Panther fans flock to Heinz Field for marquee win over Clemson

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Pamela Smith | Visual Editor

Pitt fans tailgating outside of Heinz Field on Saturday. More than 60,000 fans came to watch the Panthers take on the Clemson Tigers.

By Tricia Caucci, Staff Writer

Longtime Pitt fan Vince Oswald was among the tens of thousands who trekked to Heinz Field for Saturday’s game versus Clemson. He manages to keep alive some old Panther spirit for former Pitt alumnus and friend, Armand Dellovado.

More than 20 years ago, Dellovado befriended and invited Oswald into his group of Panther tailgaters. Dellovado was notorious for hosting dozens of new supporters, young and old, before every Pitt football game, according to Oswald.

Dellovado passed away unexpectedly in 2019 at the age of 81. In his memory, Oswald and his crew bring their friend’s picture to each Pitt game and tailgate to honor him and his love of Pitt sports. 

“I’m just glad we can continue on maybe half of what Armand did. He was the best,” Oswald said. “There was nobody who loved Pitt more.”

Pitt (6-1, 3-0 ACC) football’s electrifying start to the 2021 campaign attracted Oswald and 60,594 other fans, a season-high, to Heinz Field this weekend. Saturday’s highly anticipated game brought together Pitt fans of all ages for lively tailgates on the North Shore. This hallowed tradition of gathering, eating and drinking was a popular phenomena for Panther fans as they prepared for a marquee matchup with the visiting Clemson Tigers (4-3, 3-2 ACC), which ended in a 27-17 Pitt victory.

For Oswald, this football season has been tremendous so far, especially the Clemson game. The fifth all-time matchup between the two schools was widely considered the most significant Pitt home game in more than 10 years. He noted that it was a vibrant October weekend that brought all types of Panther fans together. 

“It’s like any football season,” Oswald said. “You build a crescendo, you see the excitement and everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon. The main thing is for the people that have endured the ups and downs, the highs and lows, we’re here because we are big fans of the Panthers. This is a friendship — this is a fellowship.”

For some loyal fans, the Clemson game was just one of many routine trips to the North Shore. Tammy Datri, a longtime Pitt fan and member of the alumni board for the School of Computing and Information, said she’s attended more tailgates than she can count. 

To Datri, tailgating means maintaining and celebrating an active association to the University. She loves the family atmosphere of Pitt’s tailgates and enjoys the opportunity to reconnect with other Panther fans, especially after not attending last year’s games due to COVID. 

The possibility of Pitt earning an invite to the Peach Bowl, one of college football’s premier postseason games, added more even anticipation to the day’s matchup for her. 

“This is probably the best season we have had in a long time,” Datri said. “I’m happy for Coach Narduzzi and for all of the kids who worked so hard to get here. And for the fans! We finally deserve a winning season.”

This game attracted many loyal fans, including senior nursing major Mackenzie Dunn. She considers her favorite words to be “Pitt” and “football.” The time she spent at the parties and tailgates in the Heinz Field parking lots are some of her fondest memories. 

Dunn has gladly attended every game she could in her four years, cheering loudly and proudly from the Panther Pitt. She ranked this game experience as one of the best so far because of Saturday’s perfect football weather and jam-packed student section. 

“It was exhilarating to see the student turnout,” Dunn said. “Everyone in the stands really brought their game faces. I think our perfect rendition of ‘Sweet Caroline’ really got to Clemson.”

She may have been on to something as the roar of the Panther Pitt made it tough for the opposing team to communicate and caused a Tiger offensive lineman to jump early on a crucial third-and-three play. This helped Pitt’s defense by backing the Tigers offense a couple of yards. 

Head football coach Pat Narduzzi acknowledged the fans’ contribution to Pitt’s 27-17 win against Clemson by beginning his press conference by thanking them.

“First off, I want to thank the crowd out there today,” Narduzzi said. “They were outstanding. The Panther Pitt, I’m not sure if I’ve seen them like that … They take part in this win. It’s everybody involved. It takes everybody. I was really proud of that crowd.”

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