Pitt Football Fails To Overcome Big Halftime Deficit, Loses To Virginia


The Pitt Panthers traveled to Virginia with a bitter taste in their mouths, looking to rebound from an embarrassing 21-10 loss last weekend to Akron at Heinz Field.

Facing a stout Virginia defense, the Panthers struggled mightily in the first half, falling into a 21-point deficit. Paul Chryst’s team is not designed to score quickly, so a three-score deficit is quite a challenge to overcome.

Pitt made a strong effort at a comeback in the second half, but the Panthers could not dig themselves out of the hole they fell into, as they lost their third straight game 24-19.

For Pitt, Chad Voytik threw for 195 yards and 2 TDs, James Conner rushed for only 83 yards on 21 carries, and Tyler Boyd had three receptions for 63 yards. For Virginia, Matt Johns only threw for 93 yards and 1 TD, but Kevin Parks rushed for a career-high 169 yards and 1 TD.

Virginia (4-2, 2-0 ACC) began the scoring with an Ian Frye 32-yard field goal on their first possession of the game, and Pitt (3-3, 1-1 ACC) would later counter with a Chris Blewitt 36-yard field goal to make it a 3-3 game at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter proved to be disastrous for Pitt, as Cavalier running back Kevin Parks scored a 48-yard rushing TD. Pitt could not move the ball.  On Virginia’s next possession, a costly unnecessary roughness penalty helped Virginia march down the field.  Cavaliers quarterback Matt Johns completed a 3-yard TD pass to Khalek Shepherd to make it 17-3.

The Panthers needed to counter, but on the following possession, Voytik was intercepted by Max Valles for a 35-yard TD return to make it a daunting 24-3 blowout at halftime.  This score proved to be the dagger for the Panthers.

Oct 4, 2014; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Chad Voytik (16) is tackled by Virginia Cavaliers linebacker Max Valles (88) and Cavaliers defensive end Mike Moore (32) in the second quarter at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

At the half, Virginia had a 234-148 advantage in total yards, and Pitt had 7 penalties for 60 yards. For the Panthers, James Conner had 49 yards on 12 carries, whereas Virginia running back Kevin Parks had 115 yards on 16 carries.

At the start of the second half, Pitt showed some life with a big special teams play, as Dontez Ford blocked an Alec Vozenilik punt to set Pitt up with good field position. On the ensuing drive, Voytik connected with Manasseh Garner on a 17-yard TD to cut the lead to 24-10.

Panthers’ true freshmen cornerback Patrick Amara intercepted a Matt Johns pass on the next drive, setting up Pitt with great field position again. The Pitt offensive line began to surge forward, but a costly snap infraction hurt Pitt at the 1-yard line on third and goal, after a booth review did not give James Conner a rushing touchdown.  Blewitt would make a 24-yard field goal to make it 24-13.

A promising Pitt drive in the early fourth quarter was halted via two costly sacks by the Hoos on Voytik, forcing a punt. Pitt drives continued to stall near midfield, though the Pitt defense kept it close.

A Tyler Boyd 45-yard punt return set Pitt up for a quick Voytik to J.P. Holtz 6-yard TD pass, but the two-point conversion was no good. Pitt could not recover the onside kick attempt, and Virginia held on for a 24-19 win.

Pitt will now have a bye week, followed by a Thursday night meeting with Virginia Tech at Heinz Field.