PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh turned a pair of early Virginia turnovers into touchdowns and the Panther defense did the rest in a 14-3 victory on Saturday.
Tom Savage completed 13 of 30 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions before leaving late in the fourth quarter. Tyler Boyd caught seven passes for 111 yards for Pitt. The Panthers (3-1, 2-1 ACC) have won three straight for the first time since 2010.
A week after giving up 55 points to Duke, Pitt's defense shut down the Cavaliers (2-2, 0-1). Virginia managed just 188 total yards. Quarterback David Watford completed 15 of 36 passes for 122 yards and Virginia never threatened to make it interesting after spotting the Panthers two first-quarter scores.
Both teams came in riding high. Pitt piled up 589 total yards in a shootout win over the Blue Devils while Virginia pounded VMI 49-0.
The going was considerably tougher for both sides in a game to make some sense of the jumble behind Virginia Tech in the ACC's Coastal Division. Instead, it proved to be a jumbled mess.
To see the complete box score CLICK HERE.
The teams combined for 17 punts, five turnovers and zero momentum.
Virginia pounded away at Savage, preventing Pitt's high-power passing attack from getting going. Savage was sacked seven times and didn't come out for Pitt's final series after taking a series of shots.
The Cavaliers were no better. Virginia botched a pair of fourth downs in Pittsburgh territory in the first half - eschewing makeable field goals in the process. They were points Virginia could have used late.
Virginia's best chance came late in the fourth quarter when Watford led a drive inside the Pittsburgh 5. His fourth-down pass to tight end Jake McGee sailed high and Pitt was able to run off most of the 3:24 remaining.
What the victory lacked in aesthetics, it made up for in meaning for the Panthers. Pitt plays at Virginia Tech next week with a chance to move into a tie for the top spot in the Coastal Division and a string of winnable games to follow.
The Cavaliers, meanwhile, continued to yo-yo between good and awful. They opened the season by edging BYU before getting stomped by No. 2 Oregon. They responded by drilling overmatched VMI but that sizzle was long gone on Saturday.
Two miscues deep in Virginia territory opened the door for Pitt to take command.
Forced to punt midway through the first quarter, Pitt's Matt Yoklic got off a low line drive that hit at the Virginia 35 and started rolling. Punt returner Dominique Terrell tracked the ball as it bounded down the field then decided to touch it despite having two Panthers right next to him. Trenton Coles fell on the loose ball at the Virginia 19. Four players later Conner bulled over from 6 yards out, winning a brutal collision with Virginia safety Brandon Phelps at the Virginia 4 then high-stepping into the end zone.
Things only got worse on Virginia's next possession as a snap from center Ross Burbank clanked off Watford's hands. Bam Bradley picked it up and it took the Panthers 41 seconds to double its advantage as Savage hit Street on a perfectly executed fade route in the corner of the end zone.
The cushion proved to be more than enough as Pitt's defense finished off an impressive turnaround with a little help from the lifeless Cavaliers.
From UVa athletics:
Quoting Virginia Head Coach Mike London:
On his decision to go for it on fourth down in the fourth quarter:
"We were down there and had the opportunity to get the first down. Even if you don't get the touchdown, there is still that chance that you get the first down. Talking to players and coaches, I said 'let's go for it.' We are on the road. We had two downs to get it. Obviously we didn't do a good job of executing today. It's disappointing to have had that many drops and to not be that efficient on third downs."
On Virginia's defense:
"We played a heck of a game. We played aggressive, and we played hard. We created turnovers, we sacked the quarterback and we hit the quarterback. When we can do those types of things, you expect the opportunities on the other side to give you a chance to score points."
On if the early fumble set the tone for the game:
"Early on you create a sudden-change situation where we muff a punt and they recover it, we have a bad snap and they get it in the red zone. Anytime an offense can use a short field to score touchdowns or points, it's always going to have an impact on the game. Obviously at the beginning, those 14 points had an impact on us."
Quoting freshman linebacker Max Valles:
On his performance:
"My teammates gave me the confidence all week. They told me every day that I'm a great player and that I just needed to show it. I really credit the older guys for giving me the confidence to go out there and play."
On why he is successful on the edge blocks:
"I use my speed as much as possible and try to stay motivated. If I get blocked I try to stay motivated and get as much as the pressure on the quarterback as possible."
Quoting junior tight end Jake McGee:
On his missed catches:
"I think I should have caught most of them. I expect myself to be able to make those plays."
On if missed catches can be contagious:
"We had a lot of drops today. It's something we have to improve on and fix."
Quoting junior wide receiver Dominique Terrell:
On what occurred on the muffed punt:
"I killed the play. I just tried to catch it to keep it down, but it slipped past me and hit my leg."
On what he is supposed to do it the punting situation:
"I'm supposed to get away from it, but I tried saving us field position."
Pitt Head Coach Paul Chryst
"It was certainly a good win. I'm appreciative of all the work that goes into it, from the players, coaches and everyone. That was a great win."
On the difference of this game versus the previous high-scoring game (vs. Duke):
"Last week, it wasn't like there was awful play. We had our moments. When you give up big plays, or you don't, you can see the difference. In two different weeks there were two totally different games."
On the performance of the defense:
"Our defense played really well. They brought a lot of energy. Certainly, those early turnovers were a key. We were able to cash in on them. It was certainly good and we appreciate the victory. There were a lot of good performances on defense, but mostly I felt everyone was doing their job. The players were cutting loose and that was good to see."
