College Football Week 7: Pitt at No. 24 Virginia Tech Live Blog
Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. The 24th-ranked Hokies (2-0, 5-1) need to learn from their own history at Lane Stadium today, lest they surrender the inside track in the ACC Coastal Division to the visiting Panthers (2-1, 3-1), winners of three straight for the first time since 2010.
Pitt seeks its first four-game win streak of the decade. With its former Big East brother, it owns a four-game win streak that spans two decades. Every one of those victories was over a Tech team nationally ranked at the time, most recently a 35-17 ambush of a No. 13 VT squad last Sept. 15 at Heinz Field.
Some potential NFL talent will be on display in Blacksburg.
Virginia Tech redshirt senior Logan Thomas completed 72 percent of his passes in decisions over conference rivals Georgia Tech and North Carolina. He owns a school-record 7,308 career passing yards and 569 career completions.
He will try to lead his team to a sixth consecutive win today.
However, he's proven to be mistake-prone, throwing six interceptions against his eight touchdowns. Pitt picked him off three times in last year's meeting, including twice by safety Jason Hendricks, and it will key on him again.
Defensively, Pitt senior tackle Aaron Donald ranks second nationally in sacks with six and in tackles for loss with nine. He earned Bednarik National Defensive Player of the Week honors for his efforts in a Homecoming victory over Virginia two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, this will be the biggest test to this point for true freshman receiver Tyler Boyd, who is looking to become the first freshman in program history to post four consecutive 100-yard receiving games.
He'll have his hands full with this secondary. Virginia Tech ranks ninth in the FBS against the pass, and fourth in total defense.
Stay tuned for updates throughout today's game.
11:59 AM - Pitt wins the coin toss and will move the ball left to right. Ryan Schlieper is announced as the new backup center behind Artie Rowell, subbing for an injured Gabe Roberts.
12:03 PM - The Panthers go three and out after a couple Tom Savage incompletions. Savage had Boyd open down the right side, but the Clairton prodigy couldn't hang on as he fell.
12:06 PM - Freshman tight end Kalvin Cline takes a dink-and-dunk for a first down just inside Pitt territory. Moments later, Thomas goes long down the left side, and he's nearly picked off by Lafayette Pitts.
12:09 PM - Darryl Render gets Thomas by his ankles at the line of scrimmage to set up a key 3rd and 9 at the Pitt 27.
12:10 PM - Virginia Tech takes a 7-0 lead with 10:11 left in the first quarter on a 27-yard strike from Thomas to Cline. Thomas got rid of that ball just in the nick of time, and Cline beat Anthony Gonzalez to the goal line on the far sideline. The Hokies gave Pitt a taste of its own medicine on that series by going to their tight end for two key plays. For Thomas, it's his ninth TD of the year. It's Cline's first.
12:14 PM - Savage's first completion goes to Biletnikoff Award candidate Devin Street for four yards in the right flat. Moments later, Kendall Fuller, with a nice open-field tackle, holds Street to a short gain in the left flat.
12:15 PM - Jack Tyler gets the best of Savage on a naked bootleg to the right on 3rd and 1. Now, the Pitt defense, which allowed Thomas to complete three of four passes for 55 yards on his first possession, must roll up its sleeves with Virginia Tech starting at its own 41 after a Matt Yoklic punt.
12:19 PM - That's the second time Lafayette Pitts has come close to an interception. In any event, the Panthers got good pressure on Thomas on first down.
12:21 PM - Just when it looks like Pitt had a three-and-out, Pitts gets called for a personal four for slamming Willie Byrn down in front of the Virginia Tech sideline. Not a bright move by Pitts, but, upon further review, Byrn was not yet out of bounds, drawing the ire of head coach Paul Chryst. Some home cooking, perhaps.
12:25 PM - Cody Journell kicks a 48-yard field goal, from right to left, to give Virginia Tech a 10-0 lead with 4:29 left in the first quarter. The key play for Pitt was a tackle-for-loss by Todd Thomas on Logan Thomas. It seems like Todd has been good for at least one well-timed play per week.
12:28 PM - Boyd gets positive yardage--three, to be exact--for the first time today, on a reverse to the right.
12:30 PM - Savage showed some nice wheels on a third-down scramble, but, unfortunately, Pitt's offense, to a man, has picked up right where it left off against Virginia. An illegal block in the back on Yoklic's ensuing punt is one of the few things that has gone their way in the first quarter.
