Panthers torch Virginia 37-7 following two game starting pick sixes


AP Photo/Mike Kropf

Pittsburgh quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) passes against Virginia during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Nov.. 12, 2022.

By Brian Sherry, Senior Staff Writer

People often say lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice. But that saying didn’t apply to the Panthers in their 37-7 beat down of Virginia on the road. 

Chaos erupted in the opening seconds of the game between Pitt (6-4, 3-3 ACC) and Virginia (3-7, 1-5 ACC). The Panthers picked off two straight passes for touchdowns within the first 15 seconds. Redshirt junior M.J. Devonshire picked off senior quarterback Brennan Armstrong’s first pass of the game and cruised into the endzone for a 29 yard pick six. 

On the first play of the ensuing drive, redshirt senior Marquis Williams intercepted the next pass, running between blocks for another Panthers’ score to give them an early 14-0 lead. 

The Panthers never looked back, drubbing the Cavaliers in every aspect of the game. The victory puts the Panthers above the minimum six wins needed to make a bowl game appearance for the fourth consecutive year. 

Armstrong needed to rebound following the two interceptions, but failed to make any progress. The Cavaliers’ quarterback struggled in the performance, taking eight sacks and two picks throughout the game.

The Panthers’ offense finally came onto the field for their first drive and started clicking immediately. Senior quarterback Kedon Slovis connected with redshirt sophomore wide receiver Bub Means for a 37 yard gain, putting them in prime scoring position. Junior running back Israel Abanikanda finished the drive, battling through defenders for a one-yard touchdown rush. Abanikanda’s rush put the Panthers up by 21 points with time still on the clock in the first quarter. 

Slovis put on a show on the next Panther possession, passing for 53 yards and a touchdown during the drive. The senior launched a deep pass into the endzone, connecting with Means for a 31 yard touchdown. The Panthers ended the quarter holding a 28-0 lead. 

The Panthers’ offense slowed down to start the second quarter, failing to score on the first two drives of the period. But the Pitt defense continued their dominant performance, holding the Cavaliers to just 45 yards in the second quarter.

Pitt eventually put together a sustained drive late in the second quarter, but an incomplete pass intended for senior wide receiver Jared Wanye halted a promising drive for the Panthers. Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi sent out redshirt sophomore placekicker Ben Sauls for a 54-yard field goal attempt, but he hit the upright on the long try. 

The Cavaliers finally drove into the red zone before the end of the half. But redshirt defensive lineman Deslin Alexandre sacked Armstrong, pushing the Cavaliers back to force a long field goal. Virginia first-year placekicker Will Bettridge missed the 43-yard field goal, allowing the Panthers to head into the locker room holding the 28-0 lead.

Pitt fielded the ball to start the second half, but failed to mount a scoring drive. Virginia did not fare much better on the following drive, as the Panther defense dominated the Cavaliers. Redshirt junior defensive lineman Calijah Kancey and redshirt senior defensive lineman Habbauk Baldonado posted back to back sacks to halt the Virginia drive. 

Slovis continued posting solid numbers throughout the second half. The senior quarterback passed to Wanye for a 23 yard gain, putting the Panther in field goal range. Sauls capitalized on the good field position, hitting a 25-yard field goal to put the Panthers up 31-0. 

A small altercation broke out on the following drive. The officials ejected Pitt redshirt senior defensive lineman John Morgan III and Virginia sophomore center for unsportsmanlike conduct. 

But the Cavaliers quickly recovered following the altercation. Virginia slowed the tempo, finding success with short runs and passes. Armstrong finally found the endzone, connecting with sophomore wide receiver Malachi Fields for a nine-yard touchdown pass. 

The Panthers responded on the next drive, utilizing the run game to drain the clock under nine minutes. Pitt made it into the red zone, but ultimately settled for a field goal to go up 34-7.

Pitt scored another field goal in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. The Panthers ultimately kneeled out the clock and took home the 37-7 victory. 

Pitt will look to follow up the win next week at home against Duke. Kickoff is slated for noon and coverage will air on the ACC network.