By R.J. Sepich
Any play can change the outcome of the game. But
truly great plays and moments transcend the games they alter, lasting in the
memories of fans, players and coaches for as long as those who witnessed the
play are alive.
Here are some of the plays that you picked as
your "Most Electrifying Play in Pitt Sports History":
Jerome Lane "Sends It In" at the Fitzgerald Field House - Jan. 25, 1988
It's pretty rare for an athletic achievement to delay a game for more than 30 minutes. That's what happened when Pitt forward Jerome Lane received a pass from point guard Sean Miller on a fast break in the first half of a Big East battle against the Providence Friars, jumped to dunk and put the ball through the hoop with so much force that it ripped the rim off and shattered the backboard glass.
"Jerome Lane breaking the backboard probably is the most electrifying Pitt sports moment ever," Jacob Timlin responded to our Facebook question.
But not only is the play one of the most memorable moments in Pitt history, it also holds a place in college basketball history. With the game broadcasting live to a national audience, ESPN's Bill Raftery produced a call to match Lane's awe-inspiring dunk: "Send it in, Jerome!" Raftery famously yelled over the roar of the frenzied Fitzgerald Field House crowd.
Although the game was overshadowed by the dunk, the final score ended up being almost as impressive as Lane's dunk, with Pitt trouncing Providence 90-56 for what was, at the time, the Panthers' largest ever Big East victory.
Darrelle Revis' Backyard Brawl Punt Return - Nov. 16, 2006
Like Lane's dunk, the 2006 Backyard Brawl football game is remembered by Pitt fans more for one sensational play than the final outcome.
With both teams trading points and the score tied at 17 in an already entertaining first half, West Virginia lined up to punt just before halftime. Pat McAfee's kick traveled over the head of Pitt punt returner Darrelle Revis, but the ball took a high bounce, allowing Revis to grab it at his own 27-yard line with his back facing the Mountaineers in pursuit of him.
Revis further retreated to the 20-yard line before turning around and doing what every punt returner is told not to do. He stopped. A quick first step to his right gave Revis a little more space and allowed Derek Kinder to help him out with a (legal) bone-crunching block that wiped two Mountaineers completely out of the play.
"The Darrelle Revis punt return right before halftime of the WVU game," fan Kotas Jackson said. "Derek Kinder threw one of the most devastating blocks I have ever seen!"
Kinder's block helped Revis get to the sideline, but he still had a lot of work to do. He juked a defender at the 26-yard line, tiptoed the sideline to reach midfield, broke another tackle at the West Virginia 25-yard line and spun around one more defender before trotting into the end zone.
The exhausting play, which was nominated for ESPN's "Play of the Year" at the 2007 ESPYs and won "College Play of the Year," lasted 24 crazy seconds, sending Heinz Field into pandemonium and giving Pitt a 24-17 advantage.
The No. 8 Mountaineers recovered to outscore Pitt 28-3 the rest of the game, holding off the Panthers' upset bid by a final score of 45-27.
Marino-to-Brown Connection Wins Pitt the Sugar Bowl - Jan. 1, 1982
Down by three points with 42 seconds remaining in the 1982 Sugar Bowl, Pitt faced a 4th-and-5 at the Georgia 33-yard line. Coach Jackie Sherrill had a choice: attempt a 50-yard field goal for the tie, or go for the victory. He thought the former option made more sense, but star quarterback Dan Marino convinced him to pick the latter choice.
"I asked Danny what he thought," Sherrill said after the game, "and he wanted to go for the win. Since he thought he could do it, I went along with him."
The gutsy decision paid off. Marino dropped back and rifled a pass down the middle of the field, splitting two Georgia defenders and finding receiver John Brown in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
Lae Pitt was one of many fans to select this play: "Dan Marino to John Brown to win the Sugar Bowl! I was there, it was awesome!"
The 24-20 triumph gave Pitt its second Sugar Bowl trophy, with the other victory also coming against Georgia in the 1977 Sugar Bowl.
Levance Fields' 3-pointer in OT Beats Duke - Dec. 20, 2007
In a battle of top-10 teams at Madison Square Garden, Pitt got the better of Duke thanks to a memorable step-back 3-pointer in the final seconds of overtime by point guard Levance Fields.
After trailing by as many as 16 in the first half, the Panthers battled back in the second half and forced overtime with a last-second defensive stand in regulation.
Pitt had to fight against more adversity when redshirt senior and team leader Mike Cook suffered a devastating knee injury early in the extra period. Cook's best friend on the team, Fields, ensured that Cook's final game didn't end in defeat.
Down by two points in the final moments and with possession of the ball, Pitt inbounded the ball to Fields. Duke defended well, and Fields took the only remaining option available to him: hoist an off-balance, fade-away jumper behind the arc. The clutch shot swished through the net with six seconds left to give the Panthers a 65-64 lead, the Blue Devils missed two desperation shots at the other end and the Pitt bench broke out in jubilant celebration, with Fields almost accidentally kicking Coach Dixon in the face as a teammate raised the hero of the game in the air.
Allen Stern said that this was his favorite Pitt play: "Fields' winning shot against Duke! I was there!"
Fields and the Panthers ended up enjoying another incredible moment at MSG later that season when they won four games in four days in earn the Big East Tournament Championship.
Other fan submissions included:
Chet Harhut: "The Billy Owens pick six against Penn State in 1987."
Vince Rodemer: "Ronald Ramon's 3 to beat WVU."
Elizabeth Churay Matherne: "1999 Pitt vs Notre Dame, Kevan Barlow scores the last TD in old Pitt Stadium right in front of the band section."
Christopher Bowling: "Any play that beats any Penn State team."
Brian Patrick Heffron: "Keith Gavin winning NCAA's [in wrestling]."
And once again, Pitt gymnastics head coach Debbie Yohman contributed: "Alyse Zeffiro's 10.0 Vault against WVU. Even WVU coaching staff thought it was perfect!"