125th year of Pitt football. 3 wins. 0 losses. 57 varieties. Heinz Field was ready to host a Panther team off to a strong start and primed to take on an Iowa team coming off a horrible home loss to rival Iowa State.
The morning began with a visit to campus to check out the Millennium Panther. This beloved statue rests outside William Pitt Union and has served as a good luck symbol since 2001. Prior to athletic contests, fans rub its nose to bring luck to the university’s teams. We took part in this great tradition along with several other fans making their way to Heinz Field. A large number of buses awaited the blue and gold masses to roll over to the stadium and get prepped for gameday.
Fans began filling the parking lots surrounding Heinz Field early to tailgate, talk a little trash about Iowa, snap a picture with Roc the Panther, and take in the sounds of the Pittsburgh marching band as it charged its way into the main gates of the stadium. Much anticipation has surrounded this Pitt ball club, especially knowing that a 3-0 start could be a harbinger of great success to come. The energy surrounding pregame provided evidence of that.
Heinz Field filled up notably for this matchup of power five conference foes, and Pittsburgh took over early achieving a 17-7 advantage at the half. The Big Ten has been outperformed early this season and fans across the country had been taking notice. After a questionable penalty call that went Iowa’s way, one Pitt fan behind me grumpily uttered, “I think those are Big Ten refs that probably were told to help Iowa win and make the Big Ten look better.” The talk about the Big Ten’s inadequacy had become an epidemic.
However, the game wasn’t over. Iowa took control with a dominating running game and a few timely passes (very Big Ten-esque) and took control of a game that could have easily gotten out of hand. With little time remaining in the game, Iowa gambled on a few fourth downs that paid off to give them a 24-20 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. We had moved up to the upper deck to take in an aerial view of Iowa’s victory. Hawkeye fans near us looked as though any pain from the Iowa State loss had been temporarily numbed.
Other than a few Iowa fans belting out the occasional holler, the walk out of Heinz Field resembled that of a funeral procession. Stunned Pitt fans expected a win over this floundering Big Ten team. However, sometimes the reality of a loss can relieve the pressure of the conference season. I’m sure that Panther fans will have much more to smile about this year and in future seasons. The tough times are beheinz them, which means that even with this loss, they shoudn’t have to play too much ketchup.