Over the 10-year span from 1973 to 1982, Penn State and Pittsburgh were ranked for their rivalry matchup every year. The final one of those was a top-5 showdown that took place on this day 40 years ago.
In the second half, it was Penn State that ultimately exerted its dominance. The Nittany Lions stifled their rivals for a 19-10 victory.
Setting the Stage
Both teams were 9-1 as they arrived at Beaver Stadium on Nov. 26, 1982. Ranked No. 1 in the preseason, the Panthers sat at No. 5 for the rivalry contest.
Penn State was No. 2. Since a 42-21 loss to Alabama in Birmingham, Penn State had won five straight, which included two shutouts.
A Dominant Second Half
Pitt quarterback Dan Marino was the headliner for the contest, but the day belonged to Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge, running back Curt Warner, and the defense.
The Panthers led 7-3 at the break, but Blackledge’s 31-yard touchdown toss to Kenny Jackson put Penn State ahead for good midway through the third quarter — a period in which Pitt managed just 13 yards. Kicker Nick Gancitano hit three of his four field goals in the second half. The Nittanty Lions held Marino and the Pitt offense to just a field goal over the final 30 minutes.
Warner finished with 118 yards rushing in the victory. Blackledge threw for just 149 yards, but his go-ahead toss to Jackson — his 22nd of the year — set a new Penn State record.
New York Times
The Pitt offense’s struggles continued into the Cotton Bowl as the Panthers were defeated by SMU, 7-3. With a 9-3 record, Pitt finished No. 10 in the final AP Poll.
In a contest that determined the national championship, Penn State went on to beat No. 1 Georgia and Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker in the Sugar Bowl, 27-23. Under 17th-year head coach Joe Paterno, the Nittany Lions would claim their first national title.
Though unofficial, one might say Penn State also claimed the Pennsylvania state title that year. It did so with a 9-point win over No. 5 Pitt on this day four decades ago.