab. And by making sure he diminished the importance of the win on Saturday Franklin was actually admitting that beating Pitt was something special and will continue to be something special in the future if the two programs are ever smart enough to start playing each other every year again.
Franklin has the authenticity and sincerity of a mediocre televangelist who’s happy to draw media attention to himself and that makes him the perfect guy to hate if he’s coaching your hated rival.
And if you want to blame anybody for Franklin thinking he needs to downplay the importance of beating Pitt, blame Joe Paterno.
He’s the guy who ended the series. Before it was interrupted neither coach had any reason to downplay the importance of winning the game.
Nobody believes Franklin really equates beating Pitt with beating Akron but Pitt fans shouldn’t blame Franklin if he doesn’t get as geeked for the game as they do.
The rivalry just ain’t what it used to be.
Geography will always make the game more than just another non-conference game for both teams, but heated rivalries are more about history than they are about geography.
The Steelers had intense rivalries with the Houston Oilers and Oakland Raiders that had nothing to do with where they are on the map and everything to do with a history of playing meaningful games against each other.
Do Steelers fans get geeked anymore for the Raiders?
How about the Houston Texans?
Pat Narduzzi got a good look at what he’s up against when he and Franklin are both going after the top players in the state. He’s seen that stadium filled with over 100,000 white shirts before when he came in as an assistant with Michigan State, but he was also selling big games in front of big crowds and had no reason to focus mostly on Western Pa. players.
Franklin has a huge edge when it comes to selling atmosphere and as the Sandusky scandal gets further away he as a lot more history to sell, too
And based on where the programs appear to be now, he’s going to have a better recent history to sell for a few years.
There was a time when Pitt was getting just as many if not more of the top local players. Pitt had beat up, old Pitt Stadium and half as many people at their games, but lots of good players stayed home.
It’s always a chicken and egg situation for Pitt. Winning will always overcome those big crowds at Penn State, but the big crowds make it easier for Penn State to win by having more to sell to the local players.
Back when Pitt and Penn State were both Top 10 programs and just as many of the top local players were staying home to go to Pitt, I always preferred the atmosphere at Pitt games.
Penn State had the huge crowds with everybody dressed the same. It was all a little too wholesome and nerdy for me.
Pitt football was Pittsburgh.
A concrete stadium with nothing inside but beams and piles of dirt. All benches. Not a comfortable seat in the house. No private boxes. Very little tailgating.
Had to walk up Cardiac Hill after you parked your car in a spot that put your hub caps in danger.
A football game was the only reason for anyone to put up with that dump. And that’s what made it special.
Pat Narduzzi has Heinz Field to sell now and Pitt drew over 69,000 there for Penn State last year but he and every Pitt fan saw first hand on Saturday that Pitt is going to have to sell something other than big crowds and atmosphere to get the best players in Western Pa. to play close to home.
A year ago most people believed that Pitt’s program was ahead of Penn State’s and Franklin looked like a guy who was fighting for his job.
Penn State had a much more experienced team and should have won the game Saturday. It wasn’t a blowout. A more experienced quarterback for Pitt could have made a huge difference.
A lot can happen between now and next season.
Right now it’s advantage Penn State.