Penalties again Pitt’s downfall as it loses third straight game


Late in Pitt football’s game against the University of Virginia, a home fan sitting below the press box had a message for the players on the field.

“Show some discipline,” he said.

His plea came after a skirmish involving players from both teams, but on a night when one of its starting offensive linemen sat out for disciplinary reasons, the Pitt football team clearly lacked that attribute on the field in its return to ACC play.

A day after Pitt Athletics announced that redshirt sophomore Adam Bisnowaty would miss the the Panthers’ game at the University of Virginia, they committed seven penalties for 60 yards in the first half alone, more than they had in any game this season, aiding the Cavaliers to a 24-3 halftime advantage. It was a hole that proved too large for Pitt to recover from, as it lost 24-19 for its first conference and third consecutive defeat of the season.

Pitt (3-3 overall, 1-1 ACC) would finish with 10 infractions for 75 yards, with many of the penalties killing momentum and adding difficulty to a comeback attempt.

The visitors received the ball to start the game, and made progress with James Conner on the ground, but would punt after two sets of downs.

The hosts made better use of their first time with the ball,  driving 57 yards in 3:19 for a field goal, the game’s first points and the first part of a lead they wouldn’t surrender the rest of the game.

Pitt would tie things up with a field goal by sophomore kicker Chris Blewitt, an Arlington, Va. native, with 12 seconds left before the end of the quarter.

UVA’s rush defense, which came into the contest ranked 10th nationally, allowing 86.6 rushing yards a game, would contain James Conner.  Pitt had 59 team rush yards with 7:53 remaining in the first quarter. But by the end of the second, that number remained the same. Conner finished with 83 yards on 21 carries.

On the opposite side, senior running back Kevin Parks ran wild for the Cavaliers, covering 115 yards in the first two quarters, including a 48-yard score in the second period, and finishing with 169 yards. Before Saturday, he had just one 100-yard game this season.  

UVa ( 4-2, 2-0 ACC) would build its lead the next time it had the ball. Driving down the field, a 15-yard personal foul by safety Terrish Webb for shoving a UVa player when out of bounds progressed that rate, bringing the ball into into Pitt territory.

Three plays later, some trickery via a wide receiver pass by Miles Gooch to Zachary Swanson flummoxed Pitt for a 28-yard gain.

Virginia would score three plays later to make it 17-3 with 3:58 left in the first half. Pitt head coach Paul Chryst said his team made its job difficult with the unforced mistakes.

“Virginia’s defense really created some negative yards, and we compounded it with the pre-snap penalties, and that makes it harder,” Chryst said.

The woes weren’t over yet for Pitt.

On the ensuing drive, down by 14 and needing to guide the offense downfield to points, quarterback Chad Voytik rolled out to pass near midfield. But his attempt to find Conner went right to Virginia linebacker Max Valles, who returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.

Coming into Saturday, UVa ranked No. 2 in the nation with 65 points off of turnover and No. 1 in the nation with 18 takeaways through five games.

The turnover marked a lowpoint in a half that had been a struggle for the redshirt sophomore. His first seven pass attempts of the game fell incomplete.

“We needed some time to get our receivers the ball and needed to eliminate those pre-snap penalties,” Voytik said. “It’s tough when you are playing behind the chains.”

The third quarter began with Pitt facing its largest deficit of the season.

Ten points would cut the difference to two scores by the final quarter, but Pitt couldn’t complete the comeback.

Wide receiver Tyler Boyd says a large part of his role as team leader is making sure he and his teammates don’t make the simple mistakes.

“Stay focused, no penalties no false things, no dumb stuff,” Boyd said.” We just need to go out there and play every down like its our last.”