Pitt’s Aggressive Defense Was The Key To 17-13 Win Over Virginia Tech


I had the opportunity to finally attend an away Pitt game, as I made the 5-hour drive to Blacksburg, Virginia on Friday.  I returned to Pittsburgh last night a happy man, as I witnessed the Panthers hang on for a 17-13 victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies.

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It was a cold and rainy game, but the rain was not nearly as bad as it had been forecasted in previous days.

The Pitt defense, entering the game ranked 17th in total defense, only allowed 100 total yards of offense in this one.  It is only appropriate that Pat Narduzzi’s first ACC road win was predicated on strong, aggressive defensive play.

This was the fewest yards by the Hokies (2-3, 0-1 ACC) in the last 20 seasons, and the second fewest rushing yards in that span.

Hokies quarterback Brenden Motley is surely in an ice bath right now, and I can imagine he is pretty sore, as Pitt (3-1, 1-0 ACC) recorded seven sacks and a number of big hits against him.  His offensive line wasn’t even helping him up.

Virginia Tech’s rushing attack finished with 9 yards on 33 carries.

Yes, 9 yards.

They did lose 57 yards due to the numerous sacks, but Pitt completely shut down the run, pressured the quarterback, and forced Motley into making terrible decisions, including 3 interceptions.  He finished the game 9 for 20 for 91 yards and 1 touchdown that cut the Pitt lead to 10-7 at halftime.

Pitt junior quarterback Nate Peterman did not do much better, finishing 9 for 15 for 110 yards and 1 touchdown pass to J.P. Holtz to make it a 10-0 game in the first half.  He did not make any passing mistakes, but at times he tried to run and failed at gaining yardage.  This is more of a strength for Chad Voytik, who also got some playing time and ran for 37 yards on 5 carries.

In my opinion the Pitt offense played way too conservative and didn’t stretch the field much.  The game plan must have been to run the ball, as redshirt freshman Qadree Ollison finished with 19 carries for 122 yards, and a big 25-yard touchdown early in the third quarter to make it 17-7 Pitt.  He had a 43-yard carry as well on the 2-play touchdown drive.  Ollison did have a fumble deep inside Pitt’s own territory, but the defense allowed -3 yards and Virginia Tech settled for a field goal.

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  • Regardless, I continue to believe that Pitt needs to target the tight ends more often.  Holtz had 1 reception for a 23-yard touchdown, while Scott Orndoff had 2 receptions for 34 yards.  UCLA 5-star transfer Chris Clark has trimmed his finalists to Pitt and Syracuse, and he would make an excellent tandem with Orndoff next year.

    The lack of a passing attack in general is surprising to me.  Wide receiver Tyler Boyd finished with 5 receptions for 48 yards, and the only other receiver with a catch was Dontez Ford for 5 yards.

    Without ACC Player of the Year, running back James Conner, I figured the offense would have to air it out more.  I believed Peterman was chosen as the starter over Voytik because of his arm, not his legs.  Yet, Peterman had 15 carries for 4 yards.

    I’m not sure I see the Peterman running game plan, especially since Virginia Tech’s best cornerback Kendall Fuller was out for the season due to injury.

    I believe the offense will improve over time though.  Losing Conner was a huge injury to this team.

    Currently, the Pitt scenario is completely opposite of what I predicted.  I imagined that the offense would put up big numbers and the defense would struggle.  The defense looks aggressive and is playing relaxed, whereas the offense needs some work.  I am amazed at how different the Pitt defense looks compared to last season, and this has to be attributed to the new coaching staff.

    Terrish Webb, Mike Caprara, and Avonte Maddox came up with huge interceptions to essentially seal the game and give the Pitt offense excellent field position.

    Pitt failed to capitalize on the Maddox interception, which set Pitt up on the Hokies 46 yard line late in the first half.

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  • Leading 17-13 in the fourth quarter, the Webb interception set Pitt up on the Hokies 25 yard line, but Pitt only managed to gain 1 yard, and Chris Blewitt’s 42 yard field goal was blocked.

    Virginia Tech was given 1 more opportunity as Pitt failed to secure a first down to run out the clock, and the final possession summed up the game:

    Nicholas Grigsby and Tyrique Jarrett sacked Motley for an 8-yard loss on first down.  Darryl Render sacked Motley for a 7-yard loss on second down.  After an incomplete pass, on 4th down and 25, Motley was intercepted by Caprara at the Hokies 22 yard line to end the game.

    Pitt has won six of the last seven meetings against Virginia Tech.

    As this was my first away Pitt game, it was a fun experience checking out Virginia Tech’s campus, as well as witnessing the Hokies’ rituals.  Virginia Tech’s fans were very welcoming, thanked us for coming, and congratulated us on the win.

    I strongly suggest checking out a game here, as the “Enter Sandman” entrance and the end of the third quarter “Hokie Pokie” dance are something to see.

    Also worth noting is that Iowa defeated No. 19 Wisconsin 10-6 in Madison, so the last-second loss to the Hawkeyes (now 5-0) does not look like a bad loss.


    Pitt will host Virginia Tech’s rival, as Virginia (1-3) is scheduled to make the trip to Heinz Field next Saturday.  It will be Pitt’s homecoming game.

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