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Penn State's Bradley reflects on Pitt rivalry

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, June 16, 2011

Making Pitt-Penn State an annual football event is more difficult than how the two-game series between the teams in 2016-17 happened, Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said Wednesday.

"People want us in Philadelphia and New York and over here and over there, and it's a push-pull for (athletic director Tim Curley), and that's obviously a tough job," Bradley said.

Curley and Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson announced Tuesday that the universities will resume their rivalry with a home-and-home series beginning in Sept. 10, 2016, at Heinz Field. Pitt travels to Beaver Stadium on Sept. 16, 2017.

Curley called Pederson on Friday after efforts to land a series with Miami (Fla.) fell through. Four days later, the decade-dormant series was revived.

Bradley, who has played and coached at Penn State since 1975, said the renewal of the Pitt series — even for just two games — is a welcome development among Nittany Lions fans.

"Out in this neck of the woods, I think they understand it," he said. "It's one of the rivalries, to them, that is so traditional."

Bradley, who spoke yesterday on TribLive Radio, said he has received several telephone calls from friends in Pittsburgh who already are starting to talk trash.

One piece of fodder is Penn State's 15-13 victory in a snowstorm at Pitt Stadium in 1977. The game between the Nittany Lions (who came in 9-1) and the Panthers (8-1-1) ended in controversy when Penn State's Matt Millen and Bruce Clark stopped Pitt running back Elliott Walker on a two-point conversion try, with snow obscuring the goal line.

"Some of my best friends from Pittsburgh told me we really didn't hold them," said Bradley, a player on the '77 team.

Reminded of Penn State's 48-14 victory in 1981 when Pitt was undefeated and No. 1 in the nation, Bradley said he was impressed by the number of future pros in that game. Indeed, 45 players, including nine first-round picks, were selected in the next three NFL drafts.

"(Pitt) had their moments, too," Bradley said. "They kicked our rear ends, too, when they had Tony Dorsett and won the national championship (in 1976)."

Bradley, a special-teams standout for the Nittany Lions, said Pitt coach Johnny Majors moved Dorsett to fullback after halftime, and the future Pro Football Hall of Famer ended up running for 224 yards and two touchdowns. "He was a blur," Bradley said.

The game marked Pitt's first victory against coach Joe Paterno.

"Pitt has had its moments. Penn State has had its moments," Bradley said. "There certainly have been enough to go around."

Bradley said he is looking forward to more when the teams get together again in five years.

"I just hope I'm living by then," he said. "The Penn State people out here, they understand football, they understand rivalries, they understand tradition. It will be a heckuva two games, I'm sure."

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