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July 5, 2013

Countdown to Labor Day: 59

The countdown to the start of the 2013 season is under way, as Pitt is 59 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 59, so we're looking at the rare 59-point games.

Pitt's football history is a long one. The Panthers have been taking the field since 1890 and have played a grand total of 1,222 games over the last 123 years (they are 683-497-42 over that span).

That many games should provide the opportunity for just about anything to happen multiple times, but in those 1,222 games, Pitt has scored 59 points just twice.

The first 59-point game was in 1937, Jock Sutherland's penultimate season as head coach and the Panthers' last national championship until 1976. Pitt went 9-0-1 that season and opened the schedule with a 59-0 blowout of Ohio Wesleyan at Pitt Stadium (in the Panthers' only other game against Ohio Wesleyan, they recorded a 53-0 blowout to open the 1936) . That game was the first of five consecutive shutouts to open the season, and the Panthers allowed just 34 total points in 10 games.

51 years later, Pitt scored 59 for the second time. Once again, the Panthers hit that point total in a season opener; this time the opponent was Northern Iowa, and the final score was 59-10. As was the case with Sutherland's 59-point game, Mike Gottfried was in his penultimate season as head coach in 1988. Unlike Sutherland, Gottfriend opened his next-to-last year with only two wins - Pitt followed the Northern Iowa game with a 42-10 win over Ohio State - before losing three straight and finishing with a 6-5 record.

The 1988 Northern Iowa game was also notable for Adam Walker's 89-yard touchdown run, which still stands as the second-longest rushing play in Pitt history.

Pitt has scored 59 points twice, but the Panthers have also had 59 points scored on them twice. The first came in in the midst of a terrible 1903 season that saw the Panthers score a grand total of 20 points on their way to an 0-8-1 record. In the fifth game of the season, Penn State crushed Pitt 59-0, which still stands as the fourth-biggest loss in school history. (It's worth noting that Pitt turned things around in 1904 with a perfect 10-0 record, including a 23-5 win over Penn State.)

1942 was the dateline for the other time a Pitt opponent scored 59 points, and it was another current Big Ten team that did the deed. On November 7, Pitt went to Columbus to face Ohio State and walked out with a 59-19 loss at the hands of the Buckeyes. The Panthers only won three games that season, although that loss to Ohio State would be eclipsed 44 years later when the Buckeyes gave Pitt its biggest beating in school history (which doesn't need to be recounted here).

Previous entries in the Countdown

Countdown: 60 - A record that won't be broken
Countdown: 61 - Pitt's longest-running rivalry
Countdown: 62 - The last touchdown against Penn State
Countdown: 63 - The No Bowl Panthers
Countdown: 64 - The most passes in a game
Countdown: 65 - The other 13-9
Countdown: 66 - A local star
Countdown: 67 - One-win seasons
Countdown: 68 - The most prolific receiving game
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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