Pitt, Tennessee square off in Majors Classic

NCAA Football

Pittsburgh and Tennessee share the field for the first time in 38 years on Saturday when they meet in the Johnny Majors Classic at Knoxville, Tenn.

A two-game series was put together to honor Majors, the College Hall of Famer who died in June 2020 at age 85.

Majors coached Pitt for two stints and guided the 1976 team to the national championship behind star running back Tony Dorsett. He also spent 16 seasons at alma mater Tennessee (1977-92), where he was an All-American running back in 1956.

“It’s unique that Coach Majors had such a huge impact on both programs,” first-year Volunteers coach Josh Heupel said at a press conference. “As a player and a coach, his legacy lives on here at Tennessee. He’s a part of the foundation of who we are. He’s a cornerstone of it. I think it’s a fitting opportunity to pay tribute to him from both programs.”

A second Johnny Majors Classic will be held next season at Pittsburgh.

Both teams are 1-0 this season.

The Panthers rolled to a 51-7 victory over Massachusetts and Tennessee outclassed Bowling Green 38-6.

Heupel’s first victory for the Volunteers featured a ground attack with 331 yards. Tiyon Evans rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and Jabari Small had 117 and a score on 22 carries.

Quarterback Joe Milton III, a transfer from Michigan, rushed for two touchdowns and threw for one while completing 11 of 23 passes for 139 yards.

The Volunteers allowed just 219 yards with defensive back Theo Jackson leading the way with 11 tackles, including 2.5 for loss.

Tennessee attempts to slow down Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett, who ranks fifth in school history with 8,256 passing yards. Pickett passed for 272 yards and two touchdowns versus UMass.

Heupel saw Pickett twice when he was coach at Central Florida. The teams split the two meetings in 2018 and 2019 with Pickett passing for 387 total yards.

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi expects to see familiar schemes from the Vols.

“We got a Tennessee team that we haven’t played the personnel there, but Josh Heupel coming from UCF, having two games with them, gives us a little bit of an advantage,” Narduzzi said at a press conference. “It gives them an advantage as well because they know who we are on both sides of the ball.”

Linebacker John Petrishen had two of Pitt’s five sacks in the opener.

Pitt won both previous meetings — in 1980 and 1983 in Knoxville when Majors was Tennessee’s coach.

–Field Level Media

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