(This is Part 2 of a three part series looking back at Pitt’s best decades of football play)

On Saturday we discussed the early years of Pitt football and the impact Jock Sutherland had on the football program.  I venture to say there are not many living Pitt fans who can point back to that time and say they attended any of those games as adults. https://www.pittmag.pitt.edu/sep95/images/xfball1.gif

The next best decade is for us older guys a more happy time because we lived through that winning period and we remember it fondly as we were either undergraduates or we were in high school and watching Pitt football with our friends and families back then.  Well, some on here might have been in grad school or after also.

I’m  speaking of the years 1974 to 1983. 

Prior to that we went through a period of ball which saw us in a ten-year stretch of utter futility where we combined our wins and losses for a 28/68 record (28%).  During that stretch we had four head coaches; John Michelosen, Dave Hart, Carl DePasqua and the newly hired Johnny Majors… sound familiar anyone?  Like our last ten years maybe? As coaches go that is, we had a much better record over the last 10 years.

And as a topper we had one HC, Dave Hart, who went 1-9 for his three seasons at the helm.

Of course right after DePasqua is when we rose from the ashes – and for some stretches of play I mean ashes as shown above – and had Tony Dorsett, Image result for johnny majors pittHugh Greene and Dan Marino as our superstar players along with Johnny Majors and Jackie Sherrill as their head coaches.

Our parents had Jock; we had John and Jackie. No coaches have come close in terms of on the field success as those two in modern Pitt history have done… not even remotely close.

1076’s  12-0 season in that span was nice also – but perhaps the best football of that decade was the 33-3 record Sherrill racked up with Marino under center from 1979-1981.

74-83

Those are what we older Pitt fans call our ‘Glory Years’.  In that singular decade we had 94 wins against 23 losses for a 80% winning percentage. Throw in that mythical National Championship for good measure and bingo!,  you have a new life and new reputation for the football program.

It is hard to sit here and completely immerse myself in memories of that time period as I left Pittsburgh in the fall of 1978 and went directly to Boot Camp in Cape May and then over to Hawaii for three years.  Needless to say I saw absolutely none of the ’78 season (my face was firmly planted in the push-up position)  and then sparse Pitt play on TV with the exception of the bowl games and the Pitt-PSU matches over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Boy – those PSU games alone are worth an article. One especially if you can’t find a sharp stick to poke into your eye. But in that stretch I’d say that terrible PSU loss, which was our own 13-9 type game, was an aberration and truly overshadowed by the top-shelf play we had produced otherwise.

How did we pull off a decade like 1974-1983? 

Well, there were a lot of moving parts but first and foremost I think you have to look at two factors;  Johnny Majors’ hire and the unlimited amount of players you could have on scholarship back then.   Now we limit the total scholarships to a total of 85 on the roster at any one time.

Here is a nice article written by Joe Starkey of the Trib-Review on that subject:

The first key to the renovation project was a change in the school’s scholarship policy. Previously, Pitt had been locked into the so-called “Big Four Agreement” with West Virginia, Penn State and Syracuse. It was designed to regulate the schools’ football programs and limited each to just 25 scholarships per year.https://i0.wp.com/www.225.pitt.edu/sites/default/files/225-images/30_nick-rossi.jpg

Then-Pitt chancellor Wesley Posvar and athletic director Cas Myslinski sparked the program’s revival by removing the self-imposed scholarship cap and by hiring the charismatic, 38-year-old Majors after the 1972 season.

They had an unlimited amount of scholarships at their disposal – 1973 would prove to be the last year of unlimited scholarships in college football – and started hounding players from Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Maryland and, of course, Western Pennsylvania.

Majors gave his staff a simple directive: “Bring in anybody who can help us win.”  Sherrill, in a recent phone interview, described the staff’s philosophy as such: “We just put our heads down and our rear ends up and started digging.”

We Pitt fans love to put the blame for Pitt Footballs’ low fortunes on the various administrations but here is a real case that was directly opposite of what we believe was a firmly entrenched anti-football trend that went back to the resignation of Jock Sutherland.