On the offensive performance:
"Offensively, we struggled and never really got a rhythm going. Virginia has a good defense. On third downs, we continued to struggle. We were consistent running the football. We never got in rhythm. We've got to work together to get better. I thought special teams did a better job today."
On the momentum of the game:
"Momentum is a big part of football. Defensively, we had it and were able to keep it. We had some big stops on third down and fourth down."
On preparing the team for the next game:
"You can build on all the positives. Offensively, defensively and special teams, you can't gain real confidence until you actually do it, and do it over and over. I think there are some things we can build on and absolutely we are gaining confidence."
Defensive Linemen Tyrone Ezell
On how it felt to get the win:
"It felt great to go three in a row. That's what we've been talking about all week. It's something we haven't done in a while here at Pitt, and it feels great right now."
On what the defense did different this week compared to last week's game:
"We just all did our jobs, and we did them well. That was the same saying for the whole week. We made sure all of our eyes were on our keys and we did that well."
Linebacker Matt Galambos
On the defense only giving up three points the whole game:
"I think we were ready to rise to the challenge today. Last week we gave up a lot of points, but a win is a win. We came in with a different mentality this week and tried to be more of a unit and cut down on big plays. I thought we leveraged the ball a lot today, gang tackled and played really relentless."
On when he found out he was going to start and how he felt out there:
"As soon as Shane [Gordon] went down, I figured I was the next man up, and coach told me that this is your job and that I should be ready to play. It was really awesome being out there though. I was really thankful to be out there and get a chance to start and play with all of our great players."
Running Back James Conner
On his touchdown run early in the game:
"I just wanted to get us on the board early. It's important to do and take some momentum away from the defense. I just really wanted to do that for my team."
On the play of the defense today:
"The defense was phenomenal today. We wouldn't have won this game without the way they played. You really have to give them credit. Hats off to the defense today for sure."
Defensive Tackle Aaron Donald
On defense carrying the team:
"It felt real good, especially after last week. Last week we missed plays and that is difference between last week and this week. Communication was real important and everybody was making plays. We got out there and did what we had to do."
On Coach Chryst:
"He was just telling us what we had to do. He told us communication was important on making plays. We went out there and tried to show that."
On the importance of keeping Virginia out of the end zone:
"It was really important at the end. It was a big fourth down stop."
On playing with a chip on his shoulder:
"I just go out there each week and just play the game. Football is just a game and it was fun."
Wide Receiver Tyler Boyd
On having another 100 yard game:
"I just want to continue to go out there and play my game. This week I did not think that I played to the best of my ability but I still went out there and got the job done."
On the lack of momentum on offense:
"Everyone was getting down about themselves, but linking back together and pushing ourselves down the field is what changed this game."
On the Pitt defense:
"This week I give all the credit to the defense. They did everything they had to do and that was a lot. It is never going to be perfect; it's football."
Wide Receiver Devin Street
On Virginia's defense:
"We have to give credit to the defensive coordinator. I think he planned tremendously. He made a lot of great calls. They double-teamed and triple-teamed. I think their defensive line did a tremendous job."
On Pitt's defense:
"I'm just so proud of our defense. They stepped up. It is just showing how much of a team we are and I think we still have a lot of work to do but we played as a team."
Virginia Team Notes
- Today the Virginia coaching staff wore a Coach to Cure MD patch to raise awareness and funding for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research. This is the sixth annual Coach to Cure MD effort from the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and UVa has taken part all six seasons.
- Virginia (2-2) is now 2-4 all-time against Pitt and 0-3 in Pittsburgh.
- Virginia drops its ACC opener for the fourth season in a row.
- OLB Max Valles and TE Rob Burnsmade their first career starts.
- UVa's defense held an opponent to under 200 yards of total offense in back-to-back games for the first time since 1972.
- UVa held VMI to 79 total yards and Pitt to 199 total yards.
- In 1972 UVa held Vanderbilt (Oct. 7) to 188 total yards and VMI (Oct. 14) to 122 total yards.
- With seven sacks against Pitt, UVa has collected at least three sacks in three of UVa's four games (BYU, VMI, Pitt).
- The seven are the most since UVa recorded nine against Duke in 2006.
- UVa was held scoreless in the first half for the first time since the 2012 TCU game.
- UVa did not score a touchdown for the first time since the 2011 Virginia Tech game.
- The UVa defense intercepted multiple passes for the first time since they snagged three at NC State in 2012.
- The UVa defense held Pitt to eight yards rushing, the fewest since Maryland rushed for -2 in 2012.
Virginia Player Notes
- OLB Max Valles recorded his first career sack in the first quarter.
- Valles finished the game with a career-high 2.5 sacks.
- QB David Watford's 19-yard rush in the second quarter was a career high.
- CB Demetrious Nicholson recorded his third career interception in the second quarter.
- It was Nicholson's first interception since the Georgia Tech game in 2011.
- WR Darius Jennings with two catches against Pitt extends his consecutive game streak with a catch to 17.
- CB Maurice Canady collected his first career sack on the final play of the first half.
- CB Anthony Harris forced his second career fumble in the third quarter.
- Harris collected his second interception of the season and third of his career in the third quarter.
- DE Jake Snyder recovered his third career fumble in the third quarter.
- Alec Vozenilek booted a career-long 77-yard punt in the third quarter.
- The 77-yard punt is the fourth-longest in UVa history.
- The 77-yard punt is the longest by UVa since Russ Henderson's 74-yard punt against Syracuse in 1977.
- WR Dominique Terrell registered his second career rush for a career-long 21 yards.
- Terrell's rush was his first since his collegiate debut in 2011 against William & Mary (three yