Did you see the photo of that old school button posted before Saturday’s game? “My two favorite teams are Penn State and whoever’s playing Pitt.” We totally had that one growing up. I remember my dad picking it out and laughing. I don’t think my sister or I understood the joke at the time—in fact, I’m pretty sure my mom had to explain it—but what we did understand was that Penn State was our favorite team. Period.
A Penn State/Pitt rivalry almost seems possible because we remember it nostalgically. Once upon a time, it was a big game and we loved to hate Pitt… but now? Eh. We’re kinda over it. We’ve got Big Ten opponents we care more about and our sights are set on the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Panthers feel otherwise and the whole thing plays out like a breakup. Pitt’s been dumped and they’re still trying to get our attention in ugly ways. I’m sorry, we don’t really hate you anymore, Pitt. We might mock you a little bit longer but it’s basically over.
So I’m not really surprised to hear complaints of Coach Franklin running up the score coming out of Pittsburgh. I’m a bit shocked to hear non-Pitt critics and even some of our own Nittany Lion fans joining in. I don’t hear anyone complaining about Ohio State winning 52-3. Did Boise State run up the score? (62-7) Did Michigan? (49-3) Miami? (77-0)
Was it a blowout? Yes, it was. These things do happen. Sometimes we’re skilled enough and lucky enough to run away with a game.
Given our history, I just don’t see Penn State intending to blow out a team. In 1991 Penn State beat Cincinnati 81-0. “Mauled” is the word the sportswriters used. Afterwards, Joe Paterno was clearly upset about it. He said nobody wants to be in a game like that. The opposing coach made a point to absolve Paterno, saying he knew Paterno would never intentionally run up the score and that it was actually his own fault because his team was out of position so often. Though we’re unlikely to hear such an exchange these days, I appreciate the respect our coach shows toward all of our opponents, especially following a blow out against Pitt.
I consider myself very sensitive to sportsmanship. I just don’t see this as running up the score. I don’t see it in the same realm as classless or disgraceful, both words I’ve seen used to describe our win.
I understand it feels terrible to lose by 45 points at home in the pouring rain while your talk-a-big-game fans desert you and your coach publicly freaks out. It feels absolutely personal to have Coach Franklin challenge a close fumble call when he’s clearly wrapped up the win. I imagine it’s tough to watch our third-string quarterback connect with a backup receiver in your end zone when you’re already so far down. None of that means we disrespected you. We did what we were supposed to: put in the second and third stringers and finish the game. It’s not like starters were in there padding their stats, and no one should be expected to self-impose some sort of mercy rule. I suspect it’d be more insulting if we did.
We were simply the better team and won handily. End of story.
Maybe I’m clouded by my inherent bias against Pitt. Well, I blame my father. I’m KIDDING. Dad, I promise I’m just kidding. Thanks for instilling my love for these Lions. This past weekend my two favorite teams were Penn State and Penn State.