“After years of struggling with the University for sustained financial support, Sutherland resigned in 1938 because the school’s Chancellor, John Gabbert Bowman, instituted a policy of de-emphasis for the football program, eliminating athletic scholarships, student athlete stipends, and the recruiting funds. Bowman’s moves, which resulted in Sutherland’s departure, were controversial among students and supporters of the football program”

One complemented the other in perfect fashion to allow Majors to bring in a freshman recruiting class of 1973 that showed Pitt could actually knock the snot out of some of our opponents for the next four years.

Of course it all started with Hopewell’s running back Tony Dorsett who was not only the gem of that class but turned out to have the best four-year college career ever seen.  That may be debatable but his high standard-setting production wasn’t; he set record upon record until he ended up with the Heisman Trophy.

We could talk about Dorsett on here all day but suffice to say if you are a true Pitt fan you know his story as well as anyone else’s story of who Pitt has ever had in uniform.Image result for Tony Dorsett pitt

Still, here is a good Sports Illustrated article to keep those memories fresh. This one is about Dorsett’s complete ownership of Notre Dame.

The fact that Majors left after that championship season was a hard thing to take when it actually happened, but in the long run it might have been one of the best things to happen with Pitt football as it allowed Pitt to bring back ex-Defensive Coordinator and Asst HC Jackie Sherrill to take over the team.

After a slight dip in the record following our 12-0 season, to nine wins in ’77 and eight wins in ’78, Sherrill recruited Danny Marino in the class of 1979 to be Pitt’s QB of the future. And there really wasn’t any doubt that Marino was going to be the starting QB sooner rather than later.

In Marino’s first year on the job he overtook starter Rick Trocano, first by injury then by his good play, and had a solid freshman year in going 130/22/ (59%) with 1680 yards and 10 TDs to 9 INTs.https://i2.wp.com/cdn-s3.si.com/s3fs-public/images/1982-0401-Dan-Marino-001302346final.jpg

But it wasn’t his arm that impressed back then really, although it was very strong; it was his command of the offense as a whole and his total control in the huddle at a young age that showed what he was to become in the latter years.

It was no coincidence that the string of 11-1 seasons started at the same time Marino put on the blue and gold. Of course Marino was surrounded by a supporting cast as good as Pitt had ever seen.  Maybe better actually given that Marino’s Offensive Lineman almost all were All-Americans at one point or another when he was the QB.

Marino’s finest year was in 1981 when, as a junior, he threw for 37 TDs against 23 INTs (one thing – Marino was a gunslinger thus his TD to INT ration was horrible) and led the team to its last 11-1 season.

That year Marino was: 1st nationally in TDs with 37;  3rd in Passing efficiency with 143.1; 6th in Passing Yards with 2876; 8th in Completion Percentage at 59.5% and, unfortunately, 2nd in INTs with 23 .

We know what happened next – Sherrill leaves. Foge Fazio, a Phttp://media.gettyimages.com/photos/college-football-pittsburgh-head-coach-foge-fazio-on-sidelines-during-picture-id171437795?s=594x594itt favorite son, fleets up to the HC job and Danny Marino has one of the poorer seasons a Pitt starting QB has had.  We still pull out nine wins and end up 10th in the final ranking at year’s end but that was the end of the really great modern Pitt teams.

Thank you John and Jackie for those lasting memories. They were the Xs and Os men who crafted the team and won those games… but look who they had to help with that. Here are Pitt’s All-Americans during that decade:

Name Position

Gary Burley

Middle guard
Tony Dorsett Running back
Al Romano Middle guard
Tom Brzoza Center
Matt Cavanaugh Quarterback
Randy Holloway Defensive tackle
Bob Jury Defensive back
Gordon Jones Receiver
Hugh Green Defensive end
Mark May Offensive tackle
Jimbo Covert Offensive tackle
Julius Dawkins Receiver
Dan Marino Quarterback
Sal Sunseri Linebacker
Jimbo Covert Offensive tackle
Bill Fralic Offensive tackle
Bill Maas Defensive tackle

https://i2.wp.com/www.mainlineautographs.com/images/product_pics/EPSON938_20140607194.jpg

Of course some of those were multiple-year awardees such as Dorsett, Green,and  Fralic.  But look at the offensive linemen and the defenders we had then – starting with All-Everything (and almost Heisman winner) Hugh Green.

