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1976 Pittsburgh Panthers football team

The 1976 Pittsburgh Panthers football team represented the University of Pittsburgh in the 1976 NCAA Division I football season and is recognized as a consensus national champion.[1] Pitt was also awarded the Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy as the best Division I team in the East.

1976 Pittsburgh Panthers football
Pitt Panthers wordmark.svg
Consensus national champion
Sugar Bowl champion
Eastern champion
Sugar Bowl, W 27–3 vs. Georgia
ConferenceIndependent
Ranking
CoachesNo. 1
APNo. 1
1976 record12–0
Head coachJohnny Majors (4th season)
Offensive coordinatorJoe Avezzano (1st season)
Offensive schemeVeer
Defensive coordinatorBobby Roper (1st season)
Base defenseBasic 50
Home stadiumPitt Stadium
(Capacity: 56,500)
Seasons
← 1975
1977 →
1976 NCAA Division I Independents football records
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
No. 1 Pittsburgh         12 0 0
No. 17 Rutgers         11 0 0
San Diego State         10 1 0
No. 12 Notre Dame         9 3 0
Colgate         8 2 0
Boston College         8 3 0
Cincinnati         8 3 0
Memphis State         7 4 0
North Texas State         7 4 0
Penn State         7 5 0
Villanova         6 4 1
South Carolina         6 5 0
Virginia Tech         6 5 0
Army         5 6 0
Florida State         5 6 0
Illinois State         5 6 0
Richmond         5 6 0
West Virginia         5 6 0
Georgia Tech         4 6 1
Temple         4 6 0
Air Force         4 7 0
Dayton         4 7 0
Louisville         4 7 0
Navy         4 7 0
Indiana State         3 7 0
Hawaii         3 8 0
Holy Cross         3 8 0
Miami (FL)         3 8 0
Syracuse         3 8 0
Utah State         3 8 0
Northeast Louisiana         2 9 0
Southern Miss         2 9 0
Tulane         2 9 0
Rankings from AP Poll

During the 1970s, the top-ranked team won its bowl game only three times: Pittsburgh joined Nebraska (1971) and USC (1972).

Kiosk in the Great Hall at Heinz Field celebrating Pitt's 1976 national championship
A football signed by the 1976 Pittsburgh Panthers football team, including Tony Dorsett and head coach Johnny Majors.

Contents

ScheduleEdit

DateTimeOpponentRankSiteTVResultAttendance
September 114:20 pmat No. 11 Notre DameNo. 9ABCW 31–1059,075
September 187:30 pmat Georgia TechNo. 3W 42–1443,424
September 251:30 pmTempleNo. 3W 21–738,500
Sat. Oct. 21:30 pmat DukeNo. 2W 44–3137,200
October 91:30 pmLouisvilleNo. 2
  • Pitt Stadium
  • Pittsburgh, PA
W 27–634,000
October 161:30 pmMiami (FL)No. 2
  • Pitt Stadium
  • Pittsburgh, PA
W 36–1942,434
October 232:00 pmat NavyNo. 2W 45–026,346
October 301:30 pmSyracuseNo. 2
  • Pitt Stadium
  • Pittsburgh, PA (rivalry)
W 23–1350,399
November 61:30 pmArmy No. 2
  • Pitt Stadium
  • Pittsburgh, PA
W 37–745,753
November 131:30 pmWest VirginiaNo. 1
ABCW 24–1656,500
November 269:00 pmNo. 16 Penn StateNo. 1ABCW 24–750,250
January 112:30 pmvs. No. 5 GeorgiaNo. 1ABCW 27–376,117

RosterEdit

1976 Pittsburgh Panthers football team roster
Players Coaches
Offense
Pos. # Name Class
C 67 Tom Brzoza Jr
QB 12 Matt Cavanaugh Jr
TE 81 James Corbett Sr
RB 33 Tony Dorsett Sr
RB Jo Jo Heath Fr
QB 10 Robert Haygood   Sr
WR 24 Gordon Jones So
WR 19 Randy Reutershan Jr
WR 29 Willie Taylor Jr
FB 34 Elliott Walker Jr
QB Tom Yewcic Sr
Defense
Pos. # Name Class
LB 55 Al Chesley So
DT 75 Ed Gallagher So
DE 70 Randy Holloway Jr
DE 60 Cecil Johnson Sr
CB 31 Bob Jury Jr
DT 78 David Logan So
DT 68 Don Parrish Sr
DE 91 Al Romano Sr
CB 21 J.C. Wilson Jr
Special teams
Pos. # Name Class
P 41 Larry Swider Sr
Head coach
Coordinators/assistant coaches

