Pitt Football’s Home Games of the Decades

With the last year of this decade upon us and another football season rapidly approaching (although to college football fans, not rapidly enough), this gives us an opportunity to consider which Pitt home game at Heinz Field is the reigning home game of the decade going into 2019. While we’re at it, what home games were the game of the decade for the past four decades as well? Working in chronological order, we’ll begin with the ‘70s.

1975 Pitt 34 Notre Dame 20. Those in the sellout crowd of 56,480 that hoped to see Pitt finally snap an 11-year losing streak to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame not only had their wish granted but they got to see history made as well.

It was 6-3 Pitt versus ninth-ranked Notre Dame with a 7-2 record. On Pitt’s first drive, Tony Dorsett broke off a 57-yard run foreshadowing what the Fighting Irish defense would face all afternoon. Later with Pitt trailing 10-7 in the first quarter, Dorsett sprinted 71 yards to the end zone to give the Panthers a 14-10 lead. At this point, Dorsett had rushed for 151 yards – in four carries!

The teams exchanged field goals and Dorsett took a pass from quarterback Matt Cavanaugh and went 49 yards for another Panther touchdown to go up 24-13 at the half. Dorsett would have three receptions for 74 yards on the day. After a Carson Long field goal in third quarter, Notre Dame’s Rusty Slager would hit Ken McAfee with a touchdown pass to cut Pitt’s lead to seven, 27-20. Pitt would add a final touchdown in the fourth quarter to close out the scoring.

Dorsett’s 303 yards rushing against Notre Dame (on just 23 carries) is still the most rushing yards gained by an opponent against Notre Dame 43 seasons later. This was not just the game of the decade. Like Johnny Miller’s 63 at the final round of the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 1973 and Secretariat at the Belmont that same year, this was a performance of a lifetime.

Honorable Mention: 1970 Pitt 36 West Virginia 35. This is one game you may hear Pitt fans say, “I was there,” which should be followed up with, “but did you stay till the end?” In one of the legendary games of the Backyard Brawl, Pitt trailed at halftime 35-8. In what was truly a tale of two halves, Pitt ran 67 plays in the second half and did not punt in the third or fourth quarter and Pitt’s defense shut out the Mountaineers allowing for the legendary comeback. Pitt quarterback Dave Halvern threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Leslie Block with just 27 seconds left in the game.

Many fans had left the Pitt-West Virginia game as it was so one-sided in the first half that many left early and did not see the comeback with some fans scrambling back to Pitt Stadium when they heard Pitt was coming back. It taught Mountaineers head coach Bobby Bowden to never sit on a lead again.

The ‘80s: 1982 Pitt 16 West Virginia 13. In front of a crowd of 57,251, number one-ranked Pitt came back from a 13-0 fourth-quarter deficit to defeat fourteenth-ranked West Virginia 16-13. Early in the fourth quarter, West Virginia linebacker Darryl Talley blocked a Pitt punt and recovered it in the end zone to extend West Virginia’s lead to 13-0 in what was a defensive slugfest to that point. Pitt running back Bryan Thomas would get Pitt on the board with a three-yard touchdown run and with 6:04 to play Dan Short recovered a missed snap by Mountaineer quarterback Jeff Hostetler. With under four minutes to play, Pitt quarterback Dan Marino threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Julius Dawkins and the extra point gave Pitt a 14-13 lead. A subsequent safety by Bill Maas of Mountaineers quarterback Jeff Hostetler increased the lead to 16-13.  With seven seconds left in the contest and a chance to tie the game, West Virginia kicker Paul Woodside was just short on a 52-yard field goal attempt. It was Woodside’s first miss after converting on 15 consecutive field goal attempts.

Honorable mention: 1989 Pitt 30 Syracuse 23. This could be Pitt’s version of the Marvin Hagler-Tommy Hearns fight with each team trading bombs right from the start. On Syracuse’s first play of the game, wide receiver Rob Carpenter hit a wide-open Rob Moore for a 69-yard touchdown pass off a reverse. On Pitt’s first play from scrimmage, quarterback Alex Van Pelt hit Henry Tuten for a 61-yard touchdown pass and the score was 6-6 just 32 seconds into the game!

Syracuse came into the game ranked 13th and Pitt was ranked 14th and the first quarter would end Pitt leading 16-13. Pitt led 23-13 at the half and opened the second half with a 70-yard drive capped by one of Derrick Lewis’ three touchdown runs on the day. Syracuse would answer back scoring the next 10 points and on their final possession, the game ended on a Louis Riddick interception inside Pitt’s 10-yard line as time ran out. It was only the third loss for the Orangemen in their last 27 games and snapped Pitt’s five-game losing streak to Syracuse.

The ‘90s: 1999 Pitt 37 Notre Dame 27: Could it be anything other than the final game ever at Pitt Stadium on November 13, 1999, in which Pitt defeated Notre Dame 37-27 before 60,190 fans? Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Bob Smizik wrote, “It was an epic encounter between Pitt and Notre Dame and it was merely one of the greatest games played in the 74-year-old facility.”

Pitt quarterback John Turman threw the first of his two touchdowns on the day to Antonio Bryant in the first quarter to give Pitt a 7-0 lead. The Fighting Irish would battle back after each Pitt score and saw the game tied at 10 and 17-all in the third quarter. Following a Pitt field goal, Turman hit Bryant for a 28-yard touchdown pass to give Pitt a 10-point lead. Notre Dame would answer with a touchdown to make it 27-24 at the end of the third quarter. Both teams traded field goals with the score 30-27 midway in the fourth quarter.

