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Pitt-Marshall slated for night kickoff

The Panthers will host the Thundering Herd at Heinz Field in a rare night game

Pitt fans have gotten accustomed to afternoon games over the years, but on Monday, it was announced that they have a night game headed their way.

The Panthers’ game against Marshall is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff time. Obviously it’s not a huge opponent, but still gives fans a rare evening contest.

If you’re not heading to the game, you’ll be able to see it on ESPN3. Locally, it will be broadcast on ROOT Sports.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Man gives up lead in race to help his brother who nearly collapsed

Alistair Brownlee almost won first place at the World Triathalon Series in Cozumel, Mexico on Sunday, but instead he stopped to help his brother who nearly collapsed less than 1,000 meters from the finish line.

Jonathan Brownlee, 26, and Alistair Brownlee, 28, were in first and second place when exhaustion started to hit Jonathan hard.

Jonathan Brownlee’s knees started to buckle, and he quickly moved over to the sidelines where race officials caught him. Alistair Brownlee saw what was happening, and with the finish line in sight, he moved to the sidelines to help his brother.

Wheew what a finish to the 2016 ITU World Triathlon season that was. Mario Mola Díaz won his first elite World Championship title by just four points after Jonathan Brownlee suffered heat exhaustion in the final metres. The The Brownlee Brothers will go down in history for this finish, which kept Jonny in the running to take second in the Columbia Threadneedle Rankings.Posted by World Triathlon on Sunday, September 18, 2016

As he slowed down, Henri Schoeman of South Africa overtook them, finishing in first place.

Alistair Brownlee made sure Jonathan Brownlee crossed the finished before him, allowing him to with second place. Alistair finished third.

The race concluded the season, allowing Jonathan to finish second and Alistair to finish 10th overall.

"I've been in that position before and when it happened to me … I swore if -- literally if it happened to anyone, I would have helped them across the line because, to be honest, it's a horrible position to be in," Alistair Brownlee said after the race.

Jonathan Brownlee posted a photo to Twitter thanking his brother for his support.

"Thanks Ali Brownleetri, your loyalty is incredible," Jonathan Brownlee tweeted.

Texas high school spends $60 million on new football stadium, feeds rivalry

Two rival schools in Texas have taken their rivalry to a new level.

Allen High School in Allen, Texas, built a $60 million stadium, complete with a high-definition video screen, a three-tier press box and a capacity of 18,000 seats that nearly matches the Staples Center.

Could a high school football stadium really be any bigger?

Yes. The answer in Texas is always yes. 

>> Read more trending stories  

The Los Angeles Times reported that Allen's neighboring school district in McKinney, Texas, plans to outdo the Eagles' stadium with a nearly $63 million facility -- what could be the nation's most expensive high school stadium. It will be outfitted with a 55-foot-wide, high-definition video screen, an artificial grass field, seating for 12,000 and an adjacent 500-seat event center.

"Oh, it's a rivalry," said Adam Blanchet, a junior at one of the three high schools in the McKinney Independent School District that will use the new stadium. "I have pride knowing my district is going to have the most expensive stadium in the country."

The median household income in McKinney is $83,000. School taxes for property owners amount to $1.63 per $100 of assessed valuation, the Times reported.

To read more on how McKinney is funding the stadium and what students have to say about it, click here.

Weekly Kickoff: Pitt opens ACC play vs. North Carolina

The Panthers travel on the road to face the Tar Heels

After in-state rival Penn State and a difficult road game against Oklahoma State, you’d like to think Pitt can have some time to catch its breath. No such luck this week as the Panthers have another challenging game next. This weekend’s contest against the Tar Heels is difficult for a few reasons.

First, it’s the third consecutive ‘tough’ game for the team. Teams/coaches won’t publicly downplay opponents very often and will tell you that every game is a big one. But to play three tough opponents all in a row just isn’t all that easy.

Then there’s the fact that it’s another road game. On paper, you might feel decent about this game but getting it at home would feel better.

Next, it’s the first ACC game of the year and while it would have been nice to defeat the Cowboys, the conference games are on a completely different level in terms of importance. Pitt’s ultimate goal is to win the ACC and they can’t reach the title game without winning the conference battles.

Finally, when you consider that this one is against North Carolina, a favorite for the Division no less, Pitt will need all kinds of help if they want to win the Division should they lose this one. You might be able to stay in the hunt for a Division title if you lose one of the lesser games. But, in general, you need to beat the better teams in the head-to-head matchups.

