Pittsburgh holds off Virginia Tech 17-13
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) Pittsburgh's players had heard the whispers and seen the numbers.
With All-Atlantic Coast Conference tailback James Conner lost for the season to a torn MCL, the logic said, the Panthers couldn't run the ball. A 55-yard rushing effort in a 27-24 loss to Iowa two weeks ago did nothing to stop the talk. There was only one way to do that.
Enter Qadree Ollison.
The 230-pound redshirt freshman ran for 122 yards on just 19 carries, including consecutive long gainers on the first two plays of the second half, and the Panthers rode a 166-yard rushing day and a stifling defense to a 17-13 victory at Virginia Tech on Saturday.
''We want to run the ball as a team, even with James going down,'' he said.
No one did it better, or at a better time, that Ollison.
After Tyler Boyd returned the second-half kickoff to the 32, Ollison went 43 yards around the left side on the first play, and then the final 25 yards through the left side on the next play - a stunning two-play, 68-yard drive that took 45 seconds and gave Pitt a 17-7 lead.
Then it was up to the defense, which arrived ranked 17th in the country and only enhanced its numbers. The Hokies finished with 100 yards, their lowest total since they managed only 60 in Frank Beamer's first game as coach 29 years ago, a 22-10 loss to Clemson.
The Panthers (3-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) won for the sixth time in the last seven meetings against their old Big East rivals, largely on the backs of the defense that sacked Brenden Motley seven times, hit him constantly and intercepted three passes.
''What happened was simple,'' Hokies offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. ''We didn't run the ball well. You got your quarterback hit, next thing you know, your quarterback's not making great decisions. They beat us. They beat us up front. They beat us as a unit.''
Virginia Tech (2-3, 0-1) finished with 9 rushing yards on 33 carries, and lost 57 yards to sacks, the last two of which came on consecutive plays to start their final series. The first cost them eight yards, and the next one seven. On third-and-23, Motley threw incomplete.
The Panthers knew Motley could hurt then with his arm and feet, but let him do neither.
''It was a combination of a little bit of everything,'' first-year coach Pat Narduzzi said of trying to confuse the quarterback, who was making only his fourth career start. ''It was a four-man pressure, five-man pressure... capturing the lanes so he couldn't get out'' and run.
Motley finished 9 of 20 for 91 yards. He ran 17 times for minus 14 yards.
The Hokies had several scoring opportunities in the second half, but were limited to two field goals.
Trailing 17-7, the Hokies made a break for themselves when Andrew Motuapuaka forced his second fumble of the game and Terrell Edmunds recovered and returned it to the Panthers' 23. But Motley was sacked for the fourth time for a 7-yard loss on the next play, and three plays later, Joey Slye's 43-yard field goal pulled Virginia Tech to within 17-10.
A reversed call later gave the Hokies a first down at the Panthers' 44. A personal foul moved the ball to the 29, but the Hokies stalled there and had to settle for a 48-yard field goal from Slye, making it 17-13 with 13:25 remaining.
Virginia Tech had two long conversions on its lone scoring drive before halftime. Motley scrambled for 22 yards on a second-and-19, and then found Bucky Hodges for 28 yards on third-and-17 from the Panthers' 40. Two plays later, he hit Cam Phillips with an 11-yard TD dart.
The Panthers went ahead 10-0 on their second possession, thanks in part to a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty. Peterman surprised the defense by running for 12 yards on third-and-4 from the Virginia Tech 35, and then found tight end J.P. Holtz all alone in a blown coverage for the touchdown.
Narduzzi anointed Peterman as his quarterback this week, but on the second play sent Chad Voytik in. Voytik last year ran for 118 yards in a 21-16 Panthers victory against the Hokies, and he took his first carry this time for 26 yards to midfield.
The drive stalled at the 30, and Chris Blewitt kicked a 45-yard field goal.