On Notre Dame’s next possession Pitt’s safety Ramon Walker struck Notre Dame wideout Joey Getherall so hard the ball popped into the air and linebacker Scott McCurley made the interception. Pitt running back Kevin Barlow would then carry the ball nine times in a 10-play drive and score his second touchdown of the game on a two-yard touchdown run to make it 37-27 with 1:41 left in the game.  Notre Dame had won the previous eight games against the Panthers but not on this day. This was Pitt’s day.

Honorable mention: 1997 Pitt 21 Miami 17. On a Thursday night in front of an ESPN audience, Miami opened the scoring just 1:05 into the game on a swing pass to Carlo Joseph that turned into a 57-yard touchdown pass. Pitt quarterback Pete Gonzalez would bring Pitt back throwing two touchdown passes in the game and accounting for 250 yards of offense, 63 of those on the ground. With Pitt clinging to a four-point lead, the Hurricanes got to Pitt’s 34-yard line with 1:25 left and on fourth-and-five, Ryan Clement’s pass was intercepted by John Jenkins. It was the second interception for Pitt’s defense that night to go with four sacks, three turnovers and holding Miami to 76 yards rushing. This game made a lot of Pitt fans believers of first-year head coach Walt Harris as it was Pitt’s first win over Miami since 1976 ending an eight-game losing streak. Anytime goalposts are torn down, it must have been quite a game.

The ‘00s: 2009 Cincinnati. 45-44. That’s all you need to see and you know which game I’m referring to. The game was for the Big East Conference crown and a trip to the Sugar Bowl. No game at Heinz Field before or since had as much at stake as this one. A light, steady snowfall fell upon a packed Heinz Field as 63,387 in attendance witnessed what turned out to be a game for the ages.

Pitt led comfortably 31-10 late in the second quarter but made the mistake of kicking it to Cincinnati’s Mardy Gilyard. Gilyard would go 99 yards to bring Cincinnati within 14 points going into halftime and the game’s momentum now belonged to the Bearcats. In a brilliant individual performance, Gilyard had 256 return yards on the day to go along with 118 yards receiving. Pitt running back Dion Lewis did all he could in a losing-effort carrying the football 47 times for 194 and three touchdowns.

Lewis’ third touchdown of the game gave Pitt a 44-38 lead against the fifth-ranked Bearcats but the ensuing extra point hold was dropped which gave Cincinnati a chance. Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike needed only 64 seconds to tie the game and the Bearcats made the extra point and were Big East Conference champions.

Honorable mention: 2003 Pitt 31 Virginia Tech 28. In front of 66,207 fans, Pitt quarterback Rod Rutherford completed 24 of 31 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns as Pitt wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald caught eight of those passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. With 54 seconds remaining in the game, Pitt running back Lousaka Polite scored from the two-yard line for the game-winning score over the fifth-ranked Hokies. It was Pitt’s first win over a top-five team at home since beating fourth-ranked Notre Dame in 1987.

A second honorable mention: 2007 Navy 48 Pitt 45 2OT. This one was the longest game ever played at Heinz Field with both teams combining for 915 yards in total offense in which no team led by more than seven points throughout the contest. Navy led by a field goal in the second overtime and rather than kick a chip-shot field goal to tie the game and force another overtime, Pitt Head Coach Dave Wannstedt elected to go for the win. Instead of giving the ball to LeSean McCoy who led all rushers with 165 yards on 32 carries and three touchdowns, freshman quarterback Pat Bostick overthrew tight end Darrell Strong in the end zone.

The ’10s: 2016: Pitt 42 Penn State 39. It was a long-awaited renewal of an old rivalry and a game that was highly anticipated for years that lived up to its hype with Pitt hanging on to beat Penn State 42-39 in front of 69,983 fans, the largest crowd to ever watch a Pitt home game.

Pitt’s offensive line bludgeoned Penn State’s defense rushing for 341 yards with James Conner gaining 117 of those yards. Pitt led 28-7 in the second quarter and held on as Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 332 yards and Saquon Barkley would score five touchdowns.

A dropped McSorley pass for a touchdown off the fingertips of Penn State wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton was followed by a Ryan Lewis interception with just over a minute to play in the game to preserve Pitt’s lead for good.

Honorable mention: 2016: Pitt 76 Syracuse 61. This one must be listed as it was the highest scoring regulation game in FBS history with a score often greater than when these two schools meet on the hardwood, Pitt outscored 76-61 in a defensively-challenged contest in 2016. The two teams combined to score 47 points in the fourth quarter and 1,312 yards of offense in the game. That was with opposing defenses on the field. Seriously.

The 2019 season will open with a key Coastal Division match-up with Virginia and will be the first of seven Pitt home games in 2019. Will this season provide this decade’s game of the decade?

Photo courtesy of: University of Pittsburgh Athletic Department

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:

https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/

Southwest Pennsylvania – Breeding Ground for the NCAA and the NFL

For a region not as heavily populated as some areas of the country, Southwest Pennsylvania has produced a large number of college and pro football greats over the years. Not only does Southwest

Pennsylvania lay claim to the birthplace of professional football, but throughout the years it has also served as a fertile breeding ground for college and professional football.

The players that have come from Southwest Pennsylvania reads like a who’s who of college and pro football greats. In breaking it down by position, an All-Southwest PA team might look something like this:

No part of the country has produced more great quarterbacks and no position is as deep on this squad as quarterback. The starting signal caller would be Joe Montana, thought of as the greatest quarterback in NFL history till Tom Brady, and the backups aren’t too bad either. One would be Johnny Unitas, the greatest quarterback in NFL history before Joe Montana. In 1999, The Sporting News ranked Joe Montana the third greatest football player ever and Unitas fifth. The other backup quarterback is none other than Dan Marino, and Marino retired as the NFL’s all-time leading passer in yards thrown, touchdowns and completions and may have been the best pure passer ever.