12:33 PM - Logan Thomas burns the first of Tech's timeouts with 1:23 left in the period.
12:34 PM - Demitri Knowles with some nice YAC to pick up a first down. Pitts threw him down in pretty much the same manner as Byrn, and again, right in front of Frank Beamer. No flags. Funny how that works...
12:36 PM - Virginia Tech calls another timeout before (presumably) the last play of the quarter after Thomas misses Byrn on a slant deep down the middle. It looked like Thomas put just a little too much on that ball.
12:38 PM - The first quarter ends with Virginia Tech ahead 10-0, and the Hokies preparing to punt after good coverage by K'Waun Williams on 3rd and 3.
12:41 PM - A hat-tip to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Sam Werner for this one: Pitt rushed for only 10 yards in the first quarter. But it's two more than they had all day against UVa. So, you know, progress. Rachid Ibrahim, speaking of the ground game, fights for one yard. Not much room for the Panthers out there.
12:43 PM - Tight end Manasseh Garner, maybe the most under-rated newcomer on this Pitt squad, finally picks up a Panther first down with two minutes off the second quarter clock.
12:45 PM - Another first down toss by Savage, as Kevin Weatherspoon flips the field despite taking a nice hit from Detrick Bonner.
12:46 PM - Another Pitt punt is forthcoming, though at least now the Panthers have the upper hand in terms of field position after a touchback. Savage was under pressure and threw a difficult, but nevertheless catchable-looking ball for a diving Weatherspoon that glanced off his hands.
12:50 PM - When all else fails, put the game in the hands of your best player. Tyler Boyd has touched the ball on offense--excluding that incomplete pass at the beginning of the game—exactly once. Not ideal.
12:53 PM - Todd Thomas, like champagne, is getting better with age. A nice pop on Joel Caleb there.
12:54 PM - Another first down for the Hokies, who are back in Pitt territory. Key play: Thomas hit Josh Stanford after a holding penalty against the offense. Pitt is getting pressure on Thomas, but not a lot on that completion. Too often the Hokies have been able to extend drives.
12:57 PM - Bryan Murphy sacks Thomas from the weak side to save face for Pitt. The Panthers enjoy a touchback of their own with 5:37 left in the first half after stopping Thomas near midfield.
1:00 PM - A "Hines Ward bubble screen"* (*copyrighted phrase) to Tyler Boyd for a first down. That's more like it.
1:01 PM - Derrick Hopkins beats Artie Rowell like he stole something and gets Savage for a big loss. That is not more like it.
1:02 PM - Savage can't hook up with J.P. Holtz deep down the middle, but moments later, deep down the Tech sideline, Boyd draws a DPI call on Brandon Facyson. Big break for the Panthers. Part of Pitt's historical success against this team is that Frank Beamer's defenses don't always defend the deep ball well. Maybe Pitt should take more chances?
1:06 PM - Step by step, Pitt's offense is showing a pulse, but it hasn't mattered. Virginia Tech's defense is dialed in. Once again, on a critical third down, nobody's open.
1:08 PM - Of note: Savage appeared to take a late hit that wasn't called after that third-down misfire. Not Pitt's first rodeo with questionable ACC officiating, and not Savage's first time taking a questionable hit (he was concussed by a Daquan Romero head shot two weeks ago).
1:10 PM - To be fair, neither team has been able to run much. That's a credit to Pitt's defense, especially its front seven, which did contain Tech's running game particularly well in the last meeting too.
1:15 PM - Okay, I'll take a small bite of crow; Isaac Bennett runs off the left side for a first down. Moments later, Hopkins gets Savage for the second VT sack of the game. 2nd and 17 from the Pitt 27 with under a minute to play as Pitt calls a timeout.
1:16 PM - Weatherspoon gets absolutely buzz-sawed by Facyson. You think Tech wants revenge for last year? Meanwhile, tough-love O-line coach Jim Hueber gives an earful to Cory King and Matt Rotheram.
1:17 PM - Savage goes deep down the Pitt sideline to a wide-open Devin Street. Pitt in business at the Tech 20 before a third Hokie sack, this time by James Gayle, forces another Pitt timeout with 37 seconds left.
1:19 PM - Another sack, back to the 28-yard line. As good as Tech's defensive front is--and it shows--Pitt's offensive line, for the second game in a row, has looked downright embarrassing at times.
