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June 26, 2013

Countdown to Labor Day: 68

The countdown to the start of the 2013 season is under way, as Pitt is 68 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 68, so we're looking at the most productive receiving game in Pitt history.

Pitt has had some great receivers over the years. One Pitt receiver was a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, the highest finish ever for a player who exclusively played receiver. Two Pitt receivershave won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top wideout. 14 Pitt receivers have been drafted by NFL teams. Two of those were first-round draft picks.

But the first-round draft picks, the Biletnikoff winners, the Heisman runner-up, and 13 of the 14 draft picks never did what Harry Orszulak accomplished in the finale of the 1968 season.

Orszulak was a converted running back, although he had more receptions than carries in his lone active season in the backfield. He only had two catches for 26 yards in 1967, but in 1968, he was Pitt's top offensive weapon, catching 50 passes for 725 yards and four touchdowns.

As a testament to the ineffectiveness of the 1968 Panthers, Orszulak's four touchdowns stood as the high-water mark; no other Pitt player scored as many. Those Panthers were shut out twice, failed to score a touchdown twice, and scored just one touchdown on two other occasions. The 1968 Pitt football scored a grand total of 99 points in 10 games; not surprisingly, that average of 9.9 points per game led to a 1-9 record in David Hart's final season as head coach (Hart led Pitt to a 3-27 record over three seasons, with three consecutive 1-9 performances).

There wasn't much to be excited about for Pitt heading into the season finale against Penn State. The Panthers had been outscored 130-7 over the previous three games (losses to Army and at Miami and Notre Dame). And Pitt didn't put up much of a fight against the Nittany Lions either, falling 65-9 in a miserable end to a miserable season.

But Orszulak's performance stands out among the gloom. With quarterback Dave Havern - who ranks among Pitt's top 15 in all-time passing - Orszulak caught 16 passes for 158 yards in the loss to Penn State, and that reception total still stands as the single-game reception total.

The San Diego Chargers selected Orszulak with the 18th pick of the fifth round of the 1969 NFL Draft. He was the tenth receiver taken in the draft, but does not appear to have recorded any statistics in professional football.

Since 1968, the closest a Pitt receiver has gotten to Orszulak's single-game record was 1999 when Antonio Bryant caught 13 passes against Virginia Tech. Four players have recorded 12-reception games, and six have caught 11 passes in a game. But no one has caught Orszulak's record, and that benchmark may stand as the only highlight in a dismal 1968 season.

Previous entries in the Countdown

Countdown: 69 - One of the biggest plays in Pitt history
Countodwn: 70 - The origin of Pitt's nine championships
Countdown: 71 - A good player in a bad era
Countdown: 72 - An All-American who became a dentist
Countdown: 73 - May Day
Countdown: 74 - A "groundwork" season
Countdown: 75 - A successful DL-to-OL move
Countdown: 76 - The 1976 national championship
Countdown: 77 - The last three-sport athletes
Countdown: 78 - An underrated pro
Countdown: 79 - One of the best
Countdown: 80 - The greatest non-championship team in Pitt history
Countdown: 81 - A crushing end to a great season
Countdown: 82 - The dawn of the Foge Era
Countdown: 83 - The most accurate kicker in Pitt history
Countdown: 84 - Pitt in the Pro Bowl
Countdown: 85 - A play that will never be matched
Countdown: 86 - A long but unfulfilled play
Countdown: 87 - The final year of Ironhead
Countdown: 88 - Pitt's All-American tradition
Countdown: 89 - Iron Mike
Countdown: 90 - The four 9-0's
Countdown: 91 - The two longest plays in Pitt history
Countdown: 92 - The senior year of the most productive QB in Pitt history
Countdown: 93 - The only 9-3 season in Pitt history
Countdown: 94 - The statistical oddity of 1994
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

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