Top ten Pitt sports moments: 2000s #10-#6

Their have been some crazy moments in the Panthers recent history, but I think a top ten list is in order. Let’s break it down and show some of the best moments in basketball and football in the past decade.

10. Pitt to the BCS

Sure it was a 35-7 beatdown by Urban Meyer’s Utah Utes in the Fiesta Bowl, but it was Pitt’s only BCS appearence of the decade. Pitt struggled to an 8-4 record in that 2004 season, with a tough OT loss in Syracuse and sneaking by with a 41-38 win against I-AA Furman. It was Walt Harris’s final year with the Panthers and he exited on a sad chord. Overall, the year was a success. They split a 4-way championship for the Big East title, but received the Big East BCS bid by virtue of a win against South Florida in the final week of the season. Walt Harris already accepted the Stanford job almost a month before the BCS game, but stuck around to coach the blowout. Still it deserves the ranking by just being Pitt’s only BCS visit ever.

QB Tyler Palko threw for 251 yards and 1 TD in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl

9. Basketball Gets It Going

When Ben Howland arrived in Pittsburgh for the 1999-2000 season, you could almost feel the program starting to come around. In only his second season Pitt received a bid to play in the NIT. The following season(2001-2002), Pitt went 25-4 and made it to the Sweet Sixteen. He took Pitt to three straight Big East title games and won Pitt’s first ever Big East title at the conclusion of the 2002-2003 season. His record during his 4 years at Pitt was 89-40(.690) and moved the Panthers into the nations elite. After his departure in 2003 to UCLA, Jamie Dixon was made head coach. Since then Dixon has compiled a 178-49 record and six straight NCAA tournament births with one Big East tournament title in 2008. Pitt has had some great players like, Sam Young, Antonio Graves, Ronald Ramon, and Dejuan Blair. Ben Howland started the winning trend that has carried into the 2010.

8. Larry, Larry, LARRY!

Man, this guy got ripped off. He should have won the 2003 Heisman, but lost to Oklahoma’s Jason White in a close race. His catches were sensational, he could very well be the best wide receiver to ever play college football. He was a freshman freak, a sophomore standout and then was a pro; and just like that, Larry Fitzgerald was gone. He had a touchdown in 18 straight games, a NCAA record. He had 14 games with 100+ yards and only played in 26. In his 2 seasons with the Panthers he caught 161 passes for 2,677 yards and caught 34 touchdowns, a Pitt record. Just his presence is worthy of the ranking. Larry Fitzgerald helped put Pitt one the map in both his seasons. He shaped the team and showed the whole country who he was with insane catches that would be played in highlight reals again and again. He was the third pick in the first round of the 2004 draft. He was picked by the Arizona Cardinals and helped take them to the Super Bowl this past season. Larry was the best, and deserves the ranking.

Larry Fitzgerald was a touchdown machine in '02 and in '03

7. Pitt Beats Duke In The Garden

December 20th, 2007 Pitt is playing Duke in the Aeropostale Classic. Senior Mike Cook goes down in the first half with a nasty knee injury. The Panthers are down by 12 at the half, but rallied to take it into OT in the thriller. Led by then freshman center Dejuan Blair and Levance Fields, the Panthers were able to make it a game. Things really got interesting when Duke went ahead with under 10 seconds to play. That would not stop Fields however. He went down the court, pulled up at the top of the key, and drilled a 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds left over the hands of 6-6 David McClure. Duke brought it down the court and missed two desperation shots and Pitt won. It was a definitive moment in Pitt sports history. They had knocked off the Duke Blue Devils and put themselves up with college basketball’s elite. This crazy, stunning, win in front of a sold out Madison Square Garden was an important moment in Pitt sports history.

6. Final Win Over Penn State

Well, it wasn’t a shootout, but Pitt fans were happy with a 12-0 victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions in Three Rivers Stadium. The 2000 game would mark the last in the great rivalry, and it feels great to get the last laugh. Led by QB’s John Turman and freshman Rod Rutherford the Panthers shutout their in-state rivals 12-0 with 2 Nick Lotz field goals and a John Turman TD pass. Pitt’s strong D shut out the Nittany Lions and showed them who was boss in the series. No further meetings were scheduled, but it was a great way to go out. Pitt’s talented WR Antonio Bryant was key along with WR LaTiff Grimm. This game was a great way to start the decade.

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