Panthers to take on Stanford in Sun Bowl


TPN file photo

Quadree Henderson kneels on the Yankee Stadium field during the 2016 New Era Pinstripe Bowl — Pitt's last bowl game appearance, which ended in a 31-24 loss to Northwestern.

By Trent Leonard, Sports Editor

It’s official — the Pitt football team will take on Stanford in the Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, Dec. 31.

The matchup was announced Sunday afternoon, about 16 hours removed from Pitt’s lopsided loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship the previous night. Had the Panthers pulled off an unlikely upset, they’d have earned an automatic bid to play in a highly-coveted New Year’s Day bowl as conference champions.

Instead, the Panthers (7-6) will play the Stanford Cardinal (8-4) on New Year’s Eve, albeit in a historically rich bowl slot. The Sun Bowl has existed since 1935, making it the second-oldest bowl game behind the prestigious Rose Bowl. It’s still considered a Tier 1 bowl, and has pitted the ACC and Pac-12 against each other since 2014.

Pitt and Stanford share little history with one another, having last met in 1932 — a game Pitt won 7-0. The Cardinal will be looking to avenge this Depression-era loss.

The Panthers also have some history with the Sun Bowl itself, making an appearance most recently as a nine-win team in 2008. That appearance made history for the wrong reasons, however, as Pitt’s unsightly 3-0 loss to Oregon State became one of the lowest-scoring bowl games in history.

Bowl games have not been kind to Pitt recently, with the team winning just one of its last six postseason appearances — a 30-27 victory over Bowling Green in the 2013 Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl.

Head coach Pat Narduzzi is still searching for his first bowl win since taking over the team in 2015. That year, the Panthers got smoked by Heisman finalist quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who led Navy to a 44-28 victory in the Military Bowl. Even with future NFL talents James Conner and (the now infamous) Nathan Peterman, Pitt lost to Northwestern in the 2016 Pinstripe Bowl. That was Pitt’s last bowl-game showing, with the team missing out on postseason contention entirely last season.

Pitt-Stanford kickoff is set for 2 p.m. New Year’s Eve, and the game will air on CBS.

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