Legend
  • (C) Team captain
  • (S) Suspended
  • (I) Ineligible
  •   Injured
  •   Redshirt

Coaching staffEdit

1976 Pittsburgh Panthers football staff
Coaching staff
  • Johnny Majors – head coach
  • Joe Madden – assistant head coach/defensive secondary
  • Joe Avezzano – offensive coordinator/offensive line
  • Bobby Roper – defensive coordinator/defensive line
  • Bill Cox – quarterbacks/receivers
  • Jim Dyar – defensive secondary
  • Larry Holton – defensive ends
  • Harry Jones – offensive backs
  • Bob Matey – middle guards/junior varsity
  Support staff
  • Henry Lee Parker – administrative assistant to the head coach
  • Keith Schroeder – coordinator of computer scouting
  • Ray Olsen – graduate assistant
  • Dave Wannstedt – graduate assistant
  Strength and conditioning staff

Regular seasonEdit

The previous season saw Pitt win the Sun Bowl over Kansas for an 8–4 record, highlighted by wins at Georgia and Notre Dame. The stage was set for 1976, with Pitt ranked ninth in the AP preseason poll, for the Panthers to make a run for the national championship.

In the first game of the 1976 season, the Panthers faced off against Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. A year earlier, Tony Dorsett had finished with 303 yards rushing in Pitt's 34–20 victory over the Irish. "They even grew the grass high," said Carmen DeArdo, a diehard Pitt alumnus, "and everyone knew Tony would get the ball." "They didn't let that grass grow long enough," Dorsett said later. He darted 61 yards on his first run of the season and tacked on 120 more by the end of the 31–10 Pitt win.[2][3]

The season continued with a 42–14 win at Georgia Tech and a 36–19 win over Miami. The Panthers traveled to Annapolis on October 23 to face Navy and Dorsett broke the NCAA career rushing record on a 32-yard touchdown run in the 45–0 victory. Dorsett's achievement prompted a mid-game celebration in which even Navy saluted the feat with a cannon blast.[4] Pitt won a tough, hard-fought battle against struggling rival Syracuse.

On November 6, the second-ranked Panthers hosted Army at Pitt Stadium and won handily, but the significant action was taking place several hundred miles west, in West Lafayette, Indiana, where the Purdue Boilermakers held off the top-ranked Michigan Wolverines 16–14 in the closing seconds. The Pitt Stadium crowd erupted in celebration when the stadium public address announcer dramatically gave the final score from Purdue. For the first time in the modern era, Panther fans could legitimately claim, "We're number one!" Pitt defended its ranking in a close Backyard Brawl against West Virginia to go 10–0 heading into the regular season finale on national television against instate rival Penn State (7–3).[5]

At a packed Three Rivers Stadium on the night after Thanksgiving, the Nittany Lions scored first and held Dorsett to 51 yards in the first half; the game was tied at seven at halftime.[6] Majors adjusted for the second half by shifting Dorsett from tailback to fullback, enabling him to explode for an additional 173 yards as Pitt rolled to a 24–7 victory to cap an undefeated regular season.[6][7]

In December, Dorsett became the first (and remains the only) Pitt Panther to win the Heisman Trophy as the nation's best college football player. Dorsett also won the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, and was named UPI Player of the Year. He led the nation in rushing with 1,948 yards and was selected as an All-American. Dorsett finished his college career with 6,082 total rushing yards, then an NCAA record for career rushing.

