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July 10, 2013

Countdown to Labor Day: 54



The countdown to the start of the 2013 season is under way, as Pitt is 54 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 54, so we're looking at a Pitt quarterback from the middle of the century.

The team John Michelosen inherited when he became Pitt's head coach in 1955 had gone 4-5 the previous season, but it came with some talented players, not the least of which was quarterback Corny Salvaterra. A product of Wilkes-Barre GAR (which produced current Pitt freshman Shakir Soto), Salvaterra picked Pitt over Penn State for the school's engineering program and became the starting quarterback in 1954.

Pitt went 4-5 that season and only scored 83 points in nine games, but under first-year head coach Michelosen in 1955, the Panthers improved considerably, finishing with a 7-4 record and a loss to Georgia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.

1956 was another strong year for Pitt. The Panthers put up another seven-win season, including a season-opening win at West Virginia, back-to-back wins over Notre Dame and Army, a 7-7 tie with Penn State, and a win at Miami in the regular-season finale. Pitt ran into Georgia Tech once again in Salvaterra's final year with the Panthers; this time the two teams met in the Gator Bowl, but the result was the same: another Yellow Jackets' victory.

Salvaterra never attempted more than 88 passes in a season, and he only reached that level in his final year. In 1954, he completed 19-of-57 passes for 286 yards, three touchdown and eight interceptions. The next year wasn't much better, with a 25-of-54 completion rate, 329 yards, four touchdowns and eight more picks. In his final season, Salvaterra completed 33-of-88 attempts for 500 yards, seven touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.

But Salvaterra did damage on the ground in 1956, leading Pitt in rushing with 504 yards on 123 carries. The following spring he was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 17th round of the NFL Draft. He was the 11th quarterback taken; the next quarterback to come off the board was Occidental's Jack Kemp, who would go on to a career in politics.


Previous entries in the Countdown

Countdown: 55 - Pitt makes history
Countdown: 56 - Panthers in the Super Bowl
Countdown: 57 - A unique scoring title
Countdown: 58 - Another Dorsett record
Countdown: 59 - The rare 59-point game
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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