Pitt defeats Virginia, 14-3

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Pitt earned its second Atlantic Coast Conference win Saturday against Virginia, and it couldn't have looked much more different than the Panthers' first ACC win a week earlier.

After the offense stole the show last week against Duke, the defense held strong in Pitt's 14-3 victory against the Cavaliers at Heinz Field as the Panthers moved to 3-1 for the first time since 2009.

"I'd like to say I know what to expect for games, but I don't," Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. "I think that you have to prepare yourself and prepare your team for whatever happens.

"Two different weeks, two totally different types of games. If we can keep growing and learning to play together and play off each other, then we've got a chance to be better."

Neither offense saw much success Saturday. Pitt managed only 199 total yards, including a paltry 8 yards on 35 rushing attempts. Virginia had 188 yards of offense, but converted just 3 of 18 third downs.

Pitt got both of its touchdowns off of Virginia turnovers in the first quarter.

With 6:53 left in the quarter, Pitt cornerback Trenton Coles fell on a botched punt return by Virginia's Dominique Terrell, who let the bouncing ball hit his foot at the Virginia 19.

Four plays later, freshman running back James Conner bowled over Cavaliers safety Brandon Phelps for a 6-yard touchdown run.

Despite the touchdown, Conner was stifled for just 27 yards on 15 carries, an average of 1.8 yards per rush.

"It was frustrating," Conner said. "Being a running back, I don't like to lose yards."

The Cavaliers gave the ball back to Pitt with good field position on the next drive, when linebacker Bam Bradley recovered a fumble by Virginia quarterback David Watford.

With 2:28 left in the first, quarterback Tom Savage found receiver Devin Street in the corner of the end zone to put the Panthers up, 14-0.

"[The defense] brought a lot of energy and certainly those early turnovers were key," Chryst said. "Offensively we were able to cash in on it."

Savage finished 13 of 31 for 191 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

He did not finish the game, though, coming out in the fourth quarter with "concussion-like symptoms."

Chryst said he thought Savage got hurt on the final play of the third quarter, when he rushed for 14 yards and was the victim of what appeared to be a helmet-to-helmet hit as he slid to the turf.

Savage played eight snaps after the hit before being pulled, but wide receivers Tyler Boyd and Devin Street each said they could tell something was wrong with Savage.

Boyd described Savage as "wavy" and "drowsy" in the huddle.

"He wasn't OK," Street said. "He wanted to say he was OK, but he was gagging, he wanted to throw up."

Chad Voytik came on for Pitt's final series, but did not throw a pass. Savage will have further medical testing this week.

Boyd finished the game with seven catches for 111 yards. He became the first Pitt freshman to have three consecutive 100-yard receiving games since Antonio Bryant in 1999.

He also showed his first signs of mortality, though, with a fumble and a dropped pass early in the game.

"I was real shocked I dropped that ball," Boyd said. "It was a perfectly thrown ball, it hit my hands, both of them. I don't know what happened. It just came out."

While Pitt's offense sputtered, its defense didn't allow the Cavaliers to get back in the game.

Virginia kicked a field goal with 1:23 left in the third quarter, and had the ball at the Pitt 3 with just under four minutes to play in the game. Rather than kick a field goal on fourth down, Cavaliers coach Mike London opted to go for it, and Watford's pass attempt was broken up.

While Virginia's offense looked out of sync all day, Pitt's defensive performance was a far cry from the 55 points and 532 total yards it allowed last week at Duke.

"We won [last week], but we [the defense] didn't feel like we've played as well as we know we can," defensive tackle Tyrone Ezell said. "[Saturday] was just another statement. We just felt like we had to practice, tighten things down, come out and show Pitt defense is here."

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Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG First Published September 28, 2013 8:00 PM


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