Quarterbacks earning honorable mention would include NFL Hall of Famers Joe Namath and Jim Kelly; Gus Frerotte, who threw for over 21,000 yards and made a Pro Bowl; Johnny Lujack, a Heisman trophy winner at Notre Dame; Sandy Stephens, an All-American at Minnesota and Big 10 Conference MVP who led the Golden Gophers to a national championship and is in the College Football Hall of Fame; Terry Hanratty, who led Notre Dame to a national championship and finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy balloting; Chuck Fusina and Richie Lucas, who both went to Penn State and both were runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, and Lucas is in the College Football Hall of Fame; Babe Parilli, a two-time All-American that led Kentucky to Sugar and Cotton Bowl victories and finished in the top four of the Heisman Trophy balloting twice and was the 4th overall pick in the first round of the 1952 NFL draft; Charlie Batch, a three-year starter for the Detroit Lions, and Terrelle Pryor, who led Ohio State to two BCS bowl victories and was MVP of both the Rose and Sugar Bowl.

As for the starting running backs, this lineup has two of the NFL’s all-time greats: Tony Dorsett, a Heisman Trophy winner at Pitt and NFL Hall of Famer; and another NFL Hall of Famer in Curtis Martin. Few backs were as good as Dorsett in college football history. Dorsett broke the record for most yards rushing in NCAA history, and upon his retirement from pro football, he was second all-time in NFL history in career rushing yards with 12,739. Dorsett was the first player ever to win the Heisman Trophy, a national championship, a Super Bowl and be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Martin, who also went to Pitt, retired as the fourth leading rusher in NFL history with 14,101 yards.

Running backs that earn honorable mention include Larry Brown, who was selected to four Pro Bowls,  rushed for over 1,000 yards twice and was the NFL’s leading rusher in 1972; Chuck Muncie, a three-time Pro Bowler that rushed for more than 1,000 yards twice in his career; Cookie Gilchrist, the first player to rush for over 1,000 yards in the AFL and league MVP and is a member of the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame; Mercury Morris, who rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season with the Miami Dolphins, Dick Hoak, who played 10 years in the NFL was named to a Pro Bowl; Fran Rogel, who played eight years in the NFL and was also named to a Pro Bowl and Ed Modzelewski, an All-American at Maryland and Sugar Bowl MVP and was the sixth overall pick of the first round of the 1952 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

One would think having so many great quarterbacks from Southwest Pennsylvania there would also be a lot of great wide receivers as well, but that’s not the case. The best would be Steve Breaston, a 1,000-yard receiver in 2008 in his six-year NFL career; Brian Baschnagel, a nine-year NFL veteran and Greg Garrity, a seven-year NFL veteran. Currently, Tyler Boyd is in his third year with the Cincinnati Bengals.

With Southwestern Pennsylvania having been known for steel mills and hard-working, blue-collar jobs, one would think the offensive line would be very good, and it is. The starting offensive line would consist of: NFL Hall-of-Famer Russ Grimm, Rich Saul, a six-time Pro Bowler in the NFL; Bill Fralic, a four-time NFL Pro Bowler and a three-time All American at Pitt and one of college football’s all-time greatest offensive lineman and the second overall pick of the 1985 NFL draft; Jeff Christy, a three-time Pro Bowler and Jimbo Covert, a two-time NFL Pro Bowler.

The offensive linemen that would earn honorable mention would include: Ron Saul, who played 12 years in the NFL; Al DeMao, who played in the ‘40s and ‘50s and was voted one of the 70 greatest Washington Redskins; Steve August, the 14th overall pick of the 1977 NFL draft and played eight years in the NFL; A.Q. Shipley, winner of the Rimington Award at Penn State as college football’s best center and current member of the Arizona Cardinals; Dan Mozes, winner of the Rimington Award at West Virginia; Jim Wilson, an All-American tackle at Georgia in 1964 and Stefan Wisniewski, an All-American at Penn State currently playing for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

If any position on this team symbolizes western Pennsylvania’s hard work ethic, it would be tight end. Two players stand out above the rest with two others currently making his mark in the NFL. The first would be Mike Ditka, a Pitt All-American and NFL Hall of Famer, and Ted Kwalick, a Penn State All-American and a three-time NFL Pro Bowler. Both Ditka and Kwalick were voted to Sports Illustrated’s NCAA All-Century Team. Having attended Woodland Hills High School, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is a force in the NFL and current Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James merit honorable mention.

The kicker would have to be the ageless one, Hall of Famer George Blanda. When Blanda retired at the age of 48, he was the NFL’s all-time leading scorer and was a very good quarterback in the AFL. The backup kicker would be Fred Cox, who played at Pitt and was the Minnesota Vikings placekicker in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Cox was selected to one Pro Bowl in his 15-year career with the Vikings and was one of the last of the straight-on kickers.

Handling the punting duties would be Ohio State great Tom Skladany. Skladany was a two-time All-American in college and a Pro Bowler in the NFL. His backup would be Pat McAfee, an All-American at West Virginia, who played eight years for the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL.

In turning to the defense and beginning with the defensive line: Hall-of-Famer Jason Taylor, a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time AFC Defensive Player of the year. Taylor was also named to the NFL 2000’s All-Decade team and recorded 139 ½ sacks in his career; Aaron Donald, NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 and a four-time Pro Bowler in his four seasons in the NFL. Donald won every major award that a defensive lineman possibly could except the Heisman Trophy in his final season at Pitt.

