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Pitt stymies Virginia Tech on the road with defense, running game

Wide receiver Tyler Boyd (23) catches a pass during the Oct. 3, 2015 football game against Virginia Tech. | Courtesy of Collegiate Times

Zoe Scopa

Wide receiver Tyler Boyd (23) catches a pass during the Oct. 3, 2015 football game against Virginia Tech. | Courtesy of Collegiate Times

By Dan Sostek / Sports Editor

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BLACKSBURG, Virginia — Following a loss like the Pitt football team suffered in its last game against Iowa, finishing strong against Virginia Tech this weekend naturally became a point of emphasis.

“They got better from last outing,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “We didn’t finish it out [against Iowa], we didn’t do little things at the end of the game that we’d like to. We went back to the drawing board and just said, ‘Guys, if you do the little things right…’”

Pitt did most of the little things right on Saturday afternoon, as it withstood the cold, the rain and the feisty Hokies, defeating Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium in a closely-contested 17-13 win. The victory came in the team’s first ACC contest of the year, as the Panthers improved to 3-1 on the season. Pitt never trailed in the game.

“I’m just so proud of our football team,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said after the game. “Our kids, they believed that we could come down here and win.”

Pitt’s stellar defensive performance fueled the victory, as Pitt’s defense racked up seven sacks, three interceptions and 11 tackles for a loss. It held the Hokies to 100 total yards on offense — Virginia Tech’s lowest output since 1987 against Clemson.

Despite the defensive dominance, the game featured some offensive storylines as well, with one coming to the forefront almost immediately upon the Panthers’ first possession.

On Pitt’s second play of the game, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney dialed up the intrigue when he sent backup quarterback Chad Voytik into the game — he carried the ball 26 yards for a first down on the play.

Voytik re-entered again two snaps later, running for no gain. He carried the ball three more times on the afternoon, finishing with five carries for 37 yards, and never registered a pass attempt.

After a third down stop by Virginia Tech, the Panthers settled for a 46-yard field goal by Chris Blewitt, giving them the first points of the game with 9:12 left in the first quarter.

Pitt found the end zone first as well, taking advantage of a Virginia Tech roughing the passer penalty, as starting quarterback Nathan Peterman scrambled to his right and found tight end J.P. Holtz in the endzone for a touchdown. The score put Pitt up 10-0 with 3:15 left in the first quarter.

The Hokies responded on their next drive, as they posted a 12-play, 83-yard drive capped off by an 11-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brenden Motley to wide receiver Cam Phillips to cut the score to 10-7. The drive lasted six minutes and 33 seconds.

With 2:36 left in the half, Virginia Tech handed Pitt an opportunity for a score to end the quarter as Avonte Maddox picked off Motley at the Hokies’ 46-yard line. It was Maddox’s first career interception.

“[The quarterback] pump [faked],” Maddox said. “As soon as he pumped I just took off back, because I knew he was going to come behind me.”

The Panthers were unable to capitalize, as a sack by Virginia Tech free safety Chuck Clark pushed Pitt out of field goal range. The play forced a punt with 12 seconds left in the half, ending the second quarter

The second half began with an electrifying two-play drive by the Panthers. as redshirt freshman running back Qadree Ollison broke off a run of 43 yards on the first play, and followed it with a 25-yard score on the second, improving Pitt’s lead to 17-7.

Ollison finished with 122 yards on 19 carries, his second 100-yard outing of the season. He credited the team’s blocking efficiency postgame.

“The offensive line, they made great blocks upfront for me to make it easier,” Ollison said. “Everybody blocked their a** off, our whole offensive line, our fullback, our tight ends.”

Virginia Tech chipped away, but Pitt’s defense held its ground, as the Hokies drove but settled for field goals on two straight drives.

Following the second field goal, Pitt’s drive stagnated as Ollison was stopped on third down, forcing the offense to punt.

But on the first play of the Hokies’ series, Motley lofted a pass directly into the hands of Pitt safety Terrish Webb, who ran the ball nine yards to Virginia Tech’s 25. Motley injured his right shoulder on the play, but would remain in the game.

Pitt was unable to take advantage of the turnover though, as Virginia Tech linebacker Deon Clarke blocked a 42-yard field goal attempt by Chris Blewitt, keeping the deficit at 4 points.

Virginia Tech had two more opportunities to drive down the field and take the lead, but squandered both. It was forced to punt on its first drive following the block, thanks to a 10-yard sack by Pitt defensive end Ejuan Price, who registered two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss.

The second opportunity was even less fruitful, as Motley was sacked twice and threw a fourth-down interception to Mike Caprara with 2:18 remaining.

The Panthers ran the remainder of the clock out, sealing their third victory of the season.

Narduzzi was pleased that, unlike two weeks ago in Iowa City, the Panthers were able to close out a game in a close fourth quarter.

“They kinda panicked in the fourth quarter [against Iowa],” Narduzzi said. “In this fourth quarter, they didn’t.”

Pitt’s next game is Saturday, Oct. 10 as it faces the Virginia Cavaliers at Heinz Field for the school’s homecoming game. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

 

 

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Pitt stymies Virginia Tech on the road with defense, running game