Penn State Faces Pitt for 100th Time
- OPENING KICK: No. 13/11 Penn State and Pittsburgh meet on the gridiron for the 100th time Saturday in the fourth-and-final installment of the Keystone Classic presented by Peoples Natural Gas. The game is set to kick at noon on ABC.
- EYEING SERIES-CLINCHER: The Nittany Lions hold a 2-1 advantage in the Keystone Classic with wins in the last two games, taking the 2017 game in Beaver Stadium, 33-14, and last season’s in Heinz Field, 51-6. The Panthers won the series opener in Pittsburgh in 2016, 42-39.
- BIG SCORING TRENDS COLLIDE: Penn State has scored 124 points (79 vs. Idaho; 45 vs. Buffalo) this season for the second-highest total (132 points; 1894) in the first two games of a season in school history. Additionally, the Nittany Lions’ have scored 84 points (33 in 2017; 51 in 2018) in their last two meetings against Pitt, which is the seventh-highest back-to-back game total in series history and the most since scoring 91 points in wins in 1992 (57 points) and 1997 (34).
- BEHIND ENEMY LINES: Looking to post its fifth consecutive 40-plus sack season, Penn State is averaging 4.0 sacks per game, led by defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, who has 3.5 this season to rank in a tie for fourth in FBS. The Nittany Lions have also totaled double-digit tackles for loss in each of their first two games with 11 tackles for loss against Idaho and 10 against Buffalo. The 10.5 TFL average ranks fifth in FBS.
- THE OPPOSITION: The defending ACC Coastal Division Champions, Pitt is 1-1 this season after opening with a loss to now-ranked Virginia and rebounding last week with a win over Ohio. The Panthers are running a more pass-heavy offense this season under new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, and are tied for 20th in FBS with 78 pass attempts this season. Quarterback Kenny Pickett set career highs with 26 completions for 321 yards in the Ohio win.
HEAD COACH PAT NARDUZZIE
- Pat Narduzzi is in his fifth year as Pitt’s head coach, and has led the Panthers to the third-best record in ACC play (20-12) during his first four seasons (2015-18).
- Narduzzi arrived at Pitt following eight years as the defensive coordinator at Michigan State.
SCOUTING THE PANTHERS
- In 2018, the Panthers won their first Coastal Division championship and made their inaugural appearance in the ACC Championship Game.
- Pitts was picked to finish fourth in the Coastal this season in the ACC Preseason Media Poll. The Panthers were picked to finish fifth in the division last season but went 6-2 in conference play to place first.
- Pitt lost its opener, 30-14 to now-ranked Virginia, but rebounded with a 20-10 win over Ohio.
- Pitt is playing on the road for the first time this season.
- Like Penn State (8 sacks), Pitt is among the FBS leaders in sacks with nine.
- Under new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, 53.7 percent of Pitt’s offensive plays have been pass attempts. Last season, Pitt ran the ball 64.3 percent of its plays.
VERSUS PENNSYLVANIA SCHOOLS
- Against the two other current FBS schools, Pitt (52-43-4) and Temple (40-4-1), Penn State owns a combined 92-47-5 record.
- The 92 wins account for 9.7 percent of Penn State’s 889 all-time wins.
- Penn State owns a 169-95-12 record all-time against current NCAA Division I teams in Pennsylvania.
- That figure includes current FCS teams Bucknell (28-10-0), Lafayette (10-5-1), Lehigh (16-6-1), Penn (18-25-4) and Villanova (5-3-1). However, Penn State has not played any of those teams since playing Penn in 1958.
- Penn State’s next scheduled in-state games following this year’s Pitt game are against Villanova (2021) and Temple (2026 and ’27).
