Pitt makes statement with 45-7 win over Wofford on Saturday
Believe it or not, the Pitt Panthers, an FBS (Division I) college football program, made a huge statement with a 45-7 victory over the Wofford Terriers, an FCS (Division I-AA) college football program, at Acrisure Stadium on Saturday.
It might seem like a ridiculous, well, statement for a writer to make, but only if you don’t know the history of Pitt Panthers football.
I know that history. I remember where I was in 2008 when Pitt, led by head coach Dave Wannstedt, lost its season opener to Bowling Green at Heinz Field. I suppose that wasn’t a total sin. After all, the Falcons, members of the MAC (Mid-American) conference, are at least an FBS school. They have a decent program and have been to more than their share of bowl games–including the 2007 season when they were invited to the GMAC Bowl. That was more than the Panthers could say for their ’07 campaign which was only salvaged with an upset victory over rival West Virginia in the regular-season finale. Pitt’s victory over WVU, one that prevented the Mountaineers from playing for a national championship, was supposed to be a catalyst for the ’08 campaign.
It wasn’t, at least not right away. To their credit, the Panthers rebounded nicely from that upset loss, winning nine games and earning an invite to the Sun Bowl.
I also remember where I was 11 years ago when the Panthers, under the guidance of Paul Chryst, who was making his debut as head coach, lost at home to Youngstown State.
That was a much bigger sin when you consider the fact that YSU is an FCS football program.
Pitt struggled to stay above mediocrity under Chryst, who left to become the head coach at Wisconsin after the 2014 season and was replaced by Pat Narduzzi.
Pitt managed to survive Youngstown State in Narduzzi’s debut as head coach in 2015, but just barely. The Panthers outlasted the Penguins by a score of 45-37.
Pitt opened the 2016 campaign at home against FCS Villanova and tallied a rather underwhelming 28-7 victory.
The following year started with another close home win over Youngstown State.
The trend of either losing to or barely beating an FCS or inferior FBS program began to shift in 2020 with a 55-0 shellacking of Austin Peay. The Panthers opened the 2021 campaign by speaking UMass, 51-7, at Heinz Field before going on to capture their first ACC Championship.
It’s now more common for the Panthers to dominate lesser talent in the seasonal lid-lifter than it is for them to struggle.
To me, that’s a good sign.
The ACC begins the 2023 regular season with three members–Florida State, Clemson and North Carolina–ranked in the top 25. The Seminals and Tigers opened the weekend ranked eighth and ninth, respectively, while the Tar Heels, who came into the regular season ranked 21st, figure to move up in the polls following an impressive win over South Carolina on Saturday night.
The Panthers, who were major players in the ACC’s Coastal Division during the previous half-decade before the conference switched to a single-division format in 2023, are on the cusp of the top 25. It’s no secret that Pitt, who made its first conference championship game appearance in 2018, wants to continue to compete for ACC supremacy.
The first step for the Panthers was to prove they could outclass an FCS school at home in their regular-season opener.
That first mission was accomplished with an impressive victory over the Wofford Terriers on Saturday.