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May 31, 2013
The countdown to the start of the 2013 season is under way, as Pitt is 94 days away from its Labor Day opener against Florida State at Heinz Field. Panther-Lair.com is counting down the days until the biggest season opener in recent memory.
Today's number is 94, so we're looking at the statistical oddity of the 1994 Pitt Panthers.
The second year of the Johnny Majors II era didn't go any better than the first year had, as Pitt posted its third consecutive three-win record. 1994 was directly in the midst of the program's descent into the quagmire of mid-90's mediocrity.
After an inspiring two-point loss to Texas in the season opener and an expected 30-16 win over Ohio a week later, the Panthers fell into a tailspin, dropping six consecutive games before taking advantage of Temple and Rutgers to eke out two more wins in the final three games. The Owls and the Scarlet Knights were the only Big East teams Pitt beat in 1994, and the Panthers dropped the other five conference games by a combined score of 161-76.
As such, there's not much remarkable to cite in a year when Pitt could only beat Ohio, Temple, and Rutgers, but there are a few notable statistics that, in hindsight, are interesting.
For instance, Pitt's all-time records for single-game receiving yards and single-game receiving touchdowns were both set in 1994. But they weren't set by the same player or even in the same game.
Dietrich Jells set the single-game yardage record in that year's Backyard Brawl against West Virginia (a 47-41 Panther loss at Pitt stadium). Jells put up 225 yards against the Mountaineers, and he did it on just five receptions. Not surprisingly, one of those passes went for 80 yards, which ties Jells and quarterback John Ryan for No. 6 on Pitt's all-time list of longest passing plays.
But Jells only caught two touchdowns that day, which is short of the all-time Pitt record for single-game receiving touchdowns. That record belongs to Billy Davis, who caught four touchdowns in the season-ending win over Rutgers (Davis shares the four-touchdown record with Julius Dawkins, who hit that mark twice in 1981).
And despite the 225-yard game against West Virginia, Jells didn't even finish the season as Pitt's leading receiver; Jells had 613 yards and four touchdowns on 35 receptions, while Davis caught 51 passes for 731 yards and nine touchdowns.
In another interest statistical twist, Curtis Martin rushed for 251 yards in the season opener against Texas, a total that ranks as No. 10 on Pitt's list of all-time single-game rushing performances. But, like Jells, his big single game didn't translate into a spot atop the full-season stat sheet, as Billy West was Pitt's leading rusher in 1994 with 1,358 yards.
Countdown: 95 - A relentless player and his dominant season
Countdown: 96 - The biggest win in Pitt history
Countdown: 97 - A dominant current Panther
Countdown: 98 - A transition year
Countdown: 99 - Hugh Green
Countdown: 100 - A look at Pitt in 1913