NITTANY LIONS FROM METRO PITTSBURGH
- TE/H Nick Bowers – Kittanning/Kittanning Senior
- S Jaquan Brisker – Pittsburgh/Gateway
- LB Max Chizmar – Mars/Mars Area
- CB Daequan Hardy – Pittsburgh/Penn Hills
- OL C.J. Thorpe – Glenshaw/Central Catholic
- CB Lamont Wade – Clairton/Clairton
- WR Benjamin Wilson – Uniontown, Pa./Uniontown
- OL coach Matt Limegrover – Pittsburgh
- Asst. head coach/CB coach Terry M. Smith – Aliquippa
NITTANY LIONS & PANTHERS CONTINUE KEYSTONE CLASSIC
- Penn State and Pitt are set for the fourth game of a four-game home-and-home series dubbed the Keystone Classic presented by Peoples Natural Gas.
- The intrastate series resumed in 2016 at Pitt after a 16-year hiatus, with the Panthers hanging on to win, 42-39. Pitt returned to Beaver Stadium in 2017 for the first time in 18 years, with the Nittany Lions earning a 33-14 victory. Last year, Penn State returned to Pittsburgh and avenged their 2016 loss with a 51-6 victory.
- The game will mark just the 27th time Pitt has played in Centre County (24 games have been played on campus and two games were played in Bellefonte in 1900 and 1901) in the 100-game series’ history, while the other 73 meetings have all taken place in Pittsburgh.
PENN STATE VS. ACC
- Penn State is 152-87-10 all-time against the schools who are current members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, having played every ACC school except Duke and Virginia Tech.
- Penn State is scheduled to play Virginia Tech in 2020 (away) and 2025 (home).
TAKING ON THE NEIGHBORS
- For the sixth consecutive year, Penn State is playing at least four FBS teams that are within a 250-mile drive (based on Google Maps from stadium to stadium).
- The Nittany Lions have won their last 13 consecutive against their neighbors.
- Since joining the Big Ten in 1993, Penn State is 48-4 against FBS teams within 250 miles.
- All-time, Penn State is 294-111-17 against its current FBS regional foes.
BLUE OR WHITE?
- Penn State will host its fifth annual “Stripe Out” game, as fans attending Beaver Stadium are coordinated to wear blue or white clothing in alternating sections to create a stripe effect.
- Penn State is 3-1 in its four previous Stripe Out games, defeating Rutgers, 28-3, in the inaugural game (Sept. 19, 2015), Temple, 34-27, in 2016 and Nebraska, 56-44, in 2017. Michigan State defeated Penn State last season, 21-17.
- Visit PennStateStripeOut.com to find out which color to wear in which section. It will be a student section white out.
- Penn State has many long and storied series on the gridiron. The Nittany Lions have played 20 teams 20 or more times in the 132-year history of the program.
- Penn State owns a winning record against 16 of the 20 teams that it has met 20 or more times.
- Eight of the 20 teams are on the 2019 schedule, including Pitt (99 meetings), Iowa (27), Indiana (22), Michigan (21), Ohio State (34), Michigan State (33) Rutgers (28) and Maryland (42).
- Since 2012, Penn State has played or has a future meeting scheduled meeting with 13 of the 20 teams (all of the FBS teams except Navy). Those opponents include: Army (2015), Illinois (2014-15, ’18, ‘21), Iowa (2016-21), Pitt (2016-19), Syracuse (2012), Temple (2014-16) and West Virginia (2023-24), while the Lions will meet yearly with Big Ten East Division opponents Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Rutgers.
- Fifteen of the 20 programs are currently members of NCAA Division I FBS. Bucknell, Lehigh and Penn are in NCAA Division I FCS, while Gettysburg and Lebanon Valley are Division III programs.
PENN STATE-PITT CONNECTIONS
- Penn State sophomore OL C.J. Thorpe played with Pitt senior DB Damar Hamlin, junior LS Cal Adomitis, junior DB Bricen Garner, junior OL Rashad Wheeler, senior DB John Petrishen, redshirt freshman DL David Green and freshman WR Gavin Thomson at Pittsburgh Central Catholic.
- Petrishen was a four-year member of the Nittany Lions football team and graduated from Penn State in August 2019.
- Penn State sophomore LB Ellis Brooks and Pitt redshirt freshman LB Wendell Davis played together at Benedictine College Prep in Virginia.