SI did a wonderful article on him when he was truly the best player in college ball.

Hell, Ricky Jackson was an awesome LB alongside Green and he never even made AA.  I think they felt they were having too many Pitt Panthers on the AA lists… and I’m not kidding.

We may not see a run like 1976 to 1981’s 64 wins to 9 losses record again in our lifetimes. Here’s hoping we will and I guess if Narduzzi sticks around for another five years after his current contract ends maybe we will do so… but the greatest cards were dealt to Pitt 40 years ago in my opinion.

Note: For some excellent ‘other readings’ I suggest you take a look at this piece done in the SB Nation’s coverage University of Washington program back in 2011.  Very informative.

Marino’s Career stats:

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Dorsett’s Career Stats:

TD.png

 

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67 thoughts on “Pitt Football’s Glory Days: Part 2

  1. while I began following college FB in mid 60s (I was 11 or 12), this era was when it became a passion, which I have maintained until today. And this was when the Steelers also had their best era (72 thru 81).

    One thing that should be noted … back in the 70s, Western PA was on a par with, if not better, than any other part of the country when it came to FB talent. I counted 12 of the 16 All- Americans listed above from W Pa or Youngstown area.

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  2. In addition to Ricky Jackson, Russ Grimm, Jim Sweeney, Tom Flynn, Bill Neill, Randy McMillen, Greg Meisner, Carlton Williamson and Jerry Boyarsky were also players from that era that played in NFL and enjoyed moderate to great success.

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  3. Great teams -properly attired… damn those unis still ring my chimes! Wonderful memories of those Panther teams, our PITT band and our
    PITT Stadium…We who witnessed it were blessed…

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  4. Tony Dorsett was a Notre Dame fan when he was in high school, I know this because he was two years behind me at Hopewell HS. I recall the hoopla when “A Major Change in Pitt Football” was 1st occurring. Most students were perplexed on what all of the ruckus was about since we had stunk at football in the past and most were resigned to that fact that no matter the changes being made by the Pitt administration that we were going to continue to suck. Remember this is after coming off a 1-10 record in Carl DePasqua’s final year of coaching.

    It was a given that Tony would be off to Notre Dame or maybe even a school like USC to play his college ball, but staying home to play for Pitt, no way. Well, little did we know that Tony was a home body and really felt insecure about leaving his family behind and he wanted his folks to be able to see all of his games easily as well. So Majors actually did have a shot at getting him to come to Pitt. Who knew?

    And who knew that this Majors guy was going to assemble a killer coaching staff, get them all to work their asses off, recruiting like a mad man and forge a team that was able to accomplish the impossible.

    I still remember the night that Mike Muslin, another Hopewell HS grad who was in my class and also attended Pitt came into my Towers dorm room announcing to me that Tony had committed to play at Pitt. I was sure that Mike was BSing me and I just wouldn’t believe him since I refused to be that gullible. But sure enough I found out subsequently that the news was accurate. I simply could not believe that Dorsett was coming to Pitt. Why in the world would such a potential college star want to waste his career coming to Pitt, I thought?

    Without TD Dorsett, I don’t think our NC would have happened. He was just one cog in a miraculous series of events that all had to fall into place just right, but he was a main cog in the process. I’ve never seen a better, more agile, extra gear greased lightening RB like Tony Dorsett! It was unbelievable to see him play in person.

