Game Recap: Pitt vs. Virginia Tech (10/16/14)
Written by: Jackie Howell
Coming off of a 3-game losing streak and a bye week, the Pitt Panthers were looking to emerge from the past few disappointing losses as they entered into week 8 of the regular season. To overcome the losing streak, however, they would have to face the Virginia Tech Hokies. The two teams both have one strong feature in common: defense.
Pitt coming into the game was ranked the 4th best defense in the nation in terms of yardage allowed, only allowing an average of 278.7 offensive yards per game. Virginia Tech also had a great ranking nationally, placed at the 21st spot giving up 325.2 yards of offense per game. Previewing this game, it was obvious both defenses were going to show up to play; it was just a matter of which offense would rise to the challenge and find a way to put points on the board.
The Hokies won the coin toss and decided to defer the ball for kickoff, giving Pitt’s offense the opportunity to show their tactics of the game. Pitt began on their own 25-yard line, as the offense started to slowly march down the field. This drive came to halt after 7 plays when Chad Voytik fumbled the ball at the 50-yard line when trying to scramble, which was recovered by Virginia Tech’s Derek Di Nardo. This gave the Hokies great field position for their offense. However, Pitt’s defense lived up to their ranking and forced the Hokies to punt after a 3-and-out.
Despite the fumble on the first drive, the Panther offense was determined to make up for the mistake and overcome the Hokies tough defense. The Panthers began on their own 14-yard line and gave the ball to James Conner for five plays, which brought the offense to the 41-yard line. After one rush play by Chad Voytik, he completed a 53-yard pass to Tyler Boyd who managed to run into the end zone for Pitt’s first touchdown of the game. Chris Blewitt tacked on the extra-point and Pitt went up 7-0 with 6:32 remaining in the first quarter.
Virginia Tech tried to respond, but a holding penalty and a big sac by Panther’s David Durham was another big stop by Pitt’s defense. With 4:30 left on the clock, Pitt started another drive from their own 49. The drive began with a successful trick play, with Tyler Boyd in the backfield, who received the snap and completed a 29-yard pass to Chad Voytik. Though Pitt had great field position, a penalty for an illegal block sent the team back 15 yards and they were unable to rebound, forcing the offense to punt, but special teams was able to pin Virginia Tech down at their own 1-yard line. This would result in another three and out for the Hokies offense, and the Panther defense was able to keep them pinned.
The first quarter ended with Pitt in possession of the ball. To start the second quarter, Chad Voytik was sacked by Virginia Tech’s Nigel Williams for a loss of 7 yards, which forced Pitt to punt. A couple of drives later, with neither team making any offensive advancement, Virginia Tech finally managed to put points on the board with a field goal by Joey Style, bringing the score to 7-3.
The Pitt offense entered into another drive, but Virginia Tech’s defense only allowed three plays before Pitt had to punt. During the next drive for Virginia Tech, the refs had quite a bit of miscommunication over Michael Brewer’s pass to Ryan Malleck, initially stating it was a fumble recovered by Pitt, but they would eventually change the call to an incomplete pass, as Malleck did not have full control over the ball to call it a fumble. Despite this, Pitt’s Reggie Mitchell forced a fumble and was recovered by Pitt on the next play.
A 16-yard pass to Tyler Boyd brought Pitt down to the Virginia Tech’s 16-yard line. Two plays later, Chad Voytik handed the ball to James Conner, who ran the ball in for another Panther touchdown. With 3:39 remaining in the half, the score was now 14-3 with Pitt still in the lead. However, during Pitt’s next offensive drive, Voytik threw an interception right into the hands of Hokies defenseman Corey Marshall. The Hokies capitalized on this mistake, completing another field goal attempt, concluding the first half with the score of 14-6.
Returning from half time, the Hokies began with the ball. The team was able to march down the field and even entered the red zone after a 41-yard play with Michael Brewer completing a pass to Bucky Hodges. Despite the great field position, the Panther defense was able to hold Virginia Tech’s offense to a field goal. For the remainder of the third quarter, neither teams’ offenses were able to make any huge plays, as the defenses were holding strong for both teams. The score entering into the final quarter remained 14-9, with Pitt still leading.
The fourth quarter is where the game became really interesting. During Pitt’s first offensive drive of the last quarter, Chad Voytik ran the ball for 49 yards down to Virginia Tech’s 13-yard line. On the next play, a hand off to James Conner ended up in the end zone for six on his second rushing touchdown of the game, bringing the score to 21-9 in a 37-second offensive drive. After another three and out for the Hokies on the next drive, it seemed like Pitt had the win.
However, during their next offensive drive, Virginia Tech’s defense was able to block Chris Blewitt’s field goal attempt. During this next Virginia Tech offensive drive, Michael Brewer was able to make some smart passes down the field to eventually complete a 14-yard pass to Cam Phillips for the Hokies’ first touchdown of the game. This brought the score to 21-16.
Virginia Tech was only down by one score with a little less than 5 minutes remaining in the game. Pitt started the next drive with the intent of running the clock down, since the Hokies were out of timeouts. This would be unsuccessful, as Chad Voytik’s pass was incomplete to Rachid Ibrahim on a 3rd and 13.
With only 2:30 left, it was Virginia Tech’s last hope of winning the game. The Panthers’ defense pulled through and sealed Pitt’s victory by stopping the Hokies on a 4th and 11 at Virginia Tech’s 45-yard line with 1:22 left in the game. Pitt’s offense kneeled it three times to end the game, with a final score of 21-16.
Though there were offensive highs and lows throughout the game for the Pitt Panthers, the defense ultimately won this game without a question. The defense was able to keep the Virginia Tech Hokies down to field goals, even when the team had great field position to do more damage.
The Hokies were only able to complete 2 of 14 third down conversions and unable to complete any fourth down conversions. The defense had three sacks on Michael Brewer for a total of 22 yards. Most importantly, the defense stopped the Hokies on their last offensive drive of the game, clinching the win for Pitt. Minus a few penalties, the defense truly did its job.
This will play a key role in next week’s opponent, Georgia Tech, another tough team to beat in the ACC. The offense will have to clean up the penalties and simple mistakes in order to claim victory against the Yellow Jackets.
Offensive MVP: Chad Voytik (10-17, 92 yds, TD, 1 INT; 19 carries, 118 yds, 29 receiving yds)
Defensive MVP: Reggie Mitchell (9 solo tackles, 1 assist, 2 forced fumbles)