Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh

No. 25 Virginia Tech holds off Pitt in 39-36 win

By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
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PITTSBURGH (AP) One of the nation's worst secondaries kept daring Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans to throw. So he did. Over. And over. And over.

The junior shook off a right ankle injury to throw for a career-high 406 yards and two touchdowns to lead the 25th-ranked Hokies to a 39-36 victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

Joey Slye tied the school and Atlantic Coach Conference records by making six field goals to help the Hokies (6-2, 4-1) beat the Panthers (5-3, 2-2) on the road for the first time in 17 years.

Pitt came in with the nation's 120th-ranked pass defense yet played bump-and-run for most of the game, hoping its defensive backs could win more than they lost.

Didn't happen. Instead, three Tech wide receivers topped 100 yards in the same game for the first time in school history. Isaiah Ford's 10 receptions included his school-record 23rd receiving touchdown. Bucky Hodges caught six passes for 145 yards and a score and Cam Phillips added 109 yards on a night the Hokies piled up 556 total yards.

''It's a great feeling when you can do what you love doing and that's throw the ball up and down the field against a pretty good defense,'' Evans said. ''One-on-one coverage. You can't ask for anything better than one-on-one coverage.''

Pitt coach Narduzzi built his reputation as defensive coordinator at Michigan State by requiring his secondary to play physical. He's intent on doing the same at Pitt, even as the weeks pass and improvement only comes in sporadic bursts. Facing the Hokies, it was no different.

''We had guys in position to make plays,'' Narduzzi said. ''We didn't make them. . There's not a whole lot of different ways to do it.''

Evans left briefly in the third quarter after getting his right leg rolled up on but returned to lead a fourth-quarter surge that included Slye's sixth field goal. Slye joked it got a little bit boring knocking in chip shot after chip shot, though he's hardly complaining after the Hokies won at Heinz Field for the first time in five tries and assured themselves of a bowl berth for a 24th straight year, the longest active streak in the nation.

It's a notable streak, but bigger goals lie ahead. The Hokies will end the weekend no worse than tied in the loss column with North Carolina atop the Coastal. Virginia Tech owns the tiebreaker, having beaten the Tar Heels decisively this month.

TRICKERATION

James Conner ran for 141 yards and three touchdowns for the Panthers but offensive coordinator Matt Canada continued to masterfully tinker with the Pitt playbook.

Nate Peterman completed 13 of 22 passes for 267 yards with a touchdown and an interception while also catching the first pass of his. Pitt offensive tackle Brian O'Neill scored his second touchdown of the season, this time on a pitch from Peterman that resulted in the 6-foot-6, 300-pound O'Neill barreling over the goal line from 5 yards out. O'Neill, a tight end in high school, scored on a throwback screen against Georgia Tech earlier this month.

PINBALL WIZARD

One of the connections between Evans and Ford includes a wild 36-yard gain in which Ford and Pitt cornerback Phillipie Motley batted it back and forth to each other as they went to the ground. Officials ruled it a catch on the field after Ford ripped it away from Motley before it hit the ground. The call stood upon review.

WILD MAN

Narduzzi became increasingly animated on the sideline as the game wore on, convinced Virginia Tech's wide receivers were illegally giving themselves and advantage on all those alley-oop passes from Evans.

''They did a great job pushing off all night,'' Narduzzi said. ''Give them credit for that.''

THE TAKEAWAY

Virginia Tech: The Hokies have the weapons to run the table. If Evans can avoid turning it over, the Hokies will be in the ACC title game.

''When you have three elite wide receivers, you can't ask for more,'' Evans said.

Pitt: Midway through Narduzzi's second season, the defense remains a chaotic work in progress. Even the debut of ballyhooed freshman safety Damar Hamlin's long anticipated debut did little to help. If Pitt's pass defense was even average, the Panthers would be a threat to reach the ACC title game. It's not, and the Panthers almost certainly won't be in Orlando in December.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Travel to Duke on Nov. 5. The Hokies fell to the Blue Devils 45-43 in four overtimes last season.

Pitt: Begin a tough two-game stretch at Miami on Nov. 5. Hurricanes have won two of three meetings since Pitt joined the ACC in 2013.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC is strictly prohibited.
 

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Scoreboard
Virginia Tech #25  (6-2) «610131039
Pittsburgh  (5-3)01471536
Players of the Game
Hokies

J. Evans
Att 40
Comp 24
Yds 406
TD 2
Panthers

J. Conner
Rush 19
Yds 141
Avg 7.4
TD 3
Scoring Summary
VATECHJoey Slye 31 yd FG
VATECHJoey Slye 21 yd FG
VATECHJoey Slye 22 yd FG
PITTJames Conner 6 yd run (Chris Blewitt kick)
VATECHChris Cunningham 11 yd pass from Jerod Evans (Joey Slye kick)
PITTJames Conner 1 yd run (Chris Blewitt kick)
PITTJames Conner 1 yd run (Chris Blewitt kick)
VATECHJoey Slye 26 yd FG
VATECHJoey Slye 37 yd FG
VATECHMarshawn Williams 2 yd run (Joey Slye kick)
PITTBrian O'Neill 5 yd run (James Conner 2pt pass from Nathan Peterman)
VATECHJoey Slye 22 yd FG
VATECHIsaiah Ford 16 yd pass from Jerod Evans (Joey Slye kick)
PITTJester Weah 7 yd pass from Nathan Peterman (Chris Blewitt kick)
 
Team Stats
 VATECHPITT
First Downs2917
Third Down Efficiency4-143-10
Fourth Down Efficiency0-00-0
Plays-Net Yards82-55655-458
Rushes-Yds39-15032-180
Passing Yds406278
Kick Return Yds6457
Punt Return Yds330
Passes24-43-014-23-1
Punts3-946-239
Fumbles-Lost1-03-1
Penalties-Yds4-359-63
Time of Poss.33:1726:43
 
Individual Stats
RUSHING
VATECH: Cam Phillips 5-43, Jerod Evans 11-33, Marshawn Williams 8-29, Isaiah Ford 1-26, Brenden Motley 7-24, Team 1--2, Travon McMillian 6--3
PITT: James Conner 19-141, Nathan Peterman 5-33, Brian O'Neill 1-5, George Aston 1-4, Dontez Ford 1-1, Quadree Henderson 5--4
PASSING
VATECH: Jerod Evans 24-40-406-0, Brenden Motley 0-3-0-0
PITT: Nathan Peterman 13-22-267-1, Tre Tipton 1-1-11-0
RECEIVING
VATECH: Isaiah Ford 10-143, Bucky Hodges 6-145, Cam Phillips 6-109, Chris Cunningham 1-11, Sam Rogers 1--2
PITT: Jester Weah 4-46, Dontez Ford 3-59, Quadree Henderson 3-47, Scott Orndoff 2-96, Tre Tipton 1-19, Nathan Peterman 1-11
 
Standings
TeamStandingsConferenceOverall
Virginia Tech1st Atlantic Coast Coastal6-210-4
Pittsburgh2nd Atlantic Coast Coastal5-38-5

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