Dick Modzelewski, an All-American at Maryland and the Outland Trophy winner in 1952. Modzelewski played on the great New York Giants teams in the ‘50s and set a then-NFL record for durability, playing in 180 consecutive games; Leon Hart, a Heisman Trophy winner at Notre Dame and the last lineman to win the Heisman Trophy. Hart also won the Maxwell Award while at Notre Dame and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame and was an NFL Pro Bowler in his eight-year career in the NFL.

Honorable mention:  Sean Gilbert, an NFL Pro Bowler who played 11 years in the NFL: Bruce Clark, a Lombardi Award winner at Penn State who played in one Pro Bowl in the NFL; Greg Meisner, who played on some of the University of Pittsburgh’s greatest teams and played 11 seasons in the NFL and Leo Wisniewski, who played three years in the NFL.

Linebackers:  Joe Schmidt, NFL Hall of Famer for the Detroit Lions and was named to the 1950’s NFL All-Decade team and was a 10-time Pro Bowl selection. In 1999, Schmidt was ranked number 65 on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 greatest football players. Schmidt played for Pitt and was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. We have another NFL Hall of Famer at linebacker in Bill George, who played for the Chicago Bears and was an eight-time first team All-Pro selection. George, like Schmidt, was also named to the 1950’s All-Decade team. In 1999, The Sporting News ranked George number 49 of the 100 greatest football players. Lavar Arrington would round out this position as a three-time Pro Bowler and a Butkus and Bednarik Award winner while at Penn State.

Honorable mention:  Myron Pottios, a three-time Pro Bowl selection in his 11-year NFL career; Paul Posluszny, a two-time Bednarik Award winner at Penn State, and selected for the Pro Bowl once in his 11-year career; Brandon Short, an All-American at Penn State and made the Pro Bowl once in his seven-year NFL career; Mike Lucci, named to one Pro Bowl in his 12-year NFL career; Jim Laslavic, who played 10 years in the NFL; Rich Milot, who played nine years in the NFL; John Skorupan, an All-American at Penn State and had an eight-year career in the NFL; Eric Ravotti, who played three years in the NFL and Sean Lee, who was named to the Pro Bowl in 2016 and is in his ninth season with the Dallas Cowboys.

At defensive back, we have Darrell Revis, one of the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history, and at the other cornerback spot we have Ty Law, a five-time Pro Bowler with 53 career interceptions in a 15-year career. The two safeties would be Tom Flynn, who had a five-year NFL career, and Mark Kelso, who played eight seasons with the Buffalo Bills.

As for the coaching staff, you have your pick of three Super Bowl-winning head coaches. There’s Da Coach, Mike Ditka, who coached the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl victory. There is also Bill Cowher, former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers who coached them to victory in Super Bowl XL, and there’s Mike McCarthy, current head coach of the Green Bay Packers, that coached the Packers to a Super Bowl victory. Two other head coaches that deserve mention are Marty Schottenheimer, who won 205 regular season games and his teams qualified for the postseason 13 times, and Chuck Knox, who amassed 193 wins in the NFL with his teams qualifying for the playoffs 11 times.

It’s unlikely that any region less populated than Southwest PA could produce a lineup that could match this one.

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.

Photo credit: fabfiver5 on Visual hunt / CC BY

Updating the Pittsburgh Panthers All-Time Football Team

Back in 2011, after trying unsuccessfully to find a recent article regarding an All-Time Pitt Panthers football team, I wrote the following article that can be found at: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/789636-announcing-the-pittsburgh-panthers-all-time-football-team. The past six years has allowed us sufficient time to revisit the subject and to see what players may have earned their way on to Pitt’s all-time team.

Pitt’s all-time team would rank among the best that have ever played college football. Presenting the updated University of Pittsburgh’s All-Time team:

At quarterback, who else could it be but No. 13, Dan Marino? Marino will forever be the benchmark for future Pitt quarterbacks and what Sparky Anderson said about Johnny Bench can be applied to Dan Marino and to Pitt quarterbacks before and after Marino, “Don’t embarrass anyone by comparing them to Dan Marino.”

An All-American in 1981, Marino broke nearly every major passing record in school history and still holds the school record for most touchdown passes in a career with 79 and in a season with 37. Marino was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

Behind Marino in the backfield are two running backs that, like Marino, had their jersey number retired by the University of Pittsburgh.  If anyone would not select Tony Dorsett to Pitt’s all-time team, then automatically consider that list null and void. Dorsett is on the short list of the greatest running backs in college football history.

Dorsett was a four-time All-American and won the Heisman Trophy in 1976, leading Pitt to a national championship. He was one of the few running backs ever that was a threat to go the distance on every carry and Dorsett set an NCAA career rushing record with 6,081 yards, the first player ever to rush for over 6,000 yards.  Dorsett was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994 and was named to Sports Illustrated’s NCAA All-Century Team.

Some may want to list James Conner in Pitt’s all-time backfield to join Dorsett. Conner did finish with 3,733 yards rushing and 56 touchdowns in his college career. Pitt had quite a few other outstanding running backs over the years as well: Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, Randy McMillan, Curtis Martin, Curvin Richards, LeSean McCoy, and Dion Lewis, just to name a few, and some would argue that one of them should be Dorsett’s backfield mate on Pitt’s all-time team, but the choice here is Marshall Goldberg.  None of the others has their number retired nor led their team to two national championships like Goldberg did.

For that matter, how many players finish in the top three in Heisman Trophy voting two years in a row? Goldberg, a two-time All-American, finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1937, was the Heisman runner-up in 1938, and held the Pitt career rushing mark for nearly 40 years until Dorsett came along. When you finish in the top three for the Heisman Trophy twice and your jersey number is retired, there is no doubt you were a great player.