    Well, the rest is history. Never have I witnessed such a turn around in ANY athletic organization as I did at Pitt during those years. We went from the absolute worst to a National Championship in four short years and it was frickin awesome to watch happen.

    This is why I’m one of those guys who “never says never”. Those today, that pontificate with confidence that Pitt (or anybody else of their choosing, for that matter) can never compete for a NC in today’s college football arena of Big $$$$ football factories, just don’t know what they think they do.

    I’ve seen the impossible occur with my own eyes and it was a fantastic ride to experience in person as a student and a newly minted alumni. Please don’t bore me with the rational of how things are so different now and that there is not enough $$$ being thrown at the program, that we need an OCS, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. Believe me there was absolutely no rational reason that what happened between 1972 to 1977 should have transpired back then either. NONE, ZERO, IMPOSSIBLE, FORGETABOUTIT!!!! But yeah, that happened.

    So will us Pitt fans ever see that complex recipe of shared vision, dedicated recruiting, hard work, good fortune and hard nosed work ethic combination again that produces that type of NC magic ever again. Who knows but “never” is a long time, so don’t tell me that Pitt is never going to get their tenth National Championship, cause you don’t KNOW and if you think that you do you’re mistaken.

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  5. The 3 games we lost in the 33-3 run were all blowouts– the worst of which was to the Domers coached by Gerry Faust.. to me that was as bad as losing to the Nits when we had em 14-0

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    1. That 4814 loss to the Nitters almost got me divorced! I was so pissed that I threw a chair through our apartment wall during that game. My new bride was sure that she had just married a maniac and sincerely thought me to be insane. Such is the mental condition of a rabid Pitt football fan when exposed to an ass whippin at the hands of penn state. So now after 35 years of marriage she bitches at me still for getting all worked up over game results! Most recently at the UNC game that we attended together last year, (the game that we first met up together in person BigB). She repremands me for throwing a cup in frustration when the last second UNC TD pass secures the Tarholes win over Pitt and admonishes me on our walk all the way back to our hotel to “grow the fuck up’ since it’s only a game after all. Some things never change. Just a slow learner I guess. LOL!

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  6. The 11-1 1979 season was only tarnished by a 7-17 loss to our current nemesis in the ACC….the Tarholes.

    Who seems like we are just snake bitten against. Should have won the last 2 years. God I hate them.

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    1. we barely beat UNC in the ’82 opener at 3 Rivers .. believe the score was 7-6 (we were pre-season #1). Then we beat UNC after the 2009 season at Belk Bowl deep in Tar Heel country.

      Those are the only two times I remember beating them.

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      1. Beat them in 1978 – boring game that was on TV. Pitt staged a 4th quarter comeback to win 20-16. I don’t remember much about the game other than the comeback…. snatching victory from the jaws of defeat… I do remember watching Pitt defeat Tulane in ’78 and they looked horrid until late in the game. I think there were quite a few games like that in ;78.

        I’m certain of one thing… if the internet was around back then… upittbaseball would be calling Sherill a bum and that he should be fired right after the PSU loss.

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  7. The next year was the loss in a driving rainstorm in Tallahassee, 22-36. I don’t consider either of those losses(Tarholes the previous year) as blowouts.

    What some people forget is to go along with Marino, Pitt’s defense was just awesome in the same period.

    Truly the best college football team to not win a Championship. It was just in the cards, as was Hugh Green not getting the Heisman and becoming the first defensive player to ever with the Heisman.

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    1. YouTube says otherwise. They got beat fair and square. The 1982 game – you know coached by that bum Foge Fazio – beat FSU in the driving rainstorm. But they were leading at halftime in weather similar to the ’80 game. Maybe that ’82 team (which beat 3 other ranked teams) wasn’t as bad as some people think??