- Penn State senior WR Dan Chisena and Pitt freshman DB Brassir Stocker both attended Downington East H.S. in Pennsylvania.
- Penn State senior OL Steven Gonzalez and Pitt freshman WR Isaiah Washington both attended Union City H.S. in New Jersey.
- Penn State junior WR Isaac Lutz and Pitt freshmen LB Brandon George and OL Shane Murphy played together at Berks Catholic in Reading.
- Penn State sophomore WR Cameron Pica and Pitt freshman PK Sam Scarton played together at Hickory H.S. in Heritage, Pa.
- Penn State freshman CB Joey Porter Jr. and Pitt redshirt freshman WR John Vardzel played together at North Allegheny.
- Penn State sophomore WR Justin Shorter and Pitt redshirt junior LB Phil Campbell III played together at South Brunswick H.S. in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey.
- Penn State junior DE Shane Simmons and Pitt redshirt freshmen DB Judson Tallandier and DL John Morgan played together at Dematha Catholic in Maryland.
- Penn State sophomore DE Nick Tarburton and Pitt redshirt freshman LB Jackson Henry played together at Pennridge H.S. in Perkasie, Pennsylvania.
- Penn State freshman DE Smith Vilbert and Pitt redshirt freshman QB Nick Patti both attended St. Joseph’s Regional in New Jersey.
- Penn State junior S Lamont Wade played with Pitt senior WR Aaron Mathews at Clairton H.S. in Pennsylvania.
- Penn State freshman CB Marquis Wilson played with Pitt junior DB Jason Pinnock at Windsor H.S. in Connecticut.
COACHING STAFF CONNECTIONS
- Penn State head coach James Franklin’s wide receivers coach at Vanderbilt in 2011 was Pitt wide receivers coach Chris Beatty. Other current Penn State coaches on Franklin’s Vanderbilt staff at the time were Brent Pry, Ricky Rahne, Sean Spencer and Dwight Galt.
- Penn State co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Tim Banks and Beatty were on the same coaching staff at Illinois in 2012.
- Penn State running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider and Beatty were on the same staff at West Virginia from 2008-09.
- Penn State tight ends coach Tyler Bowen served as Maryland’s offensive line coach in 2017 while Beatty was the associate head coach and wide receivers coach and Pitt offensive line coach Dave Boberly was the special assistant to the head coach.
- Spencer was the defensive line coach at UMass from 2001-03 while Pitt offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple was the head coach.
- Bowen and Pitt special teams coordinator and running backs coach Andre Powell were on the same staff at Maryland from 2011-12. Galt was also on staff in 2011 as the director of strength and conditioning coach.
- Banks and Pitt tight ends coach Tim Salem were on the same staff at Illinois from 2012-14.
- Banks and Pitt head strength and conditioning coach Dave Andrews were on the same staff at Cincinnati from 2010-11 and Illinois from 2012-13.
- Penn State director of high school relations Dann Kabala was the Pitt director of player personnel from March 2012-March 2017.
BLACKLEDGE ON ABC BROADCAST TEAM
- Former Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge will be calling Saturday’s meeting between the Nittany Lions and Panthers.
- Blackledge led Penn State to an 11-1 record and its first National Championship with a 27-23 victory over previously unbeaten Georgia in the 1983 Sugar Bowl. He earned the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s top quarterback in 1982, was sixth in balloting for the Heisman Trophy and concluded his collegiate career with 26 school records.
- A three-year starter, Blackledge directed the Nittany Lions to a 29-4 record, including 13 comeback victories, from 1980-82, including two Fiesta Bowl wins and one Sugar Bowl victory.
- Blackledge began his national broadcasting career in 1994 with ABC Sports, serving as a studio and game analyst. He then served as a game analyst for ESPN (1997-98) before joining CBS in 1999. He returned to ESPN/ABC in 2006.
- Blackledge received the University’s prestigious Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009.