Sugar BowlEdit

The 11–0 Panthers accepted an invitation to the Sugar Bowl to face fifth-ranked Georgia. Pitt defeated the Bulldogs 27–3 and was voted number one by both the Associated Press and Coaches polls, claiming their ninth national championship.[8] This was Pitt's first undefeated national championship since 1937. The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) named Majors the 1976 Coach of the Year. Following this historic season, Majors returned to his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, to take the head coaching job.[9]

Game summariesEdit

at #11 Notre DameEdit

Overall record Last meeting Result
12–29–1 1975 PITT, 34–20
#9 Pittsburgh Panthers at #11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
1 2 34Total
#9 Pittsburgh 7 14 01031
#11 Notre Dame 7 3 0010

at Notre Dame StadiumNotre Dame, IN

Game information

at Georgia TechEdit

Overall record Last meeting Result
4–2 1974 PITT, 27–17

Robert Haygood tore knee ligaments in the victory.

#3 Pittsburgh Panthers at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
1 2 34Total
#3 Pittsburgh 7 7 141442
Georgia Tech 0 7 7014

at Grant FieldAtlanta, GA

  • Date: September 18
  • Game time: 7:30 PM EDT
  • Game attendance: 43,424
Game information

TempleEdit

Overall record Last meeting Result
4–1–1 1975 PITT, 55–6
Temple Owls at #3 Pittsburgh Panthers
1 2 34Total
Temple 7 0 007
#3 Pittsburgh 0 6 8721

at Pitt StadiumPittsburgh, PA

  • Date: September 25
  • Game time: 1:30 PM EDT
  • Game attendance: 38,500
Game information

at DukeEdit

Overall record Last meeting Result
8–8 1975 PITT, 14–0
1 2 Total
{{{road}}} {{{R1}}} {{{R2}}} 0
{{{home}}} {{{H1}}} {{{H2}}} 0

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    |title=#2 Pittsburgh Panthers at Duke Blue Devils
    |date=October 2
    |time=1:30 PM EDT
    |road=#2 Pittsburgh
    |R1=7|R2=23|R3=14|R4=0|RT=44
    |home=Duke
    |H1=7|H2=0|H3=16|H4=8|HT=31
    |stadium=Wallace Wade StadiumDurham, NC
    |attendance=37,200
    |weather=
    |referee=
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    |TVAnnouncers=
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    }}

    LouisvilleEdit

    Overall record Last meeting Result
    First meeting
    Louisville Cardinals at #2 Pittsburgh Panthers
    1 2 34Total
    Louisville 0 0 066
    #2 Pittsburgh 10 17 0027

    at Pitt StadiumPittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    • Date: October 9
    • Game time: 1:30 PM EDT
    • Game attendance: 34,000
    • [10]
    Game information

    Matt Cavanaugh sustained a hairline fracture in the left ankle during the first half.

    Miami (FL)Edit

    Overall record Last meeting Result
    7–7–1 1970 PITT, 28–17
    Miami (FL) Hurricanes at #2 Pittsburgh Panthers
    1 2 34Total
    Miami (FL) 0 0 61319
    #2 Pittsburgh 9 13 01436

    at Pitt StadiumPittsburgh, PA

    • Date: October 16
    • Game time: 1:30 PM EDT
    • Game attendance: 42,434
    Game information

    at NavyEdit

    Overall record Last meeting Result
    12–10–2 1975 NAVY, 17–0
    #2 Pittsburgh Panthers at Navy Midshipmen
    1 2 34Total
    #2 Pittsburgh 7 7 102145
    Navy 0 0 000

    at Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, MD

    • Date: October 23
    • Game time: 2:00 PM EDT
    • Game attendance: 26,346
    Game information

    SyracuseEdit

    Overall record Last meeting Result
    16–13–1 1975 PITT, 38–0
    Syracuse Orangemen at #2 Pittsburgh Panthers
    1 2 34Total
    Syracuse 7 0 6013
    #2 Pittsburgh 3 7 7623

    at Pitt StadiumPittsburgh, PA

    • Date: October 30
    • Game time: 1:30 PM EDT
    • Game attendance: 50,399
    Game information

    ArmyEdit

    Overall record Last meeting Result
    11–6–2 1975 PITT, 52–20
    Army Cadets at #2 Pittsburgh Panthers
    1 2 34Total
    Army 0 0 707
    #2 Pittsburgh 3 10 21337

    at Pitt StadiumPittsburgh, PA

    • Date: November 6
    • Game time: 1:30 PM EST
    • Game attendance: 45,753
    Game information

