April 24, 2018

Virginia Tech Football: Hokies stifled by Panthers

The Virginia Tech Hokies recent history against the Pittsburgh Panthers hasn’t been good. Entering Saturday they had dropped five of their last six games against Pitt despite entering five of those contests as the higher-ranked team. However, Saturday’s 17-13 loss brought the Curse of Pitt to a new low as the Hokies were thoroughly dominated by the Panthers defense.

The Tech offense finished with exactly 100 total yards of offense and just nine yards rushing. The previous low in total yards for the Hokies since 2000 was 139 yards against Miami in 2006, a game they somehow won 17-10. The nine rushing yards are tied with Louisiana Monroe for the fifth-least amount of rushing yards by an FBS school this season. They’re the least put up by a Power 5 school this season.

Quarterback Brenden Motley had the worst game of his young career completing only nine of 20 attempts for 91 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. Not that he had much help from his offensive line, which spent most of the day yielding easily to the Panthers blitzing attack. They finished with 3 quarterback hurries and seven sacks allowed, including two back breakers on the Hokies’ final drive of the game. All the hits added up as Motley left the game at one point holding his right wrist and suffered from some pain his his throwing arm that hindered him late in the game.

On the defensive side of the ball things weren’t much better, despite the score. The Hokies played their typical break but don’t bend defense, stifling the Panthers for the most part with seven tackles for a loss and four sacks. But they also allowed freshman running back Qadree Ollison to rip off some huge gains including a 43 yard run to open the second half that set up a 25-yard touchdown run for Ollison that put the Panthers up 17-7. Ollison finished the game with 122 yards on 19 carries.

The first quarter was all Panthers as the Hokies defense struggled again to contain running quarterbacks. Pitt quarterbacks Chad Voytik and Nathan Peterman combined for 54 yards rushing on seven carries to give the Panthers a 10-0 lead after their first two drives of the game.

The Hokies struck back with a long drive that bridged the first and second quarter. They converted on 2nd and 19 and 3rd and 17 to move the ball down to the Panthers’ 11 yard line before Motley found Cam Phillips for the Hokies’ only touchdown of the day. The 12 play, 83 yard drive portended an uptick for the Tech offense that never came as they only picked up five first downs and two Joey Slye field goals the rest of the game.

The Hokies again failed to get their running backs going as Travon McMillan, J.C. Coleman and Trey Edmunds combined for only 22 yards on 13 carries, both season lows. In their first three games of the season Hokies running backs averaged 29.3 carries per game, in their two losses to East Carolina and Pitt they averaged 15 carries.

Tech forced four fumbles but was only able to recover one, which led to a three and out and a 43-yard Joey Slye field goal. They also blocked a Pitt field goal attempt late in the game that kept it a four point game, but another three and out led to a Hokie punt.

About James O'Hara

James O’Hara is a Contributor to District Sports Page covering Virginia Tech football. James is a 2014 graduate of Tech and a diehard Hokie fan. He has serious nostalgia for Blacksburg and always gets pumped up by the opening bars of “Enter Sandman”. James also writes about the Nationals for Citizens of NatsTown and general MLB for the Washington Post Fancy Stats blog. Follow him on Twitter @nextyeardc.

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