A couple of key mistakes were the downfall as Pitt fell 30-14 to Virginia in the Panthers’ 2019 season opener.
Already leading 3-0, Virginia increased that led to ten aided by Noah Taylor’s blocked punt of Kirk Christodoulou. Three plays after the blocked punt, Bryce Perkins connected with Chris Sharp for a 2-yard touchdown pass.
After spotting the Cavaliers that early lead, Pitt gained momentum and took a 14-13 lead into the half.
With Virginia up 10-0 in the first quarter, Pitt responded with their first touchdown drive of the season. The big play in the drive came on third down when Kenny Pickett connected on a wheel route with A.J. Davis that went for 59 yards to the Virginia 20 yard line. Four plays later, Davis found the end zone on a 2-yard run.
The Panthers took their first lead of the game right before the half on 14 play, 80 yard drive which was capped off by a 3-yard touchdown pass from Pickett to senior Tre Tipton on third down.
Pitt’s 14-13 lead was short lived as Virginia opened the second half on regained the lead on a 45-yard Brian Delaney field goal, his third of the game. The key on that drive was Virginia converting two long third downs, including a 27-yard scramble by quarterback Bryce Perkins.
The turning point in the game happened in the middle of the third quarter. With Virginia up 16-14, Pitt couldn’t make a big play. Pickett had Taysir Mack for a wide open 30-plus yard pass play but Mack dropped the ball.
The very next play, Pickett tried to go back to Mack but was intercepted by linebacker Matt Gahm at the Pitt 29-yard line. Five plays later, Perkins found Hasise Dubois for a 13-yard touchdown and Virginia led 23-14.
While the Pitt defense did allow three touchdown drives, all of which came on short fields and were the result of turnovers—including a late 4th quarter turnover on downs deep in their own territory. Pitt and Virginia ended the game with virtually the same offensive output save for the two interceptions thrown by Pickett.
Pitt had two promising drives in the second half but neither ended in points. The first culminated in a missed 50-yard field attempt by Alex Kessman late in the 3rd quarter. Pitt mounted an extended 4th quarter drive that made it all the way to the Virginia 36, but back-to-back sacks pushed the Panthers into a third-and-long and Pickett threw his second pick of the game to effectively end Pitt’s comeback bid.
Virginia added a touchdown with 32 seconds left in the game to finish off the scoring.
This was the first loss against Virginia in the Narduzzi era and the first win for Virginia ever at Heinz Field.
Next up for Pitt (0-1) is a game next Saturday vs. Ohio U. Kickoff at Heinz Field is set for 11 AM.