Archive

SI cover boy Miles Sanders on Pitt-Penn State: ‘Just another game’ | TribLIVE.com
PennState

SI cover boy Miles Sanders on Pitt-Penn State: ‘Just another game’

1954011954013d210dad35f745f1803f96bb3cd5b403
Appalachian State defensive back Austin Exford, left, tries to stop Penn State running back Miles Sanders during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in State College, Pa. (Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times via AP)

Penn State running back Miles Sanders’ phone kept buzzing with the news:

With only one career start to his name, the former Woodland Hills star is on the cover of Sports Illustrated after scoring the decisive touchdown in overtime to lead the Nittany Lions to victory against Appalachian State last Saturday.

Sanders’ reaction:

“I’m speechless and blessed,” he said. “It’s interesting, but right now I’m focused on Pitt.”

Sanders and his buddy, roommate, Penn State safety and former Clairton star Lamont Wade return to Heinz Field on Saturday to meet Pitt, a school that recruited them when they were the best players in the WPIAL and the state in 2016 (Sanders) and 2017 (Wade). Sanders lost two WPIAL championship games at Heinz; Wade won his two there.

Pitt swung and missed on both of them, representing significant defeats in its recruiting battle with Penn State.

Wade was at Heinz Field for the Pitt/Penn State game in 2016, sitting with other prospective recruits as guests of Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi.

“Yeah, I was at the game sitting in the front row,” he said. “It was a real good environment, it was a real loud environment. It’s good to actually be playing in it now.”

Pitt’s victory had no effect on Wade’s college choice, however.

“I mean, at the time, I was, ‘Oh, gosh, Pitt won this game,’ ” he said. “But that’s not the end-all, be-all for me. It’s a process. I realized that, and you see where I’m at today.”

The game is special for Sanders for reasons other than the rivalry between the two schools. It’s his first against a Power 5 school as Penn State’s starting running back — he was Saquon Barkley’s understudy last season — and he and Wade have friends on Pitt’s roster. Pitt safety Damar Hamlin is a workout partner.

When a reporter asked Sanders on Tuesday if it’s difficult to work up “a good hatred” for the Panthers, he agreed. He just has too many friends on the other sideline.

“It’s just another opponent,” he said. “And it’s a friendly game, so not really. I don’t look at it as a rivalry or nothing, but it’s a special game just playing against my friends that I know back at home.”

Sanders and Wade have been friends since high school. Sanders was Wade’s host when he visited Penn State during the recruiting process. They grew up not far from one another, and they played for two of the most successful football programs in the state.

“He’s just got that dog mentality since he’s been here,” Sanders said. “That’s just the way we grew up over there.”

Wade said while growing up in Clairton, he had a better understanding of Pitt’s rivalry with West Virginia than its games against Penn State. Sanders sees the Pitt game as something far short of a rivalry.

“I never grew up as a Penn State fan or a Pitt fan, actually,” he said. “I never really knew about the rivalry that much. I know they didn’t really play each other a lot, so I didn’t really see it as a rivalry or hear about it as a rivalry.

Said Sanders: “It’s exciting. But we treat every game the same every week. We treat it like the Super Bowl. So (we’re) just ready to be 1-0 each week. It’s just another game.”

One aspect of the game that caught Wade’s attention is Pitt’s passing game, led by quarterback Kenny Pickett.

“He’s real elusive. He has really good arm strength,” he said. “He’s a little bit more elusive than their past few quarterbacks, and that’s something that really stood out.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at [email protected] or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.