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  8. Reminds me of my buddy. Back in school at PITT he once threw his chair at the TV and it immediately shut off. It took him 15 minutes to figure out the chair hit the off button. (remember those) To this day he only screams his head off at the TV. This is the same friend that never uses social media when PITT is playing well, only when the are playing bad. Yes, he’s a maniac

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    1. In circa 1981-2, Clyde Vaughan committed a lane violation towards the end of a Pitt-WVU game. That, accompanied with a rare Roy Chipman technical foul, not only allowed WVU to win, It also made my buddy lose a $110 bet .. and the 3rd thing it caused was my buddy’s glass ashtray being shattered against his living room wall, just missing his TV … (and none of us laughed)

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  9. To emphasize how great that Defense was.

    1979’s team only allowed 9.7 ppg (5th in the nation of 140 teams)
    1980’s team only allowed 10.8 ppg (7th in the nation ” ” ” )
    1981’s team slipped some but still only allowed 13.3 ppg (19th of 137 teams)

    And of those defenses paired with the 2016 squad and Pitt might have gone undefeated.

    By contrast the 2016 team allowed 35.2 ppg ( 106th of 128)

    And that included cupcake games against a D2 team (Villanova) and Marshall.

    Scrub teams the like… the 1979 to 1981 teams didn’t even schedule, let alone lower themselves to play.

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  10. Emel.. I was at that 17-7 loss in Chapel Hill… Danny Narino got in very late in the game… Famous Amos Lawrence was their featured RB with Matt Kupek at QB… just looked at Carolinas roster from that year… heaviest player was 265lbs… most lineman 250lbs to 235lbs…the game was great back then too much time and energy put into making these kids 2 standard deviation above the norm … can’t be healthy for the players in the long run ..only reason todo it is to keep up with the Jones…sorry for getting off on a tangent.,,, Back to Reeds article- Damn I love those unis !!!

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  11. Dr Tom…surprised we actually have anything in common but we do. I still scream at the tv during Pitt games ( ask Reed) have had 2 wives tell me to grow the f up, it’s only a game!!

    I have never been as apoplectic as after the Nitt game 48-14. I remember it like it was yesterday….The Pitt band entering the stadium with the Panther being held over their heads on a platform holding a Pitt#1 sign (maybe on a foam finger)on a beautiful sunny day in sold out Pitt Stadium. Every Pitt fan was sky high..then Marino hits a couple of TDs we go up 14-0 and are driving for a third when Dan throws an awful pick. I kind of blanked out during PSU putting up the 48 but I remember Kenny Jackson running past our secondary like they were standing still…a bunch of times. I closed the Luna that night and may have even slept all night out back.

    Second most vexing loss in 75 to PSU again 7-6 and third to ND in the opener 79 when we lost our QB first quarter and Wayne Adams fumbled about 25 snaps from center.

    Pitt fans do not lack passion….only the BOT and administration!

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  12. Dan Marino did not throw an awful pick. It was a touchdown pass to Julius Dawkins to make the score 21-0 but wait, Julius gets hit, ball pops out and is intercepted by PSU. After that everything went wrong.

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    1. was that what happened? I remember sitting in that end zone and thought we were ready to go up 21 – 0. I had a discussion with the person I was there with as to if we had completed a pass and it was called back, or what. All I could remember was that we should have been up 21-0 … and from that point on, which was the end of the 1st period, the nits were completely dominant.

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      1. to clarify … that discussion was about 10 years ago .. and we were trying to remember exactly what had happened at the ed of the 1st quarter.

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  13. Good read Reed. Still remember The Hawk shredding ND on that initial run in 1976. IMO Tony Dorsett was the greatest college back of all time. He had moves, acceleration, and flat speed, yet could also grind out yards between the tackles. He was a home run threat every time he touched the ball and kept this teenager riveted to the TV or radio. He changed the arc of the Pitt program and he and his teammates elevated our expectations. TD was a damn fine pro back too. Check out his 99 yard touchdown run against Minnesota in 1983. It’s all on display against NFL caliber competition.

    I enjoyed that SI article. I don’t recall having seen it before although I subscribed to Si when I was a kid. While reading I noticed that Pitt averaged 42,000 in home attendance for that last national championship season. Ouch!