- Blackledge earned a B.A. in speech communication in 1983, graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a 3.80 grade point average. A first-team Academic All-American, he also was presented the Eric Walker Award, given to the Penn State senior who has most “enhanced the esteem and recognition of the University.” In 1997, Blackledge was inducted into the prestigious Academic All-America Hall of Fame.
FOWLER RETURNS TO STATE COLLEGE
- Former State College resident Chris Fowler will handle play-by-play duties on Saturday’s broadcast, 45 years to the day he attended his first college football game – a thrilling Penn State win over Stanford in Beaver Stadium on Sept. 14, 1974.
- Fowler lived in State College when he was in seventh-ninth grades in school, while his father, Knox, was a theatre professor at Penn State.
- Fowler has credited his time in State College as a major influence on his career path of covering college football.
- Penn State has won nine consecutive games over non-conference opponents during the regular season, dating back to a win over Temple in 2016.
- The Nittany Lions have won 15-straight non-conference regular-season home games, dating back to a win over Kent State on Sept. 21, 2013.
- Under James Franklin (since 2014), Penn State is 17-2 against non-conference opposition during the regular season and 19-5 when including bowl games.
- Sophomore WR KJ Hamler has a reception in all 15 games of his career.
- Sophomore TE Pat Freiermuth has a reception in his last 14 games (all but his first career game).
- Junior K Jordan Stout has earned a touchback on each of his last 19 kickoffs.
- Penn State has won nine consecutive games over non-conference opponents during the regular season, dating back to a win over Temple in 2016.
- The Nittany Lions have won 15-straight non-conference regular season home games, dating back to a win over Kent State in 2013.
- Penn State has won its last 10 games against Big Ten West Division opponents, dating back to an overtime win over Minnesota on Oct. 1, 2016.
- KJ Hamler is 340 yards shy of 2,000 all-purpose yards.
- … 69 yards shy of 1,000 career receiving yards.
- … 477 yards shy of 1,000 career kickoff return yards.
- Pat Freiermuth is 33 yards shy of 500 career receiving yards.
- Sean Clifford is 246 yards shy of 1,000 career passing yards.
- Ricky Slade is 210 yards shy of 500 career rushing yards.
- Jahan Dotson is 175 yards shy of 500 career receiving yards.
- John Reid is five tackles shy of 100 career tackles.
- Garrett Taylor is six tackles shy of 100 career tackles.
- Micah Parsons is six tackles shy of 100 career tackles.
- Robert Windsor is 13 tackles shy of 100 career tackles.
- Yetur Gross-Matos is 23 tackles shy of 100 career tackles.
- Jan Johnson surpassed 100 career tackles with a 14-tackle effort against Buffalo.
- Yetur Gross-Matos surpassed 25 career tackles for loss with a sack against Buffalo.
- KJ Hamler surpassed 1,500 all-purpose yards with a 159-yard effort in the season opener against Idaho.
- Penn State is 33-9 over the past four seasons (2016-19), which is the ninth-best record in FBS.
- Dating back to 2015, Penn State has won 26 of its last 29 home games.
- Penn State’s 46 wins over the last six years (2014-19) rank tied for 13th in FBS and third in the Big Ten (Ohio State, 64; Wisconsin, 55).
- Penn State’s 89 wins over the last 11 years (2009-19) rank tied for 16th in FBS and fourth in the Big Ten (Ohio State, 117; Wisconsin, 104; Michigan State, 93).
- Penn State’s 129 wins over the last 15 years rank 12th in FBS and third in the Big Ten (Ohio State, 160; Wisconsin, 142).
- Penn State clinched its 14th consecutive winning season in 2018. Only four other FBS teams have had a winning season each of the last 14 years (Oklahoma, Boise State, LSU, Wisconsin).
- Over those 14 consecutive winning seasons, Penn State has totaled at least nine wins in nine seasons, including the last three seasons.
- Head coach James Franklin has guided his teams to a winning record each of the last seven seasons (2 at Vanderbilt, 5 at Penn State).
