Football! Actual games! Not youtube videos of highlights from practices. No dismal NFL exhibition games dressed up as the real things. Glorious, live, HDTV broadcast football! Don’t even care that it isn’t Pitt playing tonight. Just to be able to sit on my couch and watch a real football game for the first time in over six months. I’m a little excited for this.
So no attempt at cohesive post weaving right now. Just the links.
With Pitt playing Florida State and Bobby Bowden’s shadow reemerging for the Seminoles, it means giving him a call in Florida and reminiscing. Like, say, when he was the coach of the Hoopies forty plus years ago.
Speaking this week from his Tallahassee, Fla., home of 38 years, Bowden, the former Florida State and West Virginia coach, recalled the day and venue:
Oct. 17, 1970.
Bowden’s first West Virginia team built a 35-8 halftime lead against the Panthers, and he was feeling good about himself. Until the game ended: Pitt 36, West Virginia 35.
“I learned a lot of football that day,” Bowden said, his laughter and the passage of 43 years easing the pain. “I never sat on the ball since. People accuse me of running up the score. After you get beat like that, you don’t worry about what people think.”
Oh, sure. Blame Pitt for that too.
Of course, that is better than what happened ten years later to Pitt.
Indeed, if No. 4 Pitt had beaten No. 11 FSU that night, there would have been no year-end controversy. Pitt would have played Herschel Walker-led Georgia with a chance to be remembered as perhaps the greatest college team of all-time.
Thirty-three years later — five days before Pitt opens its season against an FSU team with national-title aspirations — the final score reverberates:
Florida State 36, Pitt 22.
The beauty in looking back is that the participants still care so deeply. College sports tend to engender a sentiment that lasts — and it’s not just fans who carry the emotions to their graves.
“It never goes away,” ex-Pitt safety Rick Trocano once told me. “I speak for all my fellow teammates: I guarantee they never have forgotten.”
Jackie Sherrill surely hasn’t. The former Pitt coach was slightly aggravated Monday because of a traffic jam between San Antonio and Austin, Texas, but that was before something got him really worked up: the mention of Oct. 11, 1980.
Okay, now I’m done with the whole bit of reminiscing. Well, almost.
I could look at this and play with the graphs all day. College football database including a graph representation of Pitt’s record through the years. God, the 60s and 90s were dark times.
Okay, time for something positive. How about fullback Mark Giubilato being one of the nominees for the Allstate Good Works Team.
“It didn’t even cross my mind that I would be nominated,” Giubilato said. “My roommate told me about it, actually. A lot of people tweeted at me saying congratulations for being nominated. It made my whole summer. Nobody does community service to get an award for it. You do it to make an impact on other people’s lives.”
In Haiti, he certainly made an impact on the lives of those with whom he interacted, but perhaps not in the tangible way many would expect.
“We stayed at an orphanage,” Giubilato said. “We went to northern Haiti and stayed there for a week. It really was not building anything. To be honest, it is so poor that going down and building a few things would not make that much of a difference. What they really like from us is going there and helping the kids with classes and school, and playing with them.
“It is unfathomable how poor it is there. You could never imagine it unless you see it firsthand. Nobody has jobs, because there are no jobs to be had. Everybody just sits on their stoops all day. People live in mud huts or shacks. It’s really sad.”
Steffey added, “It was an eye-opening experience for him, stepping into another culture, [one] that is so different from life here.”
Is it really a revelation that Tom Savage would have entertained the notion of quitting football after coming to a third school, and being a walk-on who couldn’t do more than run the scout team? It’s a lot more believable than claims of never wavering or losing hope. There has to be moments of self-doubt. Of some frustration and thinking that it’s time to do something else. It doesn’t make you less dedicated, a bad person or teammate. It makes you human.
“Believe it or not, last year during camp, I was a walk-on, just coming back (after transferring for the second time),” he said. “I was pretty down then, thought about hanging it up a little bit and just moving on with my life.”
But Savage, ineligible to play in games after transferring, fought through his feelings, received support from his parents, went to practice every day and now he finds himself getting ready to play defending ACC champion Florida State on Monday night on ESPN.
“I’m lucky to be out here playing,” he said. “Not too many kids get to transfer twice and start their career off again against Florida State. People would die to have that opportunity.”
Meanwhile Issac Bennett and James Conner remain question marks, with OC Joe Rudolph giving the coachspeak.
“He’s coming along,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said. “We’ll kind of see where he’s at. He’s doing a little bit more each day, which is encouraging. … We will see where that goes as the week progresses.”
And so it goes.
Personally, I think Justin did it better with his reasons pro and con, but here’s three reasons Pitt can win and three why they can lose on Monday night.
Florida State is already playing the “nobody believes in us” card. Not about this game, but about the season that has yet to start. Why? Because the media poll at ACC Media Days dared to pick Clemson.
“We thank the nation for thinking that,” said Joyner, who was chosen preseason all-conference. “When you are on top, all you can do is fall. Now the sky’s the limit because the ladder that we can climb has more room, so we can do a lot more things.”
Greene, bypassed on the all-ACC team by wide receivers Sammy Watkins of Clemson and Michael Campanoro of Wake Forest, said voters will be proven wrong.
“At the end of the season, we will be telling the media why they should have (voted for Florida State),” said Greene, who led the team with 57 receptions for 741 yards and six touchdowns last season.
Joyner said voters’ disrespect is just what the Seminoles need.
“You want to be doubted; you want to have a chip on your shoulder,” he said.
Well, okay, then.
FSU will be going with a freshman quarterback so DE Bryan Murphy hopes to make him nervous.
Pitt must stop Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston, who was named the starter by coach Jimbo Fisher last week. Winston was Rivals.com’s No. 1 quarterback in the 2012 class and has the potential to be a superstar .
From Pitt’s perspective, Winston’s lack of experience also means there’s no game tape from which to study his tendencies. They can watch Florida State’s spring game, and defensive end Bryan Murphy said the Panthers have tried to compare Winston to other mobile quarterbacks they have seen in the past. In practices, he usually is represented on the scout team by a wide receiver.
“We’ve just got to come out, hit him in the mouth as soon as we can,” Murphy said. “Show him we’re here, we’re not messing around.”
“Bleed all over ‘em. Let ‘em know you’re there.” Whoops. Sorry that’s from something else.