Early lead too much to overcome for Hokies in first loss
PITTSBURGH -- Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer remembers all too well how Pittsburgh made a habit of ruining potentially special seasons for his program when the two schools were in the Big East.
Nearly a decade after the Hokies bolted for the ACC -- where the Panthers are slated to join them next fall -- not much has changed.
Pitt forced No. 13 Virginia Tech into four first-half turnovers and bullied the Hokies all over the field in a 35-17 victory on Saturday, an emphatic opening salvo to a rivalry that will be renewed full time next fall when Pitt joins Virginia Tech in the ACC's Coastal Division.
"I thought [Pitt was] hitting on all cylinders, and I thought it was their day," Beamer said. "We've got to play a lot better. [But] Pitt deserves a lot of credit. They played hard, and they played well. And they got the win today."
Virginia Tech (2-1) has lost four straight to Pitt (1-2) dating back to 2001, with each loss coming while the Hokies were ranked in the top 15. Unlike the last two meetings, however, this required no late-game heroics.
Some sloppy play by Virginia Tech made sure of that.
Quarterback Logan Thomas completed just 14 of 31 passes for 265 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. The Hokies managed just 59 yards rushing. Not even a 94-yard punt return for a touchdown by Kyshoen Jarrett in the third quarter could produce the necessary spark for Virginia Tech to overcome an early 21-0 deficit.
"When we came out after halftime, we eliminated the score and said it was 0-0," Jarrett said. "We felt like we could come out and play the way that we needed to play, and [my punt return] helped. But we weren't able to do much after that."
Three times in the second half, the Hokies had the ball while trailing by 11. All three times they came up empty.
"We thought we had a shot the entire time, I guess, until the very end," Thomas said. "We moved the ball all day, but we got inside their 40 and everything stopped."
The Panthers had no such issues.
Pitt ran up 537 total yards led by running backs Ray Graham and Rushel Shell. Graham ran for 94 yards and two scores and added an 18-yard touchdown reception, while Shell added 157 yards to give coach Paul Chryst his first win as coach
"I got to hear the fight song, which was nice," Chryst said with a laugh.
Virginia Tech had won 13 straight true road games, the longest active streak in the country, but let Pitt race to a quick three-touchdown lead and never really threatened.
ACC commissioner John Swofford even offered Pitt a pregame videotaped introduction before the opening kickoff, welcoming the Panthers to the league in 2013.
Somehow -- after two baffling, listless losses to open the season -- Pitt looked more than ready to make the move.