The first image that springs to Craig Gob’s mind when he remembers the 1988 Pitt/Penn State game is his brother Scott on the other side of the line.
“He thought he could get inside my head,” Gob said. “Jumping around, snarling at me, winking at me and trying to take me off my game. I knew better.”
Said Scott, with a smile that was somehow detectable over the phone, “I messed with him a little bit and talked a little bit of trash.”
Thirty years later, the brothers, who grew up and played football at Bethel Park, and their wives will be in the stands at Heinz Field, watching their schools battle for, perhaps, the last time in Pittsburgh.
The series, which has been played 98 times since 1893, often has tested the allegiance of family members, but the Gobs are among the few who lined up and confronted each other on the field. Here are some other Pitt/Penn State couplings:
• Penn State All-American tight end Mickey Shuler’s brother, Milt, played for Pitt in 1974.
• Brad Benson played on the offensive line at Penn State from 1974-76, and five years later, brother Troy matriculated to Pitt and became a standout linebacker.
• In 1959, Penn State quarterback Richie Lucas was a distant second in the Heisman Trophy voting, and his younger brother, Kenny, played the same position at Pitt.
• Pitt kicker Conor Lee and Penn State linebacker Sean Lee of Upper St. Clair had highly accomplished careers, but they played on teams that never met on the field.
• Former Pitt coach Carl DePasqua’s son, John, played on Penn State’s national championship team in 1986. DePasqua coached at Pitt from 1969-72, including a historic 1-10 final season that was the only time the Panthers reached double-digit defeats.
• Then, there are the Wehner brothers, graduates of Westmont Hilltop High School in Johnstown. At last year’s game at Beaver Stadium, Matt played the clarinet in the Penn State band, and Erik played the mellophone for Pitt.
None of those people, however, had the chance to shove their family member in front of 100,000 people. Scott Gob did that after Pitt punted to Penn State at Beaver Stadium in 1988. It was “a friendly shove,” he said.
They both played linebacker, so that punt was the first and last time they confronted each other on the field.
“You see who it is, and you have to do your job,” said Scott, who is two years older. “You recognize him as your brother, and then you’re back to just playing football.”
As the play began, Craig was the up back on Pitt’s punting team, and Scott was on punt return.
“Their job was to hold you up as much as possible, so you couldn’t get down and cover the punt,” Craig said. “I quickly shed him and ran down and covered the punt. It wasn’t like he was holding me up at the line of scrimmage like he intended to do.
“I wouldn’t treat him any differently than if it was somebody else who wanted to prevent me from doing my job.”
But Craig never gloated over his momentary triumph, even though Pitt won the game 14-7.
“I don’t know if I ever watched that play ever again, except the Sunday after (during mandatory film review),” he said. “He would always default back and flash his 1986 national championship ring.”
Their father, Art, played at Pitt in 1957-58, and Scott thought that’s where he was headed.
“I always dreamed of playing at Pitt and following in my dad’s footsteps,” he said.
But Pitt’s coaching staff saw him as a fullback.
“They tried to put me in a four-point stance, which was not going to happen,” he said.
Craig was recruited by Penn State — Jerry Sandusky was the assistant assigned to him – but he had other ideas.
“My desire was to kind of follow my own path, do something different,” he said.
Scott said the situation on Saturdays was stressful on his parents.
“They tried to be neutral in the whole thing,” he said. “They would sit in the end zone and each wore something from Pitt or Penn State, and sometimes they would come to my game and leave at halftime and go to Craig’s game.
“They handled it the best they could. I wanted Craig to come up to Penn State, but that’s not what he wanted to do. I give him a lot of respect for that.”
Craig has it a bit easier with his three daughters, 17-year-old twins Livi and Lexi, and 5-year-old Sophia.
Livi and Lexi have a Powder Puff game at Bethel Park on Sunday. Unlike their dad and uncle, they play on the same team.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at [email protected] or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.