Pitt ends skid, edges Virginia Tech 21-16

James ConnePitt 10 16 2014
Pitt’s James Conner breaks thru Virginia Tech defenders for a 15 yard touchdown run, Conner rushed for two touchdowns in the Panthers 21-16 win. (Courier Photo/William McBride)

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Pittsburgh held a team meeting before its game Thursday night against Virginia Tech to provide a reminder that all was not lost despite a three-game skid.
“We told each other we can’t go down 0-4, we can’t have this losing streak, we have to redeem ourselves in prime time,” wide receiver Tyler Boyd said. “That’s what we did.”
Chad Voytik’s arm – and more surprisingly, his legs – led the way. The sophomore quarterback ran for a career-high 118 yards, threw a touchdown pass to Boyd and even caught his first pass since middle school as the Panthers held on for a 21-16 victory.
Tyler BoydPitt 10 16 2014
Pitt’s Tyler Boyd from Clairton High hauls in a 53 yard touchdown pass in the Panthers 21-16 win over Virginia Tech (Courier Photo/William McBride)

“We needed it bad,” Voytik said. “I got emotional after the game because I knew how big it was. Just how hard our guys have worked. The stage was big and we come out and performed.”
James Conner ran for 85 yards and two scores for the Panthers (4-3, 2-1 ACC), who took control early and fended off a late rally by the Hokies.
Virginia Tech (4-3, 1-2) trailed by 12 in the fourth quarter but had the ball and a chance to take the lead in the final minutes. Michael Brewer’s fourth-down pass to Cam Phillips sailed high and the Panthers ran out the clock.
“I thought that we came in here and made a lot of plays, but we sure missed a lot of plays,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “We also had some opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on, and those come back to get you.”
Brewer shook off a slow start to finish with 265 yards passing and a 14-yard scoring strike to Phillips, but the Hokies remained winless in four visits to Heinz Field.
Forced to plumb the bottom of the depth chart at running back with Shai McKenzie, Marshawn Williams and Trey Edmunds all out with injury, Virginia Tech could do little offensively. The Hokies ran for 26 yards, the longest run of the night Sam Rogers’s 9-yard burst.
“We have good backs, but give (Pitt) credit, they were tough,” Beamer said. “They crowded and blitzed us, and we needed to throw the ball a little bit better and connect on a couple more that we had an opportunity to. Then, it would have been a different game.”
Instead, it was an ugly one. The teams combined for five fumbles, 15 penalties and little rhythm in what likely amounted to an elimination game in the wide-open Coastal Division.
Pitt came in reeling, having seen its promising 3-0 start evaporate into puzzling losses to Iowa, Akron and Virginia. The opportunity to be any sort of factor heading into the season’s second half, the Panthers responded with a dominant – if not exactly crisp – performance.
Relying heavily its trio of sophomore stars Voytik, Boyd and Conner and the nation’s fourth-ranked defense, Pitt took a 14-6 halftime lead. Voytik found Boyd down the seam on the Panthers’ second possession and the Boyd did the rest, catching it at the Virginia Tech 30 and sidestepping two defenders on his way to a 53-yard touchdown, Pitt’s longest pass play of the season.
Virginia Tech didn’t pick up a first down until there were 6 minutes left in the half as Brewer struggled to get anything going. He overthrew some receivers and short-hopped passes to others.
Only Pitt miscues kept Virginia Tech close. Twice the Panthers had the ball inside the Hokies 35 only to come away with no points. Still, Conner bolted in from 15 yards out to make it 14-3 before Virginia Tech pulled within eight on Joey Slye’s second field goal. The kick came at the end of a strange sequence that included Pitt having an interception called back because of a late hit on Brewer, and Phillips dropping the ball innocently on the wet turf without being touched as he darted toward the end zone.
The Hokies made it 14-9 early in the second half before the Panthers appeared to put it away in the fourth quarter when they stopped Virginia Tech on fourth down and Voytik followed by darting 49 yards on a read-option and Conner bulled his way in from 13 yards out.
Pitt missed a chance to take a two touchdown-lead when the Hokies blocked Chris Blewitt’s field goal attempt and the brief appearance of “Beamer Ball” seemed to give Virginia Tech life.
Virginia Tech responded with a brisk 80-yard drive, with Brewer hitting Phillips to cut it to five. Pitt couldn’t run out the clock but the Hokies drove to midfield before stalling. Brewer’s final pass sailed high and Phillips absorbed a punishing blow as it feel incomplete. There was no flag thrown and the Panthers exhaled after resurrecting their season.


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