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  14. While watching from a hospital bed after serious knee surgery (and having multiple pulmonary embolism’s) I have always remembered that as a bad interception by Marino. but I may have not been on the beam that day??

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  15. Guys, the interception was not a deflection at all. Marino threw a bomb and the Dairy Defensive back made a diving interception as he went out of the back of the end zone. Modern day replay would have most likely overturned the interception. Marino was trying to throw the ball out of the back of the endzone. The question was whether the knee landed in bounds or the shoulder landed out first. Bill Flemming and Darrel Royal thought that the shoulder hit out of bounds first.

    The refs were from the united dairy farmers union if I recall. Just kidding. I ain’t talking about that game any more! Al Wenglikowski was awesome!

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  16. No one has be banned from here. I have a feeling that the Darl One might be an old buddy of mine from the message boards.

    If now let’s welcome Conjunto Panther into the POV family – an insightful fan if there ever is one.

    Dr Tom – keep an eye on your email, I’ve something to ask you.

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  17. Also – can everyone get behind downloading and using Skype for the call-in segments. I’m paying my daughter $120 an hour to set that up… so second round of donations welcome.

    Seriously, she is working on it and I want to do this before we get into the throes of the off season.

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  18. Huff. Not sure what game you were watching. Dawkins caught the ball in the end but it popped out of his hands when hit. If I remember right, it was brought out of the end zone for some yardage.

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  19. FWIW, just took BigB’s advise and watched replay on YouTube .. and on the very 1st play of 2nd quarter, Marino threw a ling INT by PSU Randy Jackson (kenny’s brother.) And the announcers did say hat they didn’t think he was in bounds.

    1st Quarter stats:: Pitt 143 yards PSU -1

    Now I just slid the ba at the bottom so I could see the end of the 1st quarter … so there may have been an INT in the end zone later in the 2nd quarter .. or maybe earlier

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  20. Bobby Bowden has said over the years that 1981 Pitt team that Florida State beat at home was not only the best team he ever coached against, but was the #1 best team in college football history, any year any school. Just look at the number of college and NFL HOFers on that roster, it’s ridiculous!

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  21. And that 48-14 Nits game still hurts, what, almost 35 years later now, like it happened this season. I have zero interest to suffer thru it a second time on YouTube.

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  22. wwb… watched that play 4 times – knee came down in bounds… turnovers cost us that game and PSU had a good team in a big rivalry game…Listened to the 1st quarter in the car with my Dad while we were having a lunch break from walking the woods all morning rabbit hunting with our beagle … we left the car to go back into the woods with PITT driving for their 3rd score figuring we were going to blow them away..: what a shock when we got back later in the day!!! I will never forget that day and even though we lost it was spent with Dad.. nothing we loved more than hunting and PITT football… he would get pissed when Marino would get too emotional and screw up- make a mistake . I can still Big Sherm yelling “Boy, he’s a hot- headed Dago!”
    Sat in the PITT Panther Party bus late one evening with Bill Hilgrovewho said Danny Marino is the best QB to ever play the game.

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  23. Former PITT coach Greg Gattuso played DL for the Nits… wished Chryst had kept him on as DL coach. He was a successful HC at Duquesne . We will face him down the road when we play Albany.

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  24. Ray, I think big b confirmed the interception in/out of the end zone as we were driving towards 21-0.

    Big b I remember that I thought it was out, but if you watched it 4 times I will defer. Memory is good but not great on that. I still see things with my heart at times.

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  25. Reed – instead of Skype you should consider bluejeans.com Similar service and the video conferencing is great. I prefer it over Skype. We use it for work and I host my fantasy football league on it. I think it’s 9.95/month and you can host up to 50 with video. Anyone joining can dial in from their computer and join via the browser or app (free). No one needs accounts, just the link to go to. They have the ability to have video on or off. Feel free to reach out to me on the side and I can have you call into my account for a feel of how it works.

