Like East Carolina the Pittsburgh Panthers have always been a team that Virginia Tech has struggled against. Gobbler Country takes a moment to look back at the history of matchups between these two teams.
Dating back to 1993, Virginia Tech leads the series between the squads, 8-6. Virginia Tech boasts a respectable 5-1 record against Pitt when playing at Lane Stadium, and while VPI leads the series there is a disturbing reality that cannot be overlooked. Five of Pittsburgh’s six wins have occurred since 2001. During that same period the Hokies have only achieved a single victory against the Panthers. That is not a trend that Virginia Tech can take lightly. Gobbler Country will explore the last three meetings between the Panthers and the Hokies.
Last year Pittsburgh was able to end a three game skid when they hosted Virginia Tech. Pittsburgh’s running defense completely stymied the Hokies ground attack, holding VPI to a dreary 26 yards on 22 carries for a dismal 1.2 yard average. Meanwhile, the Panthers gashed the Hokies for 210 yards on the ground, sporting a 4.9 yard average and two touchdowns. Pitt struck first, halfway through the first quarter, and never looked back, leading for the entire game. The foremost rusher for Pitt was their QB, Chad Voytik, who scrambled for 118 yards. The Panthers won the game 21-16 on the back of solid defensive play and a punishing ground attack.
Pitt entered the ACC and the Coastal division in 2013, leaving the Big East as Virginia Tech did. The victory that then No. 24 VT achieved against Pitt in 2013 represents the only victory VPI has over the Panthers since 2000, when NFL veteran Michael Vick was still playing for the Hokies. Again VT struggled to establish a rushing attack, only mustering up 76 yards on 38 attempts and a poor 2.0 yard average. The Hokies regularly stalled out in Pitt’s territory, resulting in four field goals on five attempts and only one touchdown, a pass from Logan Thomas to Kalvin Cline. The Hokies were able to defeat Pitt, during their visit to Blacksburg, 19-9.
No. 13 Virginia Tech traveled to Pennsylvania and lost a particularly painful game that signified the first of six regular season losses during the year that the Hokies’ ten-win-season streak was halted. In what has become a disturbing inclination, the Hokies again struggled to find a ground game in 2012. The Hokies only mustered up 59 yards on 26 attempts for a 2.3 yard average. The Panthers once again gashed the Hokies, running for 254 yards on 55 attempts and scoring two touchdowns. They added 283 yards in the air with a 9.8 yard average and three passing touchdowns for a total of 537 offensive yards. This loss to Pittsburgh is particularly brutal for the Hokie faithful to stomach, because it represents the beginning of the last three years of mediocrity. This loss can be seen as the start of Virginia Tech’s foray into pedestrian performance – when a squad that had been conference champions three out of the last five years, and had just been to a BCS bowl, lost to a Pitt team that was 0-2 and had been upset by the Youngstown State Penguins. Since the 2012 loss to Pitt, Virginia Tech has gone 23-17 (0.575) and struggled to be competitive, and simply remain eligible for bowl games. Since that 2012 loss to Pitt, the Hokies have performed their worst in the ACC – finishing 6th, 4th, and 5th in conference standings. If one were to draw a line, in order to indicate where the Hokie’s decline started, this game is where it would be delineated.
Thus far, in 2015, Pitt has achieved a 2-1 record. They defeated cupcakes Youngstown State and Akron, and barely lost to Iowa when the Hawkeyes kicked a stunning 57 yard field goal, as regulation expired, to win, 27-24. The Panthers suffered a significant blow to their season hopes when they lost ACC player of the year and AFCA All American running back, James Conner for the year. Pitt’s rushing attack has certainly felt his loss, but considering VT’s inability to stop the Panther’s running game the Hokies cannot take the Panther’s ground game lightly. Additionally the injuries the Hokies have suffered, in their own backfield, highlight VT’s concerns about running on Pitt – something they have not been able to successfully achieve in three years.
Bearing in mind the developments the Hokies have faced this year already, and the history they have facing the Panthers, the Hokies will certainly be challenged when they open ACC play in Blacksburg this Saturday against Pittsburgh.