    West VirginiaEdit

    Overall record Last meeting Result
    43–17–1 1975 WVU, 17–14
    West Virginia Mountaineers at #1 Pittsburgh Panthers
    1 2 34Total
    West Virginia 3 0 7616
    #1 Pittsburgh 7 7 3724

    at Pitt StadiumPittsburgh, PA

    Game information

    vs. #16 Penn StateEdit

    Overall record Last meeting Result
    35–36–3 1975 PSU, 7–6
    #1 Pittsburgh Panthers vs. #16 Penn State Nittany Lions
    1 2 34Total
    #1 Pittsburgh 0 7 71024
    #16 Penn State 7 0 007

    at Three Rivers StadiumPittsburgh, PA

    Game information

    vs. #5 Georgia (Sugar Bowl)Edit

    Overall record Last meeting Result
    2–0 1975 PITT, 19–9
    1977 Sugar Bowl: #1 Pittsburgh Panthers vs. #5 Georgia Bulldogs
    1 2 34Total
    #1 Pittsburgh 7 14 3327
    #5 Georgia 0 0 303

    at Louisiana SuperdomeNew Orleans, LA

    Game information

    Team players drafted into the NFLEdit

    Player Position Round Pick NFL Club
    Tony Dorsett Running back 1 2 Dallas Cowboys
    Larry Swider Punter 7 185 Denver Broncos
    Jim Corbett Tight end 7 194 Cincinnati Bengals
    Al Romano Defensive lineman 11 289 Houston Oilers
    Carson Long Kicker 11 302 Los Angeles Rams
    Don Parrish Defensive end 12 314 Atlanta Falcons

    [11]

    Awards and honorsEdit

    • Tony Dorsett, Heisman Trophy [12]
    • Tony Dorsett, Walter Camp Award[13]
    • Tony Dorsett, Maxwell Award
    • Tony Dorsett, led the nation in rushing with 1,948 yards
    • Tony Dorsett, All-America selection

    MediaEdit

    RadioEdit

    Flagship station Play-by-play Color commentator Sideline reporter Studio host
    WTAE–AM 1250 Bill Hillgrove John Sauer

    ReferencesEdit

    1. ^ Official 2009 NCAA Division I Football Records Book (PDF). Indianapolis: The National Collegiate Athletic Association. August 2009. p. 85. Retrieved 2009-10-16.
    2. ^ "CNNSI.com - College Football - Heisman Heroes - Suzuki presents Heisman Heroes: Tony Dorsett - Friday August 25, 2000 01:29 PM". CNN.
    3. ^ Gorman, Kevin (2008-10-30). "Pitt-Notre Dame series produces phenomenal performances". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Archived from the original on 2013-01-04. Retrieved 2010-04-29.
    4. ^ "Tony Dorsett No. 1". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). Associated Press. October 24, 1976. p. 77.
    5. ^ Axelrod, Phil (November 26, 1976). "Pitt, State, maybe Tennessee". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 18.
    6. ^ a b Parascenzo, Marino (November 27, 1976). "Panthers claw Nittany Lions, 24-7". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 1.
    7. ^ Mackin, Mike (2008-06-12). "Let's Learn From the Past: The 1976 Pitt Panthers". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2010-04-29.
    8. ^ "Yearly National Championship Selections: 1976 National Championships". College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved 2009-04-15.
    9. ^ Fitzgerald, Francis J., ed. (1996). The Year the Panthers Roared. Louisville, Kentucky: AdCraft Sports. ISBN 1-887761-06-3.
    10. ^ "Pitt loses quarterback, but Dorsett nears record." Eugene Register-Guard. 1976 Oct 10. Retrieved 2018-Dec-30.
    11. ^ https://www.pro-football-reference.com/draft/1977.htm
    12. ^ "1976 - 42nd Award Tony Dorsett Pittsburgh Back". HeismanTrophy.com. Archived from the original on 2013-10-04. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
    13. ^ http://collegefootball.about.com/od/collegefootballawards/a/award-camp.htm

    Further informationEdit

    External linksEdit

    Video

    • 1976 Pitt at Notre Dame complete game video on YouTube: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
    • 1977 Sugar Bowl, Pitt vs Georgia for the national championship, first half video on YouTube: Part 1