1:21 PM - Chris Blewitt rises above his name with a career-best 47-yard field goal, from right to left, cutting Pitt's deficit to 10-3 with 00:14 left. Don't knock the importance of that one. The Panthers absolutely needed something positive to build on offensively before the gun.
1:23 PM - Halftime: No. 24 Virginia Tech 10, Pitt 3.
1:24 PM - Thomas went 10 of 17 for 119 yards and a score in the first half, while Savage went 7 of 13 for 104 yards--the key play being that long bomb to Street to set up the field goal. Defensively, Pitt seems to be adjusting to Thomas better as of late. Having said that, there's no good reason for Tyler Boyd to be as invisible as the was in that first half. Chryst needs to remember what Boyd did against another elite defense--that of Florida State--get the ball in his hands, get him some space, and see what he can do with it. It may be the only way to get the Hokies on their heels.
1:43 PM - 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh is reporting Pitt running back James Conner tweaked his shoulder and is out for the rest of the game. Isaac Bennett had just 16 yards on three carries. According to The Fan's Gregg Giannotti, Chryst isn't happy with his one-dimensional offense and wants more from his backfield, so don't look for Savage to carry the team alone.
1:45 PM - Solid special teams coverage by Ryan Lewis and Mark Giubilato. Virginia Tech begins at its own 12-yard line.
1:46 PM - The second half begins the same way as the first: with a Thomas QB keeper for a first down.
1:48 PM - Thomas finds Demitri Knowles alone down the near sideline, and he beats the man coverage of Jason Hendricks to the Pitt 40. A kick in the Panthers' teeth on 3rd and 10. Thomas subsequently burns a timeout.
1:50 PM - Whether it shows statistically or not, Todd Thomas may be the best defensive player on the field for Pitt today.
1:51 PM - Knowles with a nice grab, again beating Hendricks, just inside the red zone. That draws the ire of Aaron Donald, who swallows Logan Thomas for his seventh sack. Donald has passed Chris Doleman for sixth all-time on the Pitt career sack list. Still, Pitt can't afford getting burned on third down like that.
1:54 PM - Journell restores the 10-point lead for Virginia Tech, making it 13-3 with 9:50 left in the third quarter on a 37-yard field goal from right to left. Hendricks forced a throwaway by Thomas that made Virginia Tech settle for the kick by Journell, who has now made five of eight on the season.
1:58 PM - After a good gain on first down by Bennett, Savage, under fire, targets Boyd, who can't hang on. A risky throw there. Moments later, Savage and Street are not on the same page on a crossing pattern. Not a good start to the half for Pitt.
2:00 PM - Kyshoen Jarrett fumbles the ensuing punt right back to himself before getting swarmed by Pitt gunners.
2:04 PM - Thanks chiefly to the running of Thomas, the Hokies cross midfield.
2:05 PM - A holding penalty on offensive lineman Sam Rogers aids the Panthers. Ball back to the Tech 42.
2:06 PM - That's the third 3rd-and-long where the Panthers have failed to get off the field in the third quarter. Matt House may need to shave between quarters. Too much time for Thomas. Moments later, Knowles picks up an easy first down on a reverse.
2:08 PM - Cody Journell hits a 42-yarder from left to right, raising Virginia Tech's lead to 16-3 with 3:36 left in the third quarter. Pitt tightened its coverage, and Hendricks and Gonzalez made key plays to halt the drive. But again, that stop comes with a price tag, no thanks to poor coverage on that aforementioned third-down pass by Thomas. The inept Pitt offense needs to rediscover its Week 3-4 form.
2:14 PM - The "Tino the Turtle" flashbacks continue. Virginia Tech now has six sacks today (two weeks ago, UVa had seven). This defense is completely between Pitt's collective ears right now. To wit, Coach Hueber will really need to go back to the drawing board with his hogs this week.
2:18 PM - Jarrett returns the punt to the Pitt 40. The way Thomas has been able to pick apart and tack on in the second half, it looks like the Hokies are going to rewrite the script today.
2:19 PM - Edmunds gets daylight, really, for the first time today. The Hokies are threatening again...
2:21 PM - End of the third quarter; Virginia Tech leads 16-3. Journell will attempt another middle-distance field goal when play resumes.
2:24 PM - Tech had 149 yards in that third quarter—three more than they gained the entire first half. Journell has what golfers call the "yips," and the score stays the same on a 33-yard field goal wide left.
