Pitt stopped at goal line in final seconds of loss to Virginia Tech
BLACKSBURG, Va. — Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said Saturday's 20-14 loss at Virginia Tech came down to one facet of the game.
“We can sit here and talk about play calls, but you have to block,” he said. “We had four downs to get 1 yard. They're a good football team. We knew that they have a good run defense, but it's a yard. We have to be able to get a yard.”
Cam Phillips had 117 yards receiving and scored the winning touchdown, and Virginia Tech's defense kept Pitt out of the end zone on the final play to lift the Hokies to a 20-14 victory over the Panthers.
Trailing 20-14, Pitt (4-7, 2-5 ACC) used a 74-yard pass play from quarterback Kenny Pickett to Jester Weah on its final drive to get to the Virginia Tech 1 with less than 30 seconds to go. But Pitt's four attempts to get into the end zone — three running plays and an incomplete pass — failed with the Hokies' Khalil Ladler tackling Panthers tailback Darrin Hall for a 3-yard loss on the game's final play.
“The way it finished is indicative of who our players are and what they're about,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said. “They refused to let themselves down and found a way to get it done.”
Phillips broke the school record for career receiving yardage when he hauled in a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Josh Jackson with 6:23 remaining. The touchdown gave the Hokies (8-3, 4-3) a 20-14 lead, and they held on, snapping a two-game losing streak.
The Panthers pretty much saw their hopes of a bowl bid end with their second straight loss.
Virginia Tech's Reggie Floyd made arguably the biggest play in the game.
On Pitt's final drive, Pickett hit Weah on a post pattern, and Weah broke a tackle, sprinting into the open field. Floyd, though, caught him and brought him down at the Virginia Tech 1 for a 74-yard gain.
Officials originally ruled the play a touchdown but reviewed it and saw Weah's knee touched down at the 1.
“The play of the game was Reggie Floyd not giving up on that play,” Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “We talk to our kids every day about finishing, and today was a big part of it. Every blade of grass is critical, and it was in that play right there. You talk about a big-time effort.”
“Everyone was telling me it was a good play,” Floyd said. “But it's something that is expected, so it's nothing new.”
Jackson completed just 17 of 37 for 218 yards for the Hokies, with Phillips catching eight passes. He now has 2,981 career receiving yards.
Coming on in place of starter Ben DiNucci, Pickett completed 15 of 23 for 242 yards and one interception. Pickett, a freshman playing in just his third game this season, played well, but his interception was costly, as it led to Virginia Tech's winning score.
Virginia Tech's defense is particularly strong against the run — the Hokies' held the Panthers to just 55 yards rushing — so Narduzzi made the decision to take out DiNucci and play Pickett after DiNucci threw an interception late in the first quarter. Pickett had not played in Pitt's previous three games.
“They're one of the top running defenses in the country,” Narduzzi said. “We knew that. That's why Kenny was in the game. He's probably a better passer at this point. We took a shot with some of the balls he threw. We'll continue to evaluate that position.”