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A Deeper Look Inside the Biggest SirVocea Dennis Takeaway



Pitt linebacker SirVocea Dennis.

If not for the M.J. Devonshire pick-six in the renewal of the Backyard Brawl in 2022, SirVocea Dennis would likely hold the honor of causing the loudest crowd reaction (at a Pitt home game) in recent memory.

Pitt entered a crucial matchup against Clemson in 2021 sitting just inside the Top-25, aspiring for more than just an end-of-season ranking. A win over the Tigers wouldn’t just push the Panthers higher but justify just how high they were climbing.

So, when former Pitt linebacker SirVocea Dennis picked off Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei early in the third quarter, it’s not unfair to say he changed the course of the game — and the season. Heinz Field erupted as Dennis raced back to the end zone for a touchdown, pushing the Panthers’ lead to 14 points.

Johnny Petrishen, who played a pivotal role alongside Dennis in 2021, admitted on social media recently that he wasn’t a fan of the play call — until he was.

“Fun fact: I hated when we called this blitz,” Petrishen wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter). “I thought it never worked, and I felt it usually took me (the Sam here) way out of the play, from the field apex to the boundary hook. I never wanted this play to be called… until this play happened. It worked out big time.”

It certainly worked out for Pitt, as the pick-six basically clinched a 27-17 win over the Tigers. But even then, there’s some little-known background regarding how that football ended up with the Dennis family.

SirVantis and Corliss Dennis, SirVocea’s parents, were in attendance for Pitt-Clemson in 2021. It was one of the first games the couple could attend after SirVantis had surgery that summer. So, SirVantis sat up high in the disabled section and Corliss took her usual seat: two rows back of the Pitt defense.

After Dennis picked off former Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, snagging a shovel pass intended for Tigers running back Kobe Pace out of the air, he raced back to the end zone for an easy touchdown.

Dennis handed the ball off to Corliss. So, she raced up to where SirVantis was sitting and shared the moment with her husband — for a moment. She had to race back down to where she was sitting behind the Pitt bench. But when she got back down to her seat, she heard from more than a few people that something was going on.

Someone from the Clemson side snatched the ball away, citing a need for the football.

“I’m like, ‘What? What’s going on?’ So, I run back up the stairs, and he’s like, ‘Some guy from the Clemson side took the ball.’ I said, ‘He took the ball? Oh my God. He took the ball.’ So I said, ‘Okay, don’t freak out, don’t panic.’ I get back down to the seat and they’re like, well, what’s happening?” Corliss told Pittsburgh Sports Now last year.

SirVocea, who saw what was going on in Corliss’ section, asked his mom what was going on. She didn’t know exactly, but she told him that someone had taken the ball from SirVantis. And he just said, don’t worry, I’ll get the ball back. So, he went to get it back.

“And I’ll be damned,” Corliss said. “He beat lines after the game. He shakes no one’s hand. He said, ‘Hey, you guys owe me a ball. I intercepted the ball. I need that ball back.’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. We only had so many balls for the quarterback. Here’s the ball, here’s the ball.’”

SirVocea went and found the ball, got it back and gave it to SirVantis and Corliss — and it now sits in the Syracuse home of SirVantis and Corliss.

A fine trophy for SirVantis and Corliss, a fond memory of one of the loudest moments at Heinz Field (and now Acrisure Stadium) in the recent memory.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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10 days ago

What a great story of easily the most impactful play for Pitt football in the last 15 years.

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