In other words, this is a very big game.

Like Pitt, the Tar Heels have been tested already. Their sole loss came to a Top 20 Georgia team, 33-24 and North Carolina also faced P5 team Illinois in a 48-23 blowout win on the road. This weekend was another easy win against James Madison, as the Tar Heels doubled them up, 56-28.

Playing North Carolina, Pitt will face another solid passing attack. Marquise Williams and his back-to-back 3,000-yard passing seasons is thankfully graduated, but the Tar Heels have still passed the ball capably with new quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky is not only a junior, but one with some experience, attempting about 150 passes over the past couple of years. On the season, he already has 853 yards including a huge day against James Madison this weekend with 432 yards. Trubisky also has avoided costly mistakes with eight total touchdowns and zero interceptions.

And by the way, Trubisky can run it a bit as well. He already has a 39-yard run on the season and two rushing touchdowns.

Of course, the Tar Heels are incredibly strong in the backfield, too. There, they’ll have to contend with Elijah Hood, who piled up nearly 1,500 yards on the ground last season, good for third in the ACC. He’s not had a huge start to the year, but still has 266 yards and four touchdowns. Even if Pitt’s secondary plays better this week, the defense can’t afford to relax in the running game and will need to shut down Hood.

In the ‘That guy’s still there?’ category is Pitt killer Ryan Switzer, who’s always managed big games against the Panthers. As a freshman, he returned two punts for touchdowns. Two years ago, he had a big catch and long touchdown. Last year, he piled up 126 passing yards and a touchdown. That dude loves playing Pitt and it would be surprising if he didn’t have at least one big time play.

So, how can Pitt win?

Defensively, North Carolina has been pretty tough on passing games but a little vulnerable against opposing running backs. They gave up 222 yards to Georgia star Nick Chubb. James Madison’s top two backs went for nearly 200 yards on the ground. And Illinois’ top back, Ke’Shawn Vaughn had 116 yards and a score against them. ESPN noted after their most recent game against James Madison that they’re a little banged up on the defensive line.

Seemingly, there’s an opening for Pitt’s stable of running backs so James Conner and company might be able to have a nice day.

Pitt’s defense also continues to force some turnovers and that’s encouraging. If they can win the takeaway battle, that would be a big help.

On the surface, this has the look of a difficult game to win. And Pitt’s secondary issues from this past weekend will make it even harder to feel optimistic here. But if the running game is strong and the Panthers can force a turnover or two, they can give themselves a chance to win it.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

NFL says 'no final decision' on Lady Gaga performing at 2017 Super Bowl halftime show

A new report by Us Weekly magazine said Lady Gaga is the confirmed headliner for Super Bowl LI's halftime show, but the NFL says that's not the case.

This comes after rumors that the pop artist would be performing at the football championship event.

>> Read more trending stories  

The 30-year-old singer will perform at NRG Stadium in Houston on Feb. 5.

Gaga appeared at Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California, where she opened the event by singing the national anthem.

"This is one of the highest honors of my career," she said of the performance. "I get a chance to sing for all the athletes  who have been working so hard their whole lives for this moment -- the coaches, as well as the fans in the stands who are waiting for this moment. I think it marks what being an American is all about."

Related:  Adele turns down offer to perform at Super Bowl 

Coldplay, Bruno Mars, Mark Ronson and Beyoncé performed during the Super Bowl halftime show this year.

NFL's senior vice president of communications Natalie Ravitz told The Washington Post there has not been a final decision made

"Us Weekly ignored my on the record response," Ravitz tweeted in response to the magazine's report. "We've had conversations (with)  several fantastic artists about SB Halftime Show but no final decision."

"We have had conversations with several fantastic artists about the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show," she said in an email to The Washington Post. "However, at this point we do not have a final decision. We’re happy there is so much excitement about the show."

Gaga's fifth studio album, "Joanne," is set to be released Oct. 21. It will be her first solo album since 2013's "Artpop." The first single from the album, "Perfect Illusion," was released Sept. 9. It was produced by Mark Ronson.

Pitt defense has near record day against Oklahoma State

The Panthers’ defense struggled against the Cowboys and almost found themselves in the record books

Pitt’s defense, particularly the secondary, didn’t have a good game yesterday against Oklahoma State. But how bad was it? In doing my routine post-game stuff today, there was this nugget from Chris Peak:

#Pitt's defense gave up 640 yards today. Single-game record is 675 (VT in 1993). Most recent 600-yard game was GT in 2014 (612)— Chris Peak (@PantherLair) September 18, 2016

To be honest, I hadn’t given much thought to just how bad the defense performed from a historical standpoint. But that they were only 35 yards from an all-time Pitt record is obviously a little more proof that those guys struggled almost beyond any reasonable comprehension.