2:26 PM - Devin Street—another name, for Pitt's sake, we haven't called enough--picks up a first down close to his own 40-yard line.
2:27 PM - Tyler with a coverage sack, matching the seven Pitt allowed in its last contest.
2:28 PM - Garner pulls it in under pressure at the Pitt 45, very close to a first down. In fact, by the nose--dare I say, the nose hair--of the football, it is a first down.
2:31 PM - As the comedian Ron White would say, you can't fix stupid. Twice in the first half, Pitt committed offensive penalties that led to unmanageable downs. Now a chop block costs them valuable field position before Savage is sacked. Those white road jerseys should come with white flags.
2:36 PM - Dadi Nicolas has a career single-game best three sacks. Once again, Tech has a season-best eight on the day. Lost in the poor execution—by players and coaches—is the fact the defense has put forth, in the grand scheme, a decent effort for the Panthers.
2:38 PM - If Logan Thomas gets to wear an NFL jersey this spring (and he should), it's only fair Aaron Donald has the same privilege. What a tackler.
2:41 PM - Still half a quarter left. Still time for the Pitt offense to figure things out. Still no sign of Boyd. An explanation is long overdue.
2:42 PM - Pitt couldn't get the right personnel on the field for 4th and 6...but Virginia Tech burned its last timeout. Go figure. 6:50 to play in regulation. Not that there's a whole lot of faith in the Panthers right now anyway, but you have to think this is pretty much the ballgame.
2:45 PM - Savage, pressure before the play, and hit after it, bounces one intended for Street, and the gray clouds hovering over Lane Stadium pretty much capture the mood if you're a Pitt fan.
2:47 PM - Donald hurries Thomas into an incomplete dump-off. He, along with the rest of that defensive front, have fought admirably in what appears to be a losing effort.
2:48 PM - After a sensational catch by Willie Byrn, Donald eats up Edmunds two plays later to set up 3rd and goal. Thomas is denied by the "other" Thomas, setting up a chance for atonement for Journell.
2:50 PM - Journell makes the 24-yarder, slightly left to right, with 3:27 left to give the Hokies a 19-3 lead.
2:54 PM - Boyd picks up a first down on a slant route to the right. Savage tries to go to him again near his own 40-yard line and is almost picked off.
2:56 PM - Leaping catch shy of the Tech 40 by Weatherspoon. No quit in these Clairton kids. Moments later, a deep pass fails--which has been as much a key to Pitt's lack of offensive success as anything. Only one of those today for Pitt, and it only led to a field goal.
2:57 PM - Oh, man...Street got destroyed. Jarrett hit him after a first down pickup deep in Tech territory. After the 33-yard play, Street, woozy, is helped off. One angle suggests Jarrett led with his helmet. One angle suggests he did not.
2:59 PM - Savage scrambles up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown, his first TD run of the season. He is sacked on the two-point pass attempt, fumbles, and Manasseh Garner's tackle keeps the score 19-9 Hokies with 2:01 left.
3:01 PM - Kyle Fuller recovers the onside kick at midfield. Pitt has all three timeouts left. Street is still being cared for by trainers. Lost in the concern over his well-being is the fact his catch put him ahead of Larry Fitzgerald for second on Pitt's all-time list.
3:02 PM - 239 yards in the air thus far for Thomas, plus the lone Tech touchdown. The Hokies go three and out near midfield, and both teams are now completely out of timeouts. Meanwhile, Street is in the locker room; Giannotti reports his shoulder is bothering him.
3:05 PM - An iffy roughing-the-kicker penalty allows Virginia Tech to pick up a default first down. A very Pitt-like ending to this game. Although it did not cost them the game, ACC officials will find themselves on the you-know-what-list of Pitt fans once again, between that, the contact on Savage, the personal foul on Pitts, and Jarrett's questionable hit on Street that went unpunished.
3:08 PM - Final: No. 24 Virginia Tech 19, Pitt 9. Hokies: 3-0, 6-1. Panthers: 2-2, 3-2. The Hokies lead the Coastal Division, winners of six straight, and enter a bye week. Pitt hosts Old Dominion at 7p.m. ET next Saturday and finds itself in a temporary third-place tie with Georgia Tech (which visits BYU at 7p.m. ET tonight). The Panthers visit the Jackets in three weeks.
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