At wide receiver, there is no debate in selecting Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald won the Biletnikoff and Walter Camp Awards in 2003 and finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting, the highest finish for a sophomore in the history of the award. In 26 games at Pitt, he had back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons, averaged over 100 yards per game receiving, caught 34 touchdown passes and set an NCAA record with at least one touchdown catch in 18 consecutive games. Fitzgerald still holds Pitt’s single-season records for receptions, 92, and receiving yardage, 1,672. Had he stayed for his junior and senior seasons Fitzgerald would probably be considered the greatest wide receiver in college football history.

Despite being Pitt’s all-time career leader in receptions with 254 and receiving yards with 3,361, Tyler Boyd does not break into the lineup as the other Pitt’s all-time wide receiver. Joining Fitzgerald at the other wide receiver position is another Biletnikoff Award winner, Antonio Bryant. As a sophomore in 2000, Bryant was Big East Offensive Player of the Year, leading the nation in receiving yards per game, and went on to become Pitt’s all-time leader in receiving yards with 3,061 before Boyd surpassed it.

At tight end, no player before or since embodied hard-nosed smash mouth football more than Mike Ditka. Ditka, an All-American in 1960, led the Panthers in receiving for three consecutive seasons. His number 89 has been retired by Pitt and Ditka was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and he was named to Sports Illustrated’s NCAA All-Century Team.

Since 2011, Pitt’s had some fine offensive linemen earn All-American honors such as Dorian Johnson, Adam Bisnowaty and Brian O’Neill, but Pitt’s all-time offensive line is a difficult one to break into which speaks to the outstanding play of those individuals.

Some great offensive tackles have played at Pitt. Players like two-time All-American Jimbo Covert, and All-Americans Randy Dixon and Reuben Brown, but when you think about Pitt’s offensive line, particularly the tackle position, two players stand out above the rest, Bill Fralic and Mark May.

Fralic was a three-time All-American and finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1983 and sixth in 1984, which is remarkable for a modern-day offensive lineman. Fralic was one of the greatest offensive tackles in college football history, and was named to the Sports Illustrated NCAA All-Century Team and is in the College Football Hall of Fame.

May won the Outland Trophy in 1980 as the best lineman in the country, and did not give up a sack his final two years at Pitt. An All-American in 1980, May was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

Both Fralic and May have their uniform numbers retired, and when you are one of the very few to have your uniform retired by your university, you should be on your school’s all-time team.

At guard, the choices are Mark Stepnoski and Ray Montgomery. Stepnoski was an All-American in 1988 and helped open holes that allowed Curvin Richards to rush for over 1,200 yards that year.  Montgomery was All-American in 1929, and Panthers’ legendary coach Jock Sutherland called Montgomery the perfect guard. That’s good enough for me.

There have been some outstanding centers for Pitt, but how many were three-time All-Americans?  Only one. Bob Peck was Pitt’s only three-time All-American center. Peck anchored Pitt’s offensive line and earned national recognition in 1914, 1915 and 1916 and helped lead Pitt to national championships in 1915 and 1916. Peck was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954. If you make All-American three times, you have earned a spot on your school’s all-time team, period. Peck gets the nod over two-time All-American and fellow College Football Hall-of-Famer Herb Stein.

In a city that appreciates defensive football, Pitt fans in the ‘70s witnessed a player for the ages. At defensive end was one of the best in college football history, Hugh Green, a three-time All-American.  Green finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 1980 and received the Maxwell Award as the top player in the nation and the Walter Camp Award for the college football player of the year. Green’s number 99 was retired by Pitt and he was named to the Sports Illustrated NCAA All-Century Team. Green is still Pitt’s all-time sack leader with 49.

Defensive ends Jabaal Sheard and Ejuan Price both had All-American seasons since 2011 but the other defensive end on Pitt’s All-Time team is Green’s teammate Rickey Jackson. Jackson and Green teamed up to give Pitt the finest set of defensive ends in the country. Jackson finished his career at Pitt as the school’s fifth all-time leading tackler.

At defensive tackle, the first choice is unquestionably Aaron Donald. In 2013, Donald became Pitt’s most decorated defensive tackle ever winning the Bednarik Award, the Lombardi Award, the Outland Trophy and the Nagurski Trophy for his outstanding play that year. Donald won just about every award he was eligible for other than the Heisman Trophy. Donald finished his career at with 29.5 sacks and 66 tackles for loss. The other choice at defensive tackle is All-American Randy Holloway.  Holloway was All-American in 1977 and his 33.5 sacks are still second all-time in Pitt history.

At linebacker for Pitt, you have a trio of All-Americans:  Jerry Olsavsky, Joe Schmidt, and H.B. Blades. You could do more than pencil in Olsavsky for 100 tackles a year; you could put it in ink and guarantee it.

Joe Schmidt was a leader and team captain for the Panthers and was named an All-American in 1952 and later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000. Schmidt’s number 65 has been retired by Pitt.

H.B. Blades was an All-American in 2006 and was Big East defensive player of the year that year. Blades was a three-time All-Big East selection and he is third all-time in career tackles at Pitt with 433.

At cornerback, one has to select Darrelle Revis. One could see while at Pitt that Revis could play alone on an island at cornerback and would do well in the NFL. Revis tied and/or led the Panthers in interceptions in 2005 and 2006 and had two interception returns for touchdowns in 2006.

At the other cornerback spot, the pick is Tim Lewis. Lewis was a two-year starter at cornerback and was selected by the Green Bay Packers as the 11th overall player selected in the first round of the 1983 NFL draft.

At one safety spot is Pitt’s all-time interception leader Bob Jury. Jury picked off 21 passes while at Pitt, and still holds the two highest interception totals for a season in Pitt history, intercepting 10 passes in 1976 and eight in 1977. Jury was named All-American in 1977.