Fortunately, they did tighten things up a little in the second half and at least keep the Cowboys out of the end zone less often. But 640 yards still shows they had a pretty rough day overall.

Ironically, while there were problems with the offense, too, that unit had their best day in terms of yardage in three years:

#Pitts's 527 yards of total offense tonight were the Panthers' most in a regulation game since they had 598 vs. Duke in 2013.— Chris Peak (@PantherLair) September 18, 2016

As I said before, I thought some of the playcalling was sort of bland and things could have been better to be sure. But they also had their moments and did a few things out there. Watching the postgame press conference this morning, even Pat Narduzzi basically said what a lot of us have been thinking - you score 38 points and it should be enough in most instances.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case yesterday. Pitt has plenty to clean up on both sides of the ball if they’re going to beat North Carolina next weekend.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Panther of the Game: James Conner

In what is becoming a theme, James Conner edged out Quadree Henderson for Panther of the game

This is starting to become a weekly theme with having to choose either Quadree Henderson or James Conner for Panther of the Week. This week we go with Conner in Pitt’s 45-38 shootout loss to Oklahoma State. It was not an easy call, but I’ll go with Conner due to a good chunk of Henderson’s yardage faking out the ESPN cameraman while Conner had to slug it out in between the tackles.

Henderson ended the game with two catches for 31 yards and 95 yards on the ground while hitting pay dirt twice. Conner hit the end zone once, but also chalked up 111 yards on the ground and hit for 60 extra in the air. The receiving yards included a 55-yard, over the shoulder catch early, with a Cowboy defender draped all over him that was seemingly on a play not even designed for him.

Conner continues to amaze all of us with his determination and getting back to where he was when he last hit the field. It is great to see he and Henderson contributing so much and winning this award. However, if Pitt wants to be successful this season, another player is going to have to step up and make it more than a two-person race every week.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author@BrunoPittsburgh

The Turning Point: Toss Sweep

Pitt had a chance for a big road win, but a conservative play call cost them

Pitt’s 45-38 loss to Oklahoma State had its fair share of twists and turns. Believe me, I was keeping track. I was all ready to hand it to Matt Galambos’ fumble recovery for a TD and then I thought long and hard about giving it to the weather delay. I never thought I would give “The Turning Point” to the weather, but I was set to do that, as it killed some nice momentum Pitt had, at the time. However, if I did that, I felt like it would let offensive coordinator, Matt Canada, off the hook. You could say the coaching staff, as I’m sure, at this stage, Pat Narduzzi has some say in the calls. I think this one is on him and the coaching staff.

The interesting thing is that Anson sort of wrote about this exact thing, earlier this week. At some point, Pitt has to trust Nate Peterman. He’s a fifth-year senior and he should be able to give the defense at least a little fear of a passing threat. I thought we had reached that point with about three-and-a-half minutes left in the game last night.

Pitt’s defense had turned it around in the second half. Oklahoma State went from trying to break all of their offensive records to just trying to eek out a win. After the weather delay, neither offense could get back on track, but finally, the Panthers got some momentum.

With about five minutes remaining, and the score tied, Pitt started to move the ball. They got close to midfield and were faced with a third-and-four. They need four yards here and they would be in prime position to continue a game winning drive. Oklahoma State was giving up some runs, but had stoned Conner as well, after the weather delay. It was time to put the ball in Peterman’s hands and let him find an open man for four yards. Instead, Pitt called for a toss sweep to Conner, which lost five yards. That led to a punt and then a slip by cornerback Avonte Maddox sealed the Panthers’ fate.

I’m all for the Pitt running game and manning up and letting your offensive line win the game, but this was not the time for it. They didn’t need a yard or two...they needed four. They were a road underdog, with a chance for a huge win in crunch time. It was time to trust Peterman and they didn’t.

It reminded me of last year’s fourth down decision against Iowa. It cost them then to be conservative and it cost them now. The good news is that Narduzzi learned from that last season. Let’s hope he does this year too. The wide receivers and Peterman need to make plays to give Pitt some hope of really competing, but they can’t do it if they are never given the opportunity.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author@BrunoPittsburgh

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