By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLACKSBURG, Va. —
There is an old football saying that offense puts fans in the seats but defense wins championships.
Saturday afternoon at Lane Sta-dium the Virginia Tech Hokies stayed atop the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division as its defense held the Pittsburgh Pan-thers to 210 total yards, only 51 of those on the ground.
The Tech defense also sacked Pitt quarterback Tom Savage eight times enroute to a 19-9 win before 64,954 fans at Lane Stadium.
The win moved the Hokies to 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the ACC play. The victory was Virginia Tech’s sixth in a row after dropping its season-opening game to No. 1 Alabama.
The win also snapped a four-game losing streak the Hokies had against Pitt that started when both schools were members of the Big East Conference.
“We’re getting there. We can’t just snap our fingers and young guys are experienced, but we’re getting there,” said Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer. “I like our effort and the way we worked at it. We just have to keep taking steps forward.”
Lafayette Pitts returned the opening kick 25 yards to the Tech 29. After a two-yard gain on first down, Savage threw two incomplete passes forcing the Panthers to punt, the Hokies’ offense starting the day on its own 29.
Logan Thomas ran for 12 yards on the first play and the march began downfield. Kalvin Cline hauled in a short pass and rambled 18 yards to the Pitt 38. A completion to Willie Byrn gave the Hokies a first down on the 28.
A no gain and a one-yard picked by Thomas made it third and nine from the 27, at which time Thomas again connected with Cline who caught the pass at the 10 and took it to the house.
Cody Journell’s kick split the uprights and with 10:11 to play in the opening period Virginia Tech was on top 7-0. It took 3:41 and eight plays for the Hokies to go 71 yards.
The Hokies’ defense was strong on its second series on the field, giving up two short passes, but sacking Savage on third down, holding the Panthers to another three-and-out.
A personal foul penalty on Pitt on a short third-yard gain by Virginia Tech gave the Hokies a first down at the Panthers’ 37. Facing a third and two from the 29 Trey Edmonds lost a yard and Journell came on for a 48-yard field goal attempt.
The Giles High School grad’s kick split the uprights to put the Hokies ahead 10-0 with 4:29 to go in the first quarter. The kick was a college career-best for Journell, his previous long a 42-yarder.
Defense remained the name of the game for Virginia Tech as they forced Pitt into its third three-and-out in as many possessions. The Panthers’ defense could not stop the Hokies’ offense on Tech’s first two possessions.
After a block in the back penalty on the punt, the Thomas-led offense started at its own 22. The Hokies drove to their own 41 where the drive stalled on fourth and three on the last play of the first quarter.
Pitt managed only 19 yards of offense in the first period on 19 plays, while Virginia Tech had an equal number of plays and gained 104 yards.
The Panthers picked up their initial first down on their next drive and moved the ball from their own nine and drove into Tech territory for the first time in the contest, taking the ball to the 45 before again punting.
While the Virginia Tech ground game was anemic, Thomas connected on short and medium-range passes to move Tech down the field to the Pitt 37, before a no-gain run and a Thomas sack forced the Hokies to kick the ball to Pitt.
“We made progress today. I think we left some yards and completions out there as well,” Beamer noted. “As an offense we just have to keep grinding and keep working out there. I think when we look at the tape there’s going to be a lot of plays we see and wish we’d done a little better.
“Everyone’s working hard out there. Everybody at every position is really working hard to get better.”
The teams exchanged punts and the Hokies regained possession with just over two minutes remaining in the half at their own 27, but failed to gain a yard and punted back to Pitt with 1:36 left before halftime.
With 42 ticks left, Savage connected with Devin Street on a 48 yard pass that took the ball to the Tech 20. However, on the next play James Gayle sacked Savage on the 23, forcing the Panthers to use their final timeout with 37 seconds remaining.
Another sack by Dadi Nicolas pushed the ball back to the 29 where Savage spiked the ball to stop the clock with 19 seconds left, bringing on fourth down.
Chris Blewitt’s 47-yard field goal attempt was good and Pitt was on the board.
Both teams’ offenses relied on the pass as Virginia Tech rolled up 146 yards and Pitt 113 through the air. The run game was missing in action as Pitt gained nine yards on 16 rushes, Virginia Tech 27 on 15 carries.
The no-run game continued the first series of the second half and on third-and-10 from their own 20, Thomas connected with Demitri Knowles on a 46-yard play down to the Pitt 34.
An 18-yard completion to Knowles gave Tech another first down at the Pitt 18 before Thomas was sacked at the 24. The drive fizzled and Journell booted a 37-yard field goal to make the score 13-3.