At the other safety spot is Carlton Williamson. Williamson is best remembered for the pick-six interception against Penn State in 1980 to seal a Pitt victory over arch-rival Penn State, but his steady play drew the attention of the San Francisco 49ers, becoming a member of their Super Bowl winning teams after his playing days at Pitt.

Pitt’s all-time kicker is Conor Lee. Lee shares the school record making 12 consecutive field goals and holds Pitt’s career field goal percentage record with 83.3%.

The choice for punter on Pitt’s all-time team is Brian Greenfield. Greenfield holds both the highest season and highest career punting averages at Pitt and was named an All-American in 1990.

The choice for kick returner used to be Hank Poteat. Whereas Poteat never returned a kickoff for a touchdown in his 81 kickoff returns, Quadree Henderson returned four in 73 returns. Henderson’s career average of 26.6 is nearly three yards per return better than Poteat and Henderson averaged 30.5 yards a return in 2016.

Make room again for Henderson as Pitt’s all-time punt returner as well. Tom Flynn still is Pitt’s leader in career punt return yardage with 983 with two touchdowns in 122 returns and an 8.1 yards punt return average. Just how good was Henderson though? Henderson had three touchdowns in 37 returns and a 13.4 yards career punt return average.

There you have it, Pitt’s all-time team, which would certainly be in the upper echelon of all-time college teams.

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.  This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/

 

The Top 25 NFL Quarterbacks to not win a Super Bowl

I wrote this article back in back in January of 2011. It makes for a nice trivia question about the best quarterbacks to not win a Super Bowl.

My article was originally published at: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/554656-the-best-25-quarterbacks-ever-to-have-never-won-a-super-bowl

The NFL postsesaon is here and some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL will be trying to win their first Super Bowl.

Two make the list of the best 25 to have never won the Super Bowl.  See who they are and where they rank in our list.

25. Jim Everett

Everett threw for 34,837 yards and 203 touchdowns. He threw for over 3,000 yards in a season seven times and led the Los Angeles Rams to the postseason three times.

He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1990.   Everett had the misfortune of playing in the same era and division as the San Francisco 49ers of the ’90s.

24. Michael Vick

Vick has thrown for 14,609 yards and 93 touchdowns. A four-time Pro Bowler, he has led the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles to the playoffs.

Second all-time in rushing yards for a quarterback with 4,630 yards, he likely will surpass Randall Cunningham as the all-time leader in 2011.

23. Matt Hasselbeck

Originally a Green Bay Packer, Hasselbeck got his chance to shine as a Seattle Seahawk beginning in the 2001 season.

Hasselbeck has thrown for 29,579 yards and 176 touchdowns. A three-time Pro Bowler, he has thrown for over 3,000 yards in a season six times and led the Seattle Seahawks to Super Bowl XL.

22. Phillip Rivers

Rivers has played his entire career with the San Diego Chargers, throwing for 19,661 yards and 136 touchdowns.

A three-time Pro Bowler, he has thrown for over 3,000 yards in a season five times and in each of the last three seasons for over 4,000 yards.

21. Vinny Testaverde

Testaverde threw for 46,233 yards and 275 touchdowns in a career that spanned 21 years. Testaverde’s career passing yardage is in the top 10 all-time in the NFL.

A two-time Pro Bowler, he threw for over 3,000 yards in a season six times in his career.

20. Kerry Collins

Collins has thrown for 40,441 yards and 206 touchdowns.

A two-time Pro Bowler, he threw for over 3,000 yards in a season six times and led the Carolina Panthers, New York Giants and Tennessee Titans to the playoffs during his career.

Collins led the New York Giants to Super Bowl XXXV.

19. Archie Manning

A two-time Pro Bowler, Manning threw for over 3,000 yards in a season three times.

Manning played for the woeful New Orleans Saints for most of his career and overall threw for 23,911 yards and 125 touchdowns.  Manning’s greatest claim to fame may be that he is the father of two Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks, Peyton and Eli Manning.

18. Rich Gannon

In his career, Gannon threw for 28,743 yards and 180 touchdowns.

A four-time Pro Bowler, NFL MVP in 2002 and two-time recipient of the Bert Bell Award, he threw for over 3,000 yards in a season four times and led the Oakland Raiders to Super Bowl XXXVII.

17.  Dave Krieg

A three-time Pro Bowler, Krieg threw for over 3,000 yards in a season six times and for his career, threw for 38,147 yards and 261 touchdowns.

Krieg is 12th on the all-time list for wins by a starting quarterback.

16. Roman Gabriel

In his career, Gabriel threw for 29,444 yards and 201 touchdowns. A four-time Pro Bowler, he was named NFL MVP in 1969 and NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1973.

Gabriel had a very low 3.3 percent interception rate.

15. John Brodie

A two-time Pro Bowler and NFL MVP in 1970, Brodie threw for 31,548 yards and 214 touchdowns.

He played his entire career with the San Francisco 49ers and at the time of his retirement was third all-time in career passing yards behind only Johnny Unitas and Fran Tarkenton.

14. John Hadl

In his career, Hadl threw for 33,503 yards and 244 touchdowns.

A two-time Pro Bowler, Hadl threw for over 3,000 yards in a season three times.

13. Carson Palmer

Palmer has played his entire career with the Cincinnati Bengals and has thrown for 22,694 yards and 154 touchdowns.

A two-time Pro Bowler, Palmer has thrown for over 3,000 yards in a season five times.

12. Jim Hart

Hart threw for 34,665 yards and 209 touchdowns.

A four-time Pro Bowler, he guided the St. Louis Cardinals to three straight 10-plus win seasons.  Hart thrived under Don Coryell’s passing offense.

