The Virginia Tech Hokies invaded Heinz Field on Thursday night to take on the Pittsburgh Panthers. The match up would give the victor the inside edge for the Coastal division title. Both teams entered the contest with identical 5-2 records, and the game had a late season feel from the opening kick. The Hokies received the toss and quickly marched down the field, but had to settle for a 31 yard Joey Slye field goal to take an early 3-0 lead. On the kickoff, Javonn Quillen scooped up a Quadree Henderson fumble, and the Hokies were in business. The Pitt defense was up to the task, and the Hokies could only muster a 21 yard Joey Slye boot, 6-0 Hokies.
The first time the Pitt offense saw the field, Nathan Peterman was under center. The Pitt offense was averaging 38 points a game, so the Hokies’ defense had work to do. Safety Mook Reynolds was up to the task, intercepting an errant throw to give the Hokies another great scoring opportunity. The Hokies, after the second Pitt turnover, set up shop on the Panthers’ 31. The Hokies were unable to convert the second giveaway into points, and the Hokies were forced to punt. The Hokies defense held strong, and got the ball AGAIN in positive territory.
Jerod Evans threw a bad pick, but a Pittsburgh offsides negated the play. Virginia Tech took advantage when Cam Phillips picked up a third down on a jet sweep. On a play that would be reviewed, Isaiah Ford pulled in a bouncing ball on a huge pass from Evans. The Hokies AGAIN were unable to convert, settling for a 22 yard Joey Slye FG to make it 9-0 Hokies. Coach Fuente and club were certainly disappointed with the red zone production, but it was a two score ballgame now.
Pittsburgh got things going offensively with their first 1st down of the game. Problem was, it was three minutes into the second quarter. The Hokies’ defense held, and Pitt was forced to punt again. The Panthers haven’t shownan anything offensively, outside of a sweet James Conner run, and the good guys had the ball again on the Virginia Tech 20. Virginia Tech had a huge play to Bucky Hodges, that was ultimately overturned, but the Hokies all the ‘Mo. What can only be described at this point as a habit, the Virginia Tech defense allowed an 84 yard drive. The drive was capped off with a James Conner TD scamper. After all the breaks, the Hokies only held a 9-7 lead late in the first quarter. The Conner TD was a gamechanger. The momentum had clearly shifted, and the Hokies needed to respond in a hurry. Virginia Tech did just that. Jerod Evans hit some timely throws, and the Hokies were marching down the field, and with time running out in the half, the Hokies needed a touchdown. Chris Cunningham pulled into the Jerod Evans toss to make it 16-7 with just two minutes left. The game was still being contested. James Conner punched in from 1 yard out and it was 16-14 Hokies. The feel of the game was one of disappointment, and the Hokie fans on social media were showing their displeasure.
Pitt got the ball first in the second half, and it was not good. The Panthers, and more specifically James Conner, took the lead. Early in the third quarter, and it was suddenly 21-19 Pitt. What had happened? The Hokies were in complete control in the game, but now the scoreboard belied that fact, The Hokies were on the ropes, and needed a play. Tremaine Edmunds decided to step up to get the Hokies off the field. The Panthers were forced to punt, but would Jerod Evans take the next snap? Evans was roughed up on the previous series, and Brenden Motley was now on the field.
Isaiah Ford on a sweet reverse pass option gashed the Pitt defense, and it was up to Coach Fu when Evans would come back into the game. The Hokies were able to drive on the Panthers, but settled for yet another field goal. Hokies 22 Pitt 21 with 2:44 left in the third. The Hokies forced a clutch 3 and out, and ENTER EVANS. He promptly threw an incredible fade to Bucky for a 22 yard gain. He hit Isaiah Ford on another incredible throw, and Marshawn Williams iced the cake with a 2 yard punch in. The Hokies up 8, late in the third. The next Pitt drive would define this game. James Conner broke a huge gainer for the last play of the third, and Virginia Tech was on its heels. Another Conner touchdown paired with a two point conversion...TIE BALL GAME. The Panthers had all the Mo, and the game was going to come down to whomever had it last. Just to remind all Hokies, Hodges had 145 yards, Ford had 127 yards, and we were TIED.
The red zone frustrations continued for the Hokies. Joey Slye kicked his SIXTH field goal of the evening, tying an A.C.C. record. That’s a blessing and a curse. The fact that Joey had 6 made field goals is a blessing, the fact that we had 6 red zone chances for 18 points is the curse. With 9 and change left in the game, it would prove to get interesting. Evans hit Phillips on a streak, and the Hokies were on the march. Virginia Tech then decided to get into the record books again. Ford reeled in a 16 yard scoring grab to give Virginia Tech a commanding 39-29 lead with only 7:29 left in the tilt. Isaiah Ford became the all time leading WR with TD’s on the toss.
The Hokies would end up closing the game out, and they were in firm grasp of the Coastal division title. Pitt tacked on a late touchdown to pull within 3 with less than three minutes to play, but the Hokies were too strong. Final score from Pittsburgh...
Virginia Tech 39 Pittsburgh 36.