Tech’s biggest running play came on an end around to Knowles who carried the ball 12 yards to the Pitt 26 with four-and-a-half mintues to play in the third quarter.
The Hokies forged ahead two more yards to the 24 before Journell connected on his third field goal of the contest to push the Virginia Tech lead to 16-3 with 3:36 showing on the third quarter clock.
A sack and a penalty forced Pitt to punt from its own end zone and Kyshoen Jarrett returned the ball from his own 47 to the Pitt 40. Edmunds broke off a 14-yard run to the Pitt 21 for a first down, but again the drive stalled.
The third quarter ended with Hokies facing a fourth and four from the Panther 15. The first play of the final period saw Journell’s field goal attempt from 33 yards sail wide left.
Through three quarters the Virginia Tech defense allowed Pitt only 107 total yards, three of those on the ground.
Tech added its final points of the game with 3:27 to play on Journell’s fourth field goal of the day, this one from 23 yards out.
Pitt, however, felt they were still within striking distance and did not throw in the towel.
Starting on its own 20 after a touchback, Savage passed 23 yards to the Virginia Tech 42 on a third and 10. Two plays later Street hauled in a Savage pass and took it to the Tech nine where he took a vicious hit from Jarrett and had to be helped off the field.
Savage executed a quarterback draw and took the ball to the end zone for the score. Pitt went for two but Savage fumbled and it nearly went for two points for the Hokies as Detrick Bonner returned the ball to near midfield before being tackled.
The Panthers attempted an onside kick, but Kyle Fuller recovered it at midfield with 1:59 to play. The Hokies went on to run out the clock and get the win.
Tech managed 315 yards of offense with 239 coming from Thomas’ 19-of-34 passing. The Hokies ran for 76 yards with Thomas leading the way with 27 yards on 16 carries.
Pitt rushed for 23 yards. Isaac Bennett ran for 31, but Savage carried 11 times for -29. For the day Pittsburgh ran 26 times for 23 yards, a total of 0.9 per rush. Savage completed 13-of-28 passes for 187 yards.
Panthers’ head coach Paul Chryst tipped his hat to Virginia Tech and talked of his team’s shortcomings.
“I thought we didn’t make enough plays today. I give Virginia Tech credit,” Chryst said. “There are times in the game where you have to make plays. We didn’t do anything in the first half, so we didn’t get a chance to play with the running game.
“They have a heck of a defense. Tommy’s protection was an issue. It’s clearly something we’ve got to clean up.
“Defensively I thought we did some really good things, but they made some good plays. We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to come back from it. We were beaten by a really good team.”
A big plus for Virginia Tech was the punting of A.J. Hughes. Hughes booted the ball four times for an average of 52.8. His long was 56 yards. Matt Ludwig had three of his six kickoffs go into the end zone for touchbacks.
Virginia Tech is idle next week while Pitt hosts non-conference foe Old Dominion.
— Contact Bob Redd at
Pittsburgh.........................0 3 0 6 — 9
Virginia Tech...................10 0 6 3 — 19
VT—Cline 27 pass from Thomas (Journell kick), 10:11.
VT—FG Journell 48, 4:29.
Pitt—FG Blewitt 47, :14.
VT—FG Journell 37, 9:50.
VT—FG Journell 42, 3:36.
VT—FG Journell 23, 3:27.
Pitt—Savage 9 run (run failed), 2:01.
First downs 11 17
Rushes-yards 26-23 38-76
Passing 187 239
Comp-Att-Int 13-29-0 19-34-0
Return Yards 19 45
Punts-Avg. 8-44.9 4-52.8
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-0
Penalties-Yards 7-53 4-45
Time of Possession 25:49 32:10
RUSHING—Pittsburgh, Bennett 7-31, Ibrahim 5-17, Boyd 1-3, Conner 2-1, Savage 11-(minus 29). Virginia Tech, Thomas 16-27, Coleman 6-25, Edmunds 9-13, Knowles 1-12, Caleb 1-3, Rogers 1-0, Team 4-(minus 4).
PASSING—Pittsburgh, Savage 13-28-0-187, Team 0-1-0-0. Virginia Tech, Thomas 19-34-0-239.
RECEIVING—Pittsburgh, Street 5-104, Weatherspoon 3-50, Boyd 2-20, Garner 2-17, Bennett 1-(minus 4). Virginia Tech, Knowles 5-79, Cline 4-65, Byrn 4-46, Rogers 3-7, Stanford 2-35, Mangus 1-7.