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July 27, 2013

Countdown to Labor Day: 37

The countdown to the start of the 2013 season is under way, as Pitt is 37 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 37, so we're looking at a record shared by two great Pitt quarterbacks.

It should come as no surprise that the record for most touchdown passes in a season by a Pitt quarterback is shared by two of the best to play the position for the Panthers.

The record is 37 touchdown passes, a mark set by Dan Marino 1981 and matched by Rod Rutherford in 2003.

Marino and Rutherford may share the touchdown record, but there are some points of distinction. For starters, Marino's 1981 Pitt team played just 12 total games - including the legendary Sugar Bowl win over Georgia - while Rutherford and the 2003 Panthers played 13 games. And while Marino had Julius Dawkins and John Brown to catch his passes, Rutherford had Larry Fitzgerald for one of the greatest seasons by a receiver in college football history.

The 1981 team was, overall, a more potent offense. Despite playing one fewer game, those Panthers scored one more touchdown than the 2003 team and also put up 2,000 rushing yards (compared to 1,500 for Rutherford's team). Rutherford threw for 600 yards more than Marino, but he also attempted 50 more passes.

Either way, Marino and Rutherford both put up seasons for the ages. Marino's primary target was Dawkins, who caught 46 passes for 767 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Brown caught 43 passes for 530 yards and eight touchdowns, including the game-winner in the Sugar Bowl. Running back Bryan Thomas also matched Dawkins with 46 catches.

For Rutherford, the passing targets were Fitzgerald and everybody else. Fitzgerald put in one of the great performances of all-time in 2003, catching 92 passes for 1,672 yards and a record 22 touchdowns. He averaged 7 catches, 128 yards and more than one touchdown per game. Kris Wilson chipped in nine touchdowns on 44 receptions, and Princell Brockenbrough added 35 catches and four touchdowns.

Rutherford's 2003 season stands as the most productive performance by a Pitt quarterback ever. In addition to his touchdown total, Rutherford's 3,679 yards set the single-season record, as did his 413 pass attempts.

Previous entries in the Countdown

Countdown: 38 - Sutherland's last year
Countdown: 39 - "Dandy Dick" Cassiano
Countdown: 40 - The unheralded tackling machine
Countdown: 41 - Another versatile mid-century athlete
Countdown: 42 - One of the greatest
Countdown: 43 - Pitt vs. the 2013 opponents
Countdown: 44 - An unfortunate score
Countdown: 45 - The Rhino
Countdown: 46 - The great Bimbo
Countdown: 47 - A huge effort in a tough loss
Countdown: 48 - The highest-scoring game
Countdown: 49 - The sack master
Countdown: 50 - The winningest coach in Pitt history
Countdown: 51 - A kicking record
Countdown: 52 - The link between Goldberg and Dorsett
Countdown: 53 - The legacy of Henry Ford
Countdown: 54 - A "Corny" mid-century quarterback
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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