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Fans fill Panther Pitt for Thursday night game at Heinz Field

Heather+Tennant+%7C+Staff+Photographer
Heather Tennant | Staff Photographer

Heather Tennant | Staff Photographer

Heather Tennant | Staff Photographer

By Chris Puzia / Assistant Sports Editor

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Alex Kunisky spent his Thursday night in the North Shore instead of his public speaking class — but it wasn’t to skip out on a speech.

Kunisky’s professor canceled class so students could go watch No. 23 Pitt face North Carolina at Heinz Field, a game the Panthers ended up dropping, 26-19.

“The teacher was, I think, happy to make it easier for us to go,” Kunisky, a freshman neuroscience major, said. “I’ve been to all the home games, so I try to come regularly.”

Kunisky was one of many in a packed student section on Thursday night, and even when the Panthers entered half trailing 20-3, most of the section stayed.

Delaney Hawk said the student turnout has been better simply because the team has played better.

“I think people are excited to come anyway, and Pitt is really pushing people to stay the whole time,” Hawk, a sophomore anthropology major, said.

Matt Walheim appreciates the University’s effort, but said he’s coming to Pitt games anyway.

Walheim, a sophomore computer science major, arrived at the stadium around 5:30 p.m. and tailgated before the game. He said despite the loss, Pitt’s current ranked status and recent revitalization will convince students to stay the whole game regardless of what happens to the team’s record.

“I think now that they’re coming out, they’ll get a taste of what it’s actually like to be at a game,” Walheim said. “A lot of people I know that hadn’t been to a game, they’ll get a good feel of what the atmosphere is like and want to come back.”

With the primetime game aired on ESPN, students came to Heinz Field in droves. But favorable class schedules also played a role in their attendance, like it did for Allison Smith.

“It’s nice because I don’t have Friday classes, and I know if people did, it would be hard to make it,” Smith, a senior communication science and disorders major, said. “I know a lot of people with night classes who couldn’t make it.”

For other students, their schedule was irrelevant. They were coming to the game no matter what, according to sophomore Andrew Floyd.

“Honestly, I skipped a class today,” Floyd said. “And I actually have a test tomorrow morning that I’m planning on going to that I hope I do well on now.”

It wasn’t just current students making the trip, of course. Self-described hardcore fan and Pittsburgher Danielle Slesh has season tickets, and she didn’t even attend the school.

“It’s usually the hardcore fans [who come to weekday games], because most people aren’t gonna be late for work or lose sleep so they can go and sit at a game,” Slesh said. “I left work early, and here I am. I’ll probably be dragging into work tomorrow, but I made it. It was worth it, though.”

Despite the result, senior environmental studies major Zach Fox said head coach Pat Narduzzi’s coaching prowess will keep him coming back to Heinz Field.

“This has been the best Pitt year probably since Larry Fitzgerald was here,” Fox said. “I mean, 6-2 still isn’t bad at all.”

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Fans fill Panther Pitt for Thursday night game at Heinz Field