CONTROLLING THE GAME
- The Nittany Lions have held a lead for 72.9 percent of their plays over the last three years (2017-19) to rank fourth in FBS, behind only Alabama, Clemson and UCF.
- Over a four-year span (2016-19), Penn State has held the lead for 63.4 percent of the plays, which is ninth among FBS schools.
- By comparison, from 2013-15, Penn State led for 42.8 percent (2760 of 6453) of its plays, to rank 69th in FBS.
GREEN LIGHT IN THE RED ZONE
- Dating back to 2017, Penn State has scored on 88 of its last 93 red zone trips, including 70 touchdowns.
- This season, Penn State is 10-for-10 in the red zone with seven touchdowns.
- Penn State is one of 42 teams to stay perfect in the red zone through the first two weeks of the season.
TOP TIGHT END
- Sophomore TE Pat Freiermuth had a career day against Buffalo, setting bests for catches (8) and receiving yards (99) and matching his career high of two touchdowns.
- Freiermuth’s eight catches are the most for a Penn State tight end since Mike Gesicki had eight grabs at Michigan State in 2017.
- Freiermuth’s three receptions of 20-plus yards rank tied for 28th overall in FBS and tied for second among tight ends.
- Among FBS tight ends this season, Freiermuth’s 4.5 receptions per game rank tied for ninth and his 124 receiving yards rank eighth.
- Freiermuth is one of 11 FBS tight ends with two or more receiving touchdowns.
- Freiermuth extended his streak to 14 consecutive games with at least one reception (all but his first career game).
- With 10 career touchdowns, Freiermuth is tied for 17th all-time at Penn State. Among tight ends, he is tied for third, matching Ted Kwalick (1966-68), and he is one touchdown behind Jesse James (2012-14) for second.
FOUR TOUCHDOWN CLUB
- QB Sean Clifford became the 16th different Penn State quarterback with at least four touchdown passes in a game with four against Buffalo.
- It was Penn State’s 17th four-touchdown effort by a quarterback since 2000.
- The last Penn State quarterback to throw for four touchdowns with two or fewer career starts was Matt McGloin in 2010. McGloin had just one start when he threw for four touchdowns off the bench in a comeback win over Northwestern.
- The last Penn State quarterback to throw four touchdowns in a game was Trace McSorley with four vs. Georgia State in 2018.
HALF DOZEN TOUCHDOWNS
- QB Sean Clifford ranks tied for 12th in FBS with six touchdown passes.
- Clifford is the first Penn State quarterback to open a season with six touchdown passes since Daryll Clark did the same in 2009.
- Clark and Clifford are the only two Penn State quarterbacks to accomplish the feat since 2000.
EFFICIENT AND CONSISTENT
- QB Sean Clifford leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth in FBS with a 215.0 passing efficiency rating.
- Clifford’s 18.63 passing yards per completion also leads the Big Ten and ranks fifth in FBS.
- Twelve of Clifford’s 30 completions this season have gone for 20 or more yards.
- Clifford’s 12 completions of 20 or more yards rank tied for sixth in FBS.
- Clifford is averaging 279.5 yards passing per game after throwing for 280 in the opener against Idaho and 279 the following week against Buffalo.
- QB Sean Clifford (559 passing yds; 108 rushing yds) is one of four FBS quarterbacks with 500-plus yards passing and 100-plus yards rushing this season, joining Oklahoma ‘s Jalen Hurts (591 passing yds; 223 rushing yds), Georgia State’s Dan Ellington (501 passing yds.; 147 rushing yds) and Middle Tennessee State’s Asher O’Hara (584 passing yds; 135 rushing yds).
- Clifford is the only Penn State quarterback to total more than 500 passing yards (559) and 100 rushing yards (108) in the first two games of a season since at least 2000. He joins Trace McSorley (444 passing yds, 113 rushing yds) as the only Penn State quarterback to throw for 400-plus yards and rush for 100-plus since at least 2000.
- Averaging 333.5 yards of total offense per game, Clifford ranks second in the Big Ten and 16th in FBS.
- Clifford is tied for the team lead with 108 yards rushing.
