Updated 37 minutes ago
The last lines of Pitt's fighting song faded into the icy night air of Heinz Field, and it was time for the players to head to the locker room and celebrate – in private – the historic victory 52 -22 against Virginia Tech.
Pitt Pat Narduzzi coach ordered his men to jog in the locker room. The major left guard Connor Dintino, increasingly obedient servant of the rebel, has decided to challenge his coach on this Saturday evening.
"Narduzzi was telling everyone that they were jogging," and I just walked slowly out of the camp, embracing the last feeling that was moving away from Heinz, "he said.
"I had about 30 family and friends here, looking exactly where they were sitting and seeing them all, knowing it was the last time out of Heinz, a surreal moment."
An appropriate description. Undoubtedly, surreal is a good way to describe what Pitt has created in the last five games.
After a 3-4 season start and embarrassing losses for Penn State, North Carolina and Central Florida in the first five weeks, Pitt is not only alive but a victory from a title.
Beating Virginia Tech gave Pitt (6-4, 5-1) a lead in a game in the ACC Coastal over Virginia (7-3, 4-2). If the Panthers win at Wake Forest or Virginia loses at Georgia Tech next Saturday, Pitt will win the Coastal and punch his ticket to the ACC league game – just as Narduzzi predicted in August.
Even now, with the potentially decisive game following the program, Dintino refused to consider what could happen.
"Just another game in the ACC," he said. "Do not get caught up in emotions, do not look at the charts, just run the business, it's a business trip to Wake Forest."
Just another game is not the way to describe what happened at Heinz Field on Saturday.
Pitt's attack went on all the historical rampages through Virginia Tech defense, setting a school record with 654 yards (492 rush, 162 passes), the second game this season with over 600 (Duke, 634). To put it in perspective, Pitt has exceeded 600 only six more times.
Senior running back Qadree Ollison paved the way, with personal milestones in rushed yards (235), touchdowns (three) and the longest game in Pitt's story: a 97-yard run with 4 minutes and 43 seconds of play. This broke the 92 record of teammate Darrin Hall, set last year against Duke. Hall operated for 186 on only seven carries, including a 73-yard touchdown landing after Virginia Tech had approached 31-15 in the third quarter.
Thus, during the waning moments of the fourth quarter, the game was decided before the Ollison race, but there was less fury attached to it than with anything else happening on Saturday.
When Ollison took the pass near the goal line, Dintino and full-back George Aston led him through a wide hole in the Hokies defense.
"I was not touched for 30-40 meters on the pitch," said Ollison, who appeared at his post-game press conference with Aston and six offensive men behind him on the podium. "Show how much they managed to block the game."
Dintino said he tried to keep up with Ollison, but striker Caleb Farley was closing fast. Ollison's stiff arm sent Farley to the grass, and Ollison lunged for the rest of the road and launched himself into the final area as if he were looking for Pitt's gymnastics team.
"I was wondering what he would do, he just went through him," Dintino said, amazed.
"They're tough guys," he said of the two backs. "They're going through guys, they'll never end."
Added Ollison: "As a race back, it's my job to make a guy miss, my job is to send a boy, do not let a guy grab me."
As he described it, "he is only running with power, running violently".
Meanwhile, Ollison exceeded 1,000 yards for the season (1.054) and became only the sixth in Pitt's history to reach the total twice (he did so in 2015). The special thing about the success is that two of the other five – Tony Dorsett and James Conner – were there to see it.
With the weekend after helping the Steelers also reach 52 points two nights earlier on the same field, Conner spoke to the team before the game.
"He said we have the opportunity to do something big today," said Ollison, "and he was right."
After Dintino finally reached the locker room, celebrated with his teammates and later met the media, he was asked if any of his tears watered Heinz Field's field. After all, Narduzzi himself needed a moment to compose himself.
"No tears from the big," said Dintino. "Maybe later, maybe I'll cry when I'm with my mother."
Jerry DiPaola is a writer on the Tribune-Review staff. You can contact Jerry at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.