The Pitt sideline at Acrisure Stadium was packed with rookies and scouts ahead of the West Virginia-Pitt game on Thursday night. One guy – an unofficial Pitt scout – stood out among the crowd.
Tony Dorsett, who is Pitt’s only Heisman Trophy winner, had a lively conversation with Austintown Fitch (Ohio) high school defensive end Brian Robinson, a four-star junior prospect.
Dorsett, one of several former Pitt players attending the West Virginia-Pitt game, said he told Robinson, “You come here, your family can come see you play.”
Was Robinson impressed standing in the presence of a Heisman Trophy and Super Bowl winner and national champion?
“Yeah, just a little,” Dorsett said. “He was standing.”
The Backyard Brawl carries many memories for Dorsett, who was 3-1 against the Mountaineers during his time in Pitt.
What does he remember?
“Fights,” he said.
“You were guaranteed to see at least four or five fights in the stands. The fans got into it sometimes, I thought, more than the players.
He said West Virginia fans brought their own brand of spirit to the game when Pitt traveled to Morgantown.
“They were good fans for the Mountaineers,” Dorsett said. “They talked, they shouted and they cursed our coaches. They did all kinds of things to try to interrupt our cadence offensively.
On the national scene
Pitt ventured onto the ESPN stage Thursday night not actively seeking national recognition, but aware that wins over West Virginia and Tennessee next week could propel the No. 17 Panthers to a top-10 ranking.
Rece Davis, part of ESPN’s “GameDay” team that handled pregame analysis, understands that respect can be a hard prize to come by.
“I don’t think they’re getting all the credit they deserve and have deserved,” Davis said while speaking to reporters before the game. “And one of the ways they can rectify that is to build on one league season by continuing another.”
Davis said Pitt shouldn’t need to repeat as an ACC champion to earn that respect, but early-season wins wouldn’t hurt. An important first step would be to avoid what he called “facial plants that have come with the kind of inexplicable upheavals that have tormented them from time to time.”
“If they win this (WVU) game – big stage, big rivalry, huge crowd – maybe keep playing in the ACC championship game again, or definitely be there about to play a solid game. football, then I think you can see the program take the next step.
He said the progress made under coach Pat Narduzzi over the past year has earned Pitt more credit “than many non-Pittsburgh fans or fans outside of the immediate imprint of the VAC wouldn’t give it to them.”
ESPN’s Desmond Howard, who won the 1991 Heisman Trophy and is now one of college football’s most visible analysts, predicted ahead of Thursday’s game that Pitt has what it takes to reach the college football playoffs. to four teams.
“I always respected Narduzzi’s program because I thought his kids, they breathed like that tough mentality,” he said before the game. “They’re physical (and) it’s kind of like a little old school at the line of scrimmage in the trenches, so I’ve always respected that.
“They also have a monster defensive front, which should cause problems for teams. If you win the conference championship, I think you have a good chance of qualifying for the (CFP).