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  26. Huff that 81 PSU game were eerily similar to this years bowl game- in both games we were the superior team but way to many mistakes to overcome… our punter was wheeled off the field in the 81 game – our back- up punter as announced by Bill Fleming was ono- other tha Dan Marino.. didn’t watch to see if he actually punted .. like most of you older guys that game just becomes too painful to view

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    1. I beg to differ. You don’t get beat 48-14 and dominated for 3 quarters by a lesser team. I do think Pitt played poorly in ’81, and it snowballed … but c’mon, give the Nits their due. As I recall, they won the national title the very next season.

      In that window from ’76 thru ’82, I would argue that we were the best program in the NCAA … but if you look back, PSU was not that far behind. They played for the title after the 78 season and lost a close game to Bama .. then they won it in 82.

      IMO, that’s what made it so fun … PA ruled, and the Pitt – PSU was the most relevant game played .. period.

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  27. Former HCPC has six verbal commitments for 2018 and five are on the D side and one QB.

    Where was that effort at Pitt?

    Even Kansas has a few recruits for 2018.

    Enjoyed reading Part’s 1 & 2 – looking forward to # 3 – too busy at work right now to share personal stories regarding Part 2 timing in my life – great times that raised the bar very high – Part 3 might get half way to that height…currently. I believe Duzz has some Major Sherrill in him.

    HTP!

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  28. That ND loss in 1982 is forgotten compared to others, but it was a terrible one and should have raised red flags regarding Foge immediately. Pitt never should have lost that one and couldn’t score in the red zone and settled for three field goals. A fumbled punt at midfield by Pitt in the second quarter really killed momentum and ND scored off of it.

    Hiring Foge on the cheap was such a Pitt move.

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    1. did you see Emel’s post above about the defenses in 79, 80 & 81? Foge was the DC back then. You often never know how good a HC an OC will make until you try.

      Of course, it always helps to have the likes of Green, Jackson, Lewis, Neil, Meisner, Williamson ,etc playing defense for you.

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      1. To not do a national search in 1982 was a joke, just like in 1989. Bad leadership to not due your due diligence. When Miami hired Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Ericson it ignored the guy in house whom all thought deserved the job, OC Gary Stevens. I still remember when Dixon was first rumored to be leaving Pitt for ASU some fans wanted slice to be the head coach. Again, what a joke.

        That ex-Virginia coach from western PA wanted the Pitt job in 1982. He was at Virginia a long time and his name escapes me. He would have brought stability if the Pitt administration wanted it.

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  29. wwb..I was thinking of the # of critical mistakes in both games, the personnel and where they ended their careers professional careers. Don’t know how many Nits went on that team went on to out-standing pro careers but I would guess we had more great future pros at PITT….yep, I agree Penn State was a very good team and played a tougher schedule up to that PITT game and when the smoke cleared they were 34 points better on that day. Like you, I loved when PITT and Penn State were both ranked during those years-aalwys wanted to see them ranked #1 an #2 for the Thanksgiving game…I always rooted for WVU and PSU when they weren’t playing us simply because of the local kids on the roster and I pulled for Eastern football back in the day when even undefeated Penn State did not get the national respect for their accomplishments .

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    1. heck, I rooted for WVU in the bowl games when we were both in the BE … and was elated when they beat Georgia in 05 Sugar Bowl and Oklahoma in 07

      No more .. though.

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    1. Reed – are you able to confirm that with the Pitt AD? – whoops, we don’t have one.

      Can you Skype Barney to get the confirmation?

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  30. The thought just struck me as I read the comments about the glory days of the mid to late 70’d to mid 80’s. Lots of focus on the very few bad times PITT had in those days. Makes me think of the old saying, “We have met the enemy and he is us” or something like that.

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  31. Glad to have had the opportunity to witness those glory years.

    It shows how important coaching is, but even more important how having great players is.

    The major difference between that era and today is big money and the number of schools competing for a shot at glory.

