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Expanded playbook improves Voytik's offensive production - The Pitt News

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Expanded playbook improves Voytik’s offensive production

By Dan Sostek / Assistant Sports Editor

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Chad Voytik’s first six career starts have been inconsistent, to say the least. There have been flashes of potential thrown alongside ill-advised decisions and overthrown passes, as well as plays that broke down because Voytik was trying too hard to create high-risk plays when no clear pass existed.

Despite some blips on the radar, Voytik’s seventh career start on Thursday against Virginia Tech stands out as the best of the sophomore’s career.

While head coach Paul Chryst didn’t ask him to do much while throwing the football — he was just 10-17 for 92 yards and a touchdown — Voytik wreaked havoc on the Hokies’ run defense, leading the team with 118 rushing yards on 19 carries.

According to Chryst, the team’s game plan influenced the young quarterback’s reliance on his legs, but Chryst decided to keep using it, as it seemed to work.

“We called more runs and options for Chad. We thought that was something that could provide a spark to the offense,” said Chryst, who is now 2-1 against Virginia Tech as head coach, in his postgame press conference. “We got to the point where it was certainly something we wanted to do more of.”

Clearly, he intended to implement that game plan immediately: The Panthers’ first offensive play was a quarterback keeper, during which Voytik gained 11 yards for a first down.

Only sacked twice, Voytik had rushes for 11, 12, 14, 17 and 49 yards. His teammates were also impressed with his performance running the ball.

“He was a beast,” said sophomore running back James Conner, who ran 16 times for 89 yards and two touchdowns in the game. “He was confident and ran over 100 yards again and did his job.”

Defensive end David Durham, who tallied a sack and two quarterback hits against the Hokies, was also complimentary of his teammate.

“I knew he was a quick athlete and I was really impressed by his toughness tonight,” Durham said. “When your quarterback can do that, it really inspires the team and fires everybody up.”

Voytik’s 118 rushing yards were a career high, surpassing his total of 114 against Florida International on Sept. 13. 

He also set a few other personal bests on Thursday, including his longest career touchdown pass on a perfectly thrown 53-yard connection with sophomore wide receiver Tyler Boyd.

Boyd returned the favor later, as the former high school quarterback completed a pass to Voytik for a 29-yard completion on a trick play. Voytik said the catch was his first reception since he was in middle school. After the game, he talked about how important the 21-16 victory could be.

“This can be our turning point,” Voytik said. “This is where we can look back and say, ‘This is where we turned the page.’”

Voytik’s performance against the Hokies came at a crucial time for the season. Against a good Virginia Tech defense, he displayed a level of athleticism that not many quarterbacks possess.

Pitt’s coaches can still add plenty of new wrinkles to the offense, as they did on Thursday. Having a mobile quarterback opens up plays with Voytik running instead of passing, like option runs, zone reads and even flexing Voytik out from under center.

It’s surely a different look for Pitt at quarterback, as the program has tended to start traditional drop-back passers in recent years. But Voytik’s legs open up a whole array of new possibilities. If he improves his accuracy as a passer, especially with weapons like Boyd and Conner, this Panther offense could develop into one of the more explosive ones in the ACC.

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Expanded playbook improves Voytik’s offensive production