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Pitt’s loss to Penn State was the program’s worst since 1996

The Panthers’ last loss by 45 points or more came against Notre Dame 22 years ago

NCAA Football: Penn State at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt hosted Penn State on Saturday night at a waterlogged Heinz Field, and what unfolded was one of the worst showings in recent history for the football program. Although the matchup was competitive early on, the Panthers allowed the Nittany Lions to pull away in the second half and ultimately ended up with a 51-6 loss — the team’s worst defeat since 1996.

During his postgame press conference, Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi accepted blame for the lopsided defeat in the rivalry game and apologized to Pitt’s fanbase.

“The first thing I want to do is apologize to the Pitt nation out there,” Narduzzi said. “That was not Pitt football right there. ... Ultimately, everything lays right on my chest. I’ll take it all. We obviously didn’t have them ready to go in any capacity, offensively, defensively, or special teams.”

Pitt’s last loss by 45 points or more came on Nov. 16, 1996, when the team suffered a 60-6 shellacking at the hands of Notre Dame. Of course, that was part of a horrendous season under former Pitt head coach Johnny Majors that also included a 45-0 loss to Miami, a 72-0 beatdown at the hands of Ohio State and a 55-7 loss to Syracuse all within a span of two months.

That would be Majors’ last season with the Panthers, as Walt Harris was hired to replace him in 1997 and stayed with the team for eight seasons.

In terms of home losses, Pitt hasn’t suffered a defeat as severe as Saturday’s since Notre Dame handed the team a 56-7 loss at Pitt Stadium on Nov. 6, 1971. And in the context of the Pitt-Penn State rivalry, it’s the worst loss Pitt has faced since Nov. 23, 1968, when Penn State obliterated Pitt 65-9 at Pitt Stadium in the finale of a 1-9 season unfortunately replete with similar results.

What makes Saturday’s loss particularly worrisome for Pitt is the fact that Penn State was just the first installment of a brutal gauntlet that also includes matchups with Central Florida, Notre Dame, Miami and Virginia Tech, all of whom are currently ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation, just like Penn State.

Given that, the possibility technically exists that Pitt could restore its reputation by bouncing back and notching wins over several highly respected teams. However, at this point, it seems more likely that the Panthers will soon be faced with a deteriorating situation due to its overly ambitious out-of-conference schedule and tough ACC slate.