11. Randall Cunningham

In his career, Cunningham threw for 29,979 yards and 207 touchdowns.  A four-time Pro Bowler, Cunningham was recipient of the Bert Bell Award three times.

He led both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs and retired as the all-time leading rusher for a quarterback with 4,928 yards.

10. Steve McNair

In his career, McNair threw for 31,304 yards and 174 touchdowns.

A three-time Pro Bowler and NFL MVP in 2003, McNair threw for over 3,000 yards in a season six times and led the Titans to their only Super Bowl appearance.

9. Donovan McNabb

McNabb has thrown for 36,250 yards and 230 touchdowns.

A six-time Pro Bowler, he has thrown for over 3,000 yards in a season eight times. McNabb led the Philadelphia Eagles to the NFC Championship game four straight seasons and to Super Bowl XXXIX, losing to Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots.

8. Boomer Esiason

In his career, Esiason threw for 37,920 yards and 247 touchdowns.  A four-time Pro Bowler, he threw for over 3,000 yards in a season seven times.

Named NFL MVP in 1988, Esiason led the Cincinnati Bengals to Super Bowl XXIII losing to the San Francisco 49ers and Joe Montana’s last-minute comeback drive.

7. Ken Anderson

Anderson played his entire career with the Cincinnati Bengals and threw for 32,838 yards and 197 touchdowns.

A four-time Pro Bowler, he led the NFL in passing yards in 1974 and 1975 and set an NFL record for completion percentage in 1982, completing 70.6 percent of his passes.

Named NFL MVP in 1981, Anderson led the Bengals to Super Bowl XVI.

6. Sonny Jurgensen

Hall of Famer—In his career, Jurgensen threw for 32,224 yards and 255 touchdowns.

Jurgensen, a five-time Pro Bowler, was also named to the NFL’s All-Decade team of the ‘60s.  Even though Jurgensen’s playing career began before the Super Bowl, he was so good that he made this list in that short period of time from the inception of the Super Bowl till his final season in 1974.

5. Warren Moon

Hall of Famer—In his career, Moon threw for 49,325 yards and 291 touchdowns.

A nine-time Pro Bowler, Moon threw for over 4,000 yards in a season four times and had more than 300 completions in a season six times.  Moon is in the top 10 all-time for wins for a starting quarterback as well.

4. Fran Tarkenton

Hall of Famer—A nine-time Pro Bowler, Tarkenton led the Minnesota Vikings to the Super Bowl three times but always came away empty.

Tarkenton retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards with 47,003, touchdown passes with 342, completions with 3,686 and rushing yards for a quarterback with 3,674.

He also had the most wins as a quarterback, 124.

Each record has been surpassed since.

3. Jim Kelly

Hall of Famer—One of the toughest quarterbacks ever, Kelly threw for 35,467 yards and 237 touchdowns.

He led the Buffalo Bills to the Super Bowl four times, but always came away empty handed.  He was named to the Pro Bowl four times and passed for over 3,000 yards in a season eight times.

2. Dan Fouts

Hall of Famer—In his career, the former San Diego Charger threw for 43,040 yards and 254 touchdowns.

Fouts was selected to the all-decade team in the ‘80s and was selected to the Pro Bowl six times. He set the single-season passing record in 1981 with 4,802 yards and threw for over 4,000 yards in a season three times.

Fouts led the Chargers to two AFC Championship games, but his teams never made the Super Bowl.

1. Dan Marino

Hall of Famer—The former Miami Dolphins great retired as the NFL’s leader in passing yards with 61,361, touchdown passes with 420 and completions with 4,967.

All have since been broken by Brett Favre.

A nine-time Pro Bowler, Marino formerly held the record for most touchdown passes in a season, 48, and still holds the single season passing mark of 5,084 yards. Marino led the Miami Dolphins to Super Bowl XIX.

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

Presenting the All-Time Non-Winning Super Bowl Team

I got to wondering about the best players who never won a Super Bowl and it’s certainly an impressive list of all-time greats and hall of famers. Some on the list may surprise you.

My article was originally published at: http://www.groundreport.com/presenting-time-non-winning-super-bowl-team/

In this, the 50th anniversary of that quasi-holiday, man-made spectacle known as the Super Bowl in which heroic efforts are lauded and legends created, let us stop to consider those football greats who were not fortunate enough to win a Super Bowl ring.

When you consider that Charles Haley had the good fortune to play for the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers and win five Super Bowl rings, yet all those players that played their entire career with Arizona, Atlanta, Buffalo, Carolina, Cincinnati, Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Philadelphia, San Diego and/or Tennessee were never part of a Super Bowl winning team.

The list of following players, many that are in Pro Football’s Hall of Fame, may surprise you. Presenting the 50th Anniversary All-Time Non-Super Bowl Winning Team:

At quarterback, it can be none other than Dan Marino. Marino retired as the quarterback with the most completions, passing yards and touchdowns in NFL history. Marino played in SB XIX at the young age of 23 in only his second season in the NFL and probably believed that he would have other Super Bowl appearances. Neither he nor the Miami Dolphins have played in a Super Bowl since.

Honorable mention: Dan Fouts, Jim Kelly, and Fran Tarkenton.

At running back, at what might be the most difficult to choose between current and future Hall-of-Famers the picks are: Barry Sanders and O.J. Simpson. Sanders, a 10-time Pro Bowl selection, most likely would of been the NFL’s all-time leading rusher had he not elected to retire after a career playing for a seldom playoff contender in the Detroit Lions.

Simpson, the first running back to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season, unlike those that have accomplished the feat since, did so in a 14-game season in 1973. Simpson was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team.

Honorable mention: Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson, Adrian Peterson, Gale Sayers, and LaDainian Tomlinson.

