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October 12, 2013

Pitt can't get anything going in loss to VT

BLACKSBURG, Va. - Pitt knew it would face a challenge from No. 24 Virginia Tech, but while the Panthers' defense was up to the task, the offense was overwhelmed as the Hokies took a 19-9 win at Lane Stadium Saturday.

In the early going, it looked like Pitt (3-2 overall, 2-2 ACC) might be headed for the losing end of a blowout. Virginia Tech's offense drove 71 yards in eight plays on the Hokies' first drive for a touchdown and scored a field goal on their second drive to take a 10-0 lead with four minutes left in the first quarter.

But the Panthers' defense tightened up. After allowing 110 yards on those two scoring drives, Virginia Tech (6-1 overall, 3-0 ACC) gained a net total of 36 yards over the next 20 minutes leading into halftime.

Pitt's offense had no answer, though. In fact, the Panthers were downright awful offensively, continuing a trend that began in the second half of the win over Duke three weeks ago and continued through the win over Virginia Two weeks ago.

Against the Hokies, Pitt was unable to do much of anything, gaining just 19 yards in the first quarter, 104 yards in the first half and had a net gain of minus-six yards in the third quarter before finishing with 210 yards of total offense in the game. The Panthers struggled to block Virginia Tech's defensive line, and quarterback Tom Savage was sacked eight times.

As the sacks piled up and Savage grew more uncomfortable, Pitt's running game provided no relief. Without freshman James Conner, who had just two carries while nursing a shoulder injury, the Panthers' running backs rushed for just 52 yards, a number that shrunk even more with the 49 yards lost yards due to Savage's sacks.

The Panthers' strongest work of the day on offense came when they drove 51 yards in 1:08 at the end of the second half, a drive carried by Savage's 48-yard desperation heave to Devin Street. But Pitt had to settle for a field goal after two more sacks.

Chris Blewitt's 47-yard kick cut the lead to 10-3 at halftime, but Virginia Tech opened the second half with a 69-yard drive buoyed by a pair of third-and-long conversions to set up a field goal that put the Hokies ahead by 10.

After that, the second half was more of the same: Savage was sacked three more times and the offense was completely stymied by Virginia Tech's defense until Savage led the team 75 yards for a touchdown, capped by a nine-yard quarterback sneak. But the two-point conversion attempt classically ended with a sack, and Virginia Tech took over to ice the game.

Pitt's defense kept up its part in the second half, giving the Hokies trouble throughout until Virginia Tech kicker Cody Journell hit a 23-yard field goal, his fourth successful kick of the day.

Savage completed 13 of his 28 pass attempts for 187 yards and was sacked a total of eight times. Isaac Bennett was the leading rushed for Pitt with 33 yards on the ground, while Street led the receivers with 104 yards on five receptions.

The Panthers will now head back to the drawing board, but they don't have much time to retool the offense, since Saturday's game was the first in a run of eight games in eight weeks. Pitt hosts Old Dominion at Heinz Field next Saturday.





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