ACC Football: After Pitt’s Win Against Virginia Tech, Can They Still Take The Coastal?


On Thursday night, after a 10-day break from game action, the Pitt Panthers (4-3, 2-1 ACC) were able to hold on for a 21-16 win over the Virginia Tech Hokies.

So Pitt cannot beat the Akron Zips at home, yet they beat a well-known program who defeated Ohio State early this season.

The big question has to be, how is this possible? Furthermore, does Pitt still have a viable shot at winning the ACC Coastal Division?

College football is certainly a crazy game with huge swings of emotion. That is what makes the game so intriguing and entertaining.  We really don’t know what is going to happen on a week-by-week basis.

Two weeks ago, 11 Top-25 squads were defeated, which I believe is attributed to the parity in college football. If your favorite team doesn’t come out firing on all cylinders, you may be in for a disappointment, such as a stunning loss to Akron.

Pitt started out the season on a strong note, essentially running over its opponents to begin the year with a 3-0 start and to generate some buzz around Pittsburgh. You could feel the excitement prior to the Pitt/Iowa game.

After Pitt’s first half against Iowa, the wheels essentially seemed to fall off. Pitt blew a 17-7 lead, as Iowa made a quarterback change and began to shut down one of college football’s leading rushers in sophomore sensation James Conner.  Sophomore QB Chad Voytik and the rest of the offense could not get it going, and the defense could not stop the Hawkeyes on third down.

Moving on to Akron, we all know how disappointing that game was, so I’d prefer not to even recap that event. That was likely the low point of the 2014 Pitt football season.  As disappointing and painful it is, we need to remember how young the Pitt Panthers are.  There will be growing pains.  There will be some rough waters, but if this core stays and grows together, Pitt could be a Top-15 team next year.

Pitt’s ACC goals were still intact as they traveled to Virginia, but the second quarter proved costly for the Panthers. Falling into a huge hole and facing a 24-3 deficit at the half, Pitt didn’t give up, but they would eventually lose 24-19 in a game of “what-ifs.”

Regardless, as I sat on the couch and watched the second half of Pitt/Virginia, I saw some signs of life. The defense put more pressure on Virginia, and Voytik started to air the ball and target receivers other than the athletic Tyler Boyd.

Oct 16, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers wide receiver Tyler Boyd (23) runs after a catch on a fifty-three yard touchdown reception against Virginia Tech Hokies cornerback Kendall Fuller (11) during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After attending Pitt/Akron, I was hesitant on going to Pitt/Virginia Tech, but sometimes I am a glutton for punishment. However, in the back of my mind, I had a feeling that Pitt was due to play a much better game.

And the Panthers certainly did.

In a nationally-televised contest, the Pitt defense looked very fast, putting pressure on Virginia Tech’s QB Michael Brewer and shutting down their rushing attack (albeit Virginia Tech’s top three running backs did not play). The Hokies only compiled 26 yards on the ground.

On offense, Voytik rushed for 118 yards against the No. 16 rushing defense in college football. Pitt coach Paul Chryst appeared to change the game plan and utilize Voytik’s mobility with a variety of designed runs.

The defense set the offense up with some great field position, yet the Panthers could not capitalize on many instances. Luckily, the lack of execution did not hurt Pitt because the defense played so well.

The Hokies finally marched down the field and scored a touchdown to cut the Pitt lead to 21-16 late in the fourth quarter. The offense was not able to kill the clock, so it relied upon the defense to shot down Virginia Tech to secure the win.

In my opinion, aside from the defensive effort and Voytik’s rushing success, punter Ryan Winslow needs to be given some credit, as he pinned the Hokies inside their 20-yard line five times.

Oct 4, 2014; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner (24) carries the ball as Virginia Cavaliers safety Quin Blanding (3) makes the tackle in the third quarter at Scott Stadium. The Cavaliers won 24-19. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

So does Pitt still have a shot at the ACC Coastal Division?

I definitely think they do, as it seems like there is an abundance of average programs in this group. We don’t have to deal with National Champion Florida State or a good Clemson squad, as they are both in the ACC Atlantic.  North Carolina (0-2 ACC) has been disappointing, and Virginia Tech and Miami currently are 1-2 in the ACC.  Virginia, Georgia Tech, Pitt, and Duke all sit atop the ACC at 2-1, with 5 games remaining.

Sooner or later, Voytik and Pitt will have to be able to air the ball down the field to other players not named Tyler Boyd.  This will be a key to Pitt’s success down the stretch.  In my opinion, Pitt needs to incorporate WRs Manasseh Garner and Adonis Jennings, as well as tight ends J.P. Holtz and Scott Orndoff.  We have to remember that Voytik is still a young QB, and I have confidence that he’ll continue to improve as the season advances.

Every Pitt opponent realizes that there are two key players that they need to stop. (1) Crowd the box and tackle Conner low, and (2) double-team Boyd.  Voytik and the rest of the offense have to step up for Pitt to win the ACC Coastal Division.  The defense, led by seniors Todd Thomas, Ray Vinopal, and Anthony Gonzalez have been playing well, as the secondary is the main concern on that side of the ball.

College football is full of unknowns, excitement, and disappointment, which makes us coming back for more each Saturday. Next week’s home game against Georgia Tech may be a deciding factor on who wins the ACC Coastal.