    Sure you still have the perennial elite schools, the Alabama’s, Ohio State’s Michigan’s, Oklahoma’s etc. But now you have the power conferences with many more teams splitting up the cream of the crop.

    It is indeed the talent level that separates the contenders from the also rans.

    For our Championship we had one of the absolute greatest players of all time.

    For the Jackie Sherrill run we were the Alabama of our time with a stockpile of greatness at most positions.

    But even with that, we could not win a championship and because of a lack of commitment and money we could not sustain that level of recruiting.

    Getting a slot in the ACC gives us an opportunity to compete at a higher level. The conference has done a great job of getting into the playoffs and has won two recent championships.

    But it will take a consistent commitment to athletic greatness from our administration and our fans, if we are ever to compete at the highest levels again. This does not mean an OIC or a bigger game day logo. It means cash flow and a hard working athletic department willing to do what it takes.Also a little luck in getting more than a few of those game changing players like Dorsett, Green, Marino, Jackson, Fralic, Grimm. But you also need to surround them with enough very good players to win 10 or more games.

    Having guys like Donald, Fitz and Revis without a supporting cast just doesn’t get it done.

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  32. Foge Fazio was an elite defensive coach, no one could predict he did not have what it took to be the head guy. Narduzzi is making that transition now. He has done very well so far, but has a long way to go. He certainly wasn’t handed the keys to the Ferrari like Foge was.

    While Majors and Sherrill went on to have solid careers, they never experienced the same level of success again. They made bank though.

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    1. I’m way more impressed with what Narduzzi has done in two years than Foge in his four. Foge was handed freakin’ Dan Marino and a host of other talented players and had no clue what he was doing.

      Narduzzi seems to have a grasp on the most important position in sports: Quarterback. Especially if Max Browne has a solid season. Getting Peterman showed me something. If MacVittie pans out, look out for the Panthers in the near future.

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  33. What many forget is how good the 1977 team was. If not for a freak injury to Cavanaugh, Pitt wins the NC. Pitt handled ND but Adams fumbles were just killers. Dawkins catches that TD and Pitt wins.

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  34. PS two items . Walker was in the endzone against the nits. Terrible call.Secondly Cavanaugh played at Florida with a cast on and couldn’t use his left hand to hand off and had two fumbles that cost Pitt the game. They tied, but Pitt was far superior. What a bad break that was.

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  35. Wow…The memories come flying back. Myron Cope was so jacked by Majors he created an audio to the tune of the theme song of The Lone Ranger he called “Hi Ho Majors”…I have it on cassette tape from his last broadcast but can’t find it online anywhere. If anyone can find it and post a link I GUARANTEE you will laugh your ass off.

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  36. Reed:

    Very enjoyable series. But I have to correct you on one point in part 2. Hugh Green and Ricky Jackson were defensive ends while they were at Pitt. They didn’t become linebackers until they were in the NFL, at which point Jackson actually surpassed Green by being inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton.

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  37. If anyone wants to write a book about the downfall of Pitt football… I suggest they start by looking at the recruiting starting in 1980. This was under Sherrill’s watch, remember.

    QB’s recruited: Chris Jelic, Congemi, and John Cummings. Not even a remote resemblance to a Dan Marino or Matt Cavanugh… or even Bob Haygood. Foge himself wondered aloud in ’84 why Bernie Kosar – who wanted to go to Pitt – was ignored by the coaching staff.
    WR’s: Outside of Dwight Collins… no future NFL talent here. Bill Wallace was it.
    DB’s: When Tim Lewis graduated in ’83… cupboard bare.

    When Pitt started a DL in ’84 w/ 3 new starters – none of the new starters even above average college players – the writing was on the wall for a season of RB’s gashing the Pitt defense. Add in a secondary that was borderline horrid – and an offensive w/ a bunch of mediocre QB’s w/ no WR’s w/ any speed – 3 wins is no surprise.

    Foge was a helluva recruiter which he proved in 1984 by getting 3 5-star RB’s. But it was too little… too late.

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