- Clifford had a career-long 58-yard rush against Buffalo.
CAUSING CHAOS BEHIND THE LINE
- Penn State continues to rank near the top of the sacks and tackles for loss national rankings, ranking 10th with 4.0 sacks per game and fifth with 10.5 tackles for loss per game.
- See National Nits on Page 9
- Penn State has posted double-digit tackles for loss in each of the first two games of the year (11 vs. Idaho; 10 vs. Buffalo) for the first time since 2007 (10 vs. FIU; 10 Notre Dame).
- Penn State’s 21 tackles for loss are the most through the first two games since opening 2017 with 23 tackles for loss.
- Penn State’s 11.0 tackles for loss in the season opener against Idaho were the most since recording 15.0 vs. Maryland last year.
- Penn State’s 7.0 sacks against Idaho were the most since notching 7.0 vs. Kent State last season.
- DE Yetur Gross-Matos leads Penn State with 3.5 sacks to rank tied for fourth in FBS.
- Penn State’s 3.39 sacks per game over the last five years (2015-19) are the most in FBS, leading Clemson (3.38).
- Penn State’s 183 sacks over the last five years (2015-19 are second only to Clemson (203) and Alabama (196), the teams that have won the last four National Championships.
- Penn State has posted four consecutive 40-plus sack seasons for the first time in program history after totaling 47 last season, 42 in 2017, 40 in 2016 and 46 in 2015.
- In 2018, Penn State led the country in sacks per game (3.62) and ranked fourth and led the Big Ten in tackles for loss (8.2) per game.
REID ALL ABOUT IT
- CB John Reid has tallied an interception in each of the first two games this season.
- Reid’s interception return for a touchdown against Buffalo was the first interception returned for a TD since Amani Oruwariye returned an interception 30 yards for a score against Kent State in 2016.
- It was Reid’s first career touchdown and his seventh career interception.
- In the opener against Idaho, Reid had an interception and tallied the first full sack of his career, as he forced an intentional grounding penalty in the opening stanza.
- Penn State has held seven of its last eight regular season non-conference opponents to 14 points or less, dating back to 2017.
- Penn State’s average of 10.0 points allowed this season ranks 13th in FBS and fourth in the Big Ten.
NOTE GIVING GROUND
- The Nittany Lion defense held Idaho to just 4 rushing yards, the fewest since allowing 3 yards to UMass in 2014 and the second-fewest under James Franklin.
- Penn State gave up just 145 yards of total offense to Idaho, which are the fewest since allowing 87 yards to Rutgers in 2016 and the second-lowest total under Franklin.
- It was the fifth time under Franklin the Nittany Lions have given up less than 200 yards of total offense.
- Junior transfer K Jordan Stout has made an impact with several booming kicks.
- Stout had eight touchbacks on eight kickoffs against Buffalo, giving him and FBS-leading 20 for his first 21 to start the season.
- Stout had 12 touchbacks on 13 kickoffs vs. Idaho, which is the most at Penn State since the kickoff spot moved to the 35-yard line in 2011.
- Idaho was unable to return any of Stout’s 13 kickoffs, as the lone kick to not go for a touchback was fair caught at the 2-yard line.
- Stout’s 53-yard field goal against Idaho is tied for sixth-longest in Penn State history with Kevin Kelly (vs. Iowa, 2007) and Massimo Manca (vs. Notre Dame, 1985).
- Stout’s 53-yard field goal was the longest since Sam Ficken had a 54-yard field goal vs. Kent State in 2013 and the first 50-plus-yard field goal since Ficken converted a 50-yard kick vs. Temple in 2014.
- Penn State has blocked three punts this season to lead FBS, blocking two against Idaho and one against Buffalo.
- Journey Brown earned his first career block against Buffalo.
- Jonathan Sutherland was able to get a hand on a pair of punts against Idaho for the first blocked punts of his career.
- The last time Penn State was credited with two blocked punts in the same game was against Louisiana Tech in 2000.
- Penn State was the only team to block two punts in the opening week.