BLACKSBURG, Va. — There’s hitting rock bottom, and there’s whatever happened to Pitt Saturday. I guess you could say Pitt hit Hokie Stone at Lane Stadium.
There had been some embarrassing moments during Pitt’s three-game losing skid, but a 38-21 loss to VT highlighted a lot of flaws that don’t look fixable without drastic changes. Phil Jurkovec was abysmal (yet again), as was his pass protection for much of the game, and the Panther defense was unable to make any sort of adjustments to stop the Hokies’ backup quarterback.
Pat Narduzzi has praised his squad’s ability to continue to compete when losing this season, but throughout much of the second half, Pitt looked dead in the water. Flattened against the Hokie Stone, if you will.
It’s time to face the facts, Pitt is a bad football team.
Jurkovec completed 11-of-22 pass attempts for 235 yards with two touchdowns, and that stat line may be the most misleading I’ve ever seen from a quarterback. Pitt managed just 38 yards on the ground, and the defense let up 400 yards and 38 points to one of the worst offenses in the ACC. And committed eight penalties.
It’s almost as if Jurkovec just stopped playing after two drives — the impact would’ve been the same, if not better, if he had.
Jurkovec completed 3-of-12 pass attempts in the first half against Virginia Tech, propped up by a 75-yard touchdown strike to Bub Means, and the offensive synergy immediately went into a nose dive.
He missed throws over the middle, he missed uncontested screens on rollouts and he simply played bad football. Virginia Tech didn’t.
The Hokies started hot with a 54-yard touchdown toss on their first offensive possession, Da’Quan Felton burning M.J. Devonshire and hauling in a perfect pass from Kyron Drones in stride. And VT capitalized on some poor coaching — deciding not to go for a 4th-and-1 opportunity at midfield, taking a delay of game and getting off a 10-yard punt — with a 1-yard quarterback keeper from Drones to cap an 11-play drive.
VT ripped off another 11-play drive at the end of the first half, converting an easy 4th-and-1 to set up a 12-yard screen to Bhaysul Tuten for a score — pushing the Hokies lead to 14 at the half.
And it wasn’t just bad play-calling and clock management that hurt Pitt either. The decision to keep Jurkovec in the game hurt the Panthers.
Pitt fumbled away its first offensive possession of the first half — literally. VT ripped through the Panthers’ offensive line untouched, hit Jurkovec in the backfield and popped the ball free. The Hokies recovered and took just three plays to score from the Pitt 9. And as the lead rose to 21 points, morale sank even lower.
But. Pitt would answer as Jurkovec dumped a screen off to C’Bo Flemister on the Panthers’ next offensive snap, and he bounced off a couple of Hokies defenders on the way to a 61-yard touchdown. And the lead was cut to just 14 points. And then a horrible error from Drones, whiffing on a pass attempt, allowed an easy 4-yard Brylan Lovelace scoop-and-score touchdown to close the deficit to just a touchdown.
But the Hokies would capitalize on a busted coverage late in the 3rd quarter, Drones hitting a wide-open Jaylin Lane underneath on a play that turned into an untouched 53-yard touchdown. Back to a 14-point lead.
The offensive ineptitude continued deep into the third quarter as errant passes, sloppy penalties and a general lack of identity resulted in back-to-back punts with the game still — technically — within reach.
VT put it away with a masterful 14-play, 77-yard drive that burned nearly nine minutes off the clock, stretching the Hokies’ lead to 17 points with a 33-yard John Love field goal.
Pitt enters the bye week at 1-4, in the midst of a dismal four-game losing streak that makes you wonder if Pitt will be able to do anything to correct the numerous issues this season. 5-0 Louisville will travel to Pittsburgh on Oct. 14.