At wide receiver, the choices are Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald. One could make a strong case that Moss was the second greatest receiver all-time and perhaps the most naturally gifted receiver ever. A seven-time Pro Bowl selection and member of the 2000s All-Decade team, Moss finished with 156 touchdown receptions. Fitzgerald has been selected to the Pro Bowl nine times in his amazing career spent entirely with the Arizona Cardinals. It took a remarkable Ben Roethlisberger-to-Santonio Holmes touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLIII to keep Fitzgerald eligible for the non-Super Bowl winning team.

Honorable mention: Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Calvin Johnson, Charlie Joiner, James Lofton, Steve Largent, Terrell Owens, and Andre Reed.

At tight end the choice is Tony Gonzalez. Can one argue with a 14-time Pro Bowler and the all-time reception, receiving yards and touchdown receptions leader for tight ends in NFL history?

Honorable mention: Antonio Gates, Ozzie Newsome, Charlie Sanders, Jackie Smith, Kellen Winslow, and Jason Witten.

At tackle: Anthony Munoz and Willie Roaf. Munoz spent his entire career with the Cincinnati Bengals and was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team. Munoz was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection. Roaf, also an 11-time Pro Bowl selectee, played most of his career with the New Orleans Saints and finished his career with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Honorable mention: Dan Dierdorf, Walter Jones, Jackie Slater, and Ron Yary.

At guard: John Hannah and Bruce Matthews. Hannah, perhaps the greatest guard in NFL history, was a 10-time All-Pro and was named to the NFL’s 75th anniversary All-Time team. Hannah spent his entire career with the New England Patriots.

Matthews was a 14-time Pro Bowler and 10-time All-Pro and named to the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade team. Matthews spent his playing career with Houston and Tennessee.

Honorable mention: Steve Hutchinson, Tom Mack, Randall McDaniel, Mike Munchak, and Will Shields.

At center: Dermontti Dawson. Dawson had the quickness that made him the rarest of centers. A seven-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro, Dawson was named to the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade team.

Honorable mention: Kevin Mawae, Dwight Stephenson, and Mick Tinglehoff.

Turning to the defensive side of the ball and as they say defense wins championships, any coach would of loved to have any of these players:

At defensive tackle it’s clearly Merlin Olsen and Alan Page. Olsen, the gentle giant out of Utah who played his entire career with the Los Angeles Rams, was a 14-time Pro Bowler and was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-time team.

Page was one of the quickest defensive tackles to ever play the position and was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection while playing for the Minnesota Vikings. Page finished his career with the Chicago Bears.

Honorable mention: Cortez Kennedy and John Randle.

At defensive end: Deacon Jones and Bruce Smith. Jones, the Secretary of Defense, was one of the greatest defensive players ever. An eight-time Pro Bowler, Jones was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team.

Smith, an 11-time Pro Bowler and nine-time All-Pro selection at defensive end, retired with an amazing 200 sacks to his credit. Despite Smith’s outstanding play his Buffalo Bills came up on the losing side in four Super Bowls.

Honorable mention: Elvin Bethea, Carl Eller, Claude Humphrey, John Randle, Lee Roy Selmon, Jason Taylor, and Jack Youngblood.

At linebacker: Dick Butkus, Derrick Thomas, and Junior Seau.

When one thinks of the image of a linebacker, often times Butkus is the image that comes to mind. An eight-time Pro Bowler, Butkus was named to the 1960s and 1970s All-Decade teams.

Thomas, a nine-time Pro Bowler and member of the 1990s All-Decade team, has 126.5 sacks in his illustrious career. Seau, a 12-time Pro Bowler, reached the Super Bowl twice but was on the losing side on each occasion.

Honorable mention: Randy Gradishar, Clay Matthews, Jr., Tommy Nobis, and Brian Urlacher.

At cornerback: Champ Bailey and Aeneas Williams. Bailey was a 12-time Pro Bowler and had 52 interceptions despite teams often avoiding throwing in his area.

Williams, who played for the Cardinals and the Rams, was an eight-time Pro Bowler and named to the 1990s All-Decade team and finished his career with 55 interceptions.

Honorable mention: Lem Barney, Lemar Parrish, and Roger Wehrli.

At safety: Ken Houston and Larry Wilson. Houston was a 12-time Pro Bowl selection and was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team. Houston had 49 interceptions in his career. Wilson was an eight-time All-Pro and was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team as well. Wilson played his entire career with the St. Louis Cardinals and had 52 interceptions.

Honorable mention: Kenny Easley, Paul Krause and Carnell Lake.

On special teams, the placekicker is Morten Andersen. Andersen retired as the all-time leader in games played in the NFL with 382 and is also the all-time leading scorer in NFL history with 2,544 points. Andersen spent the majority of his playing career with New Orleans and Atlanta and also had stops in New York, Kansas City and Minnesota. Andersen was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection.

Honorable mention: Gary Anderson, Nick Lowery, and Jason Hanson.

Punter: Shane Lechler. Lechler is the all-time career punting average leader in NFL history with a 47.5 yard average. A seven-time Pro Bowl selection, Lechler was named to the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade team.

Honorable mention: Greg Montgomery, Reggie Roby, Todd Sauerbrun, and Rohn Stark.

Kick returner: Devin Hester. Hester has been named to the Pro Bowl four times and was selected for the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade team. Hester is the NFL’s all-time leader in combined kick/punt return touchdowns.

Honorable mention: Dante Hall, Billy “Whiteshoes” Johnson, and Rick Upchurch.

There you have it, the NFL’s All-Time Non-Super Bowl winning team. It’s one list that it is an honor to be considered for but players would not rather make and be instead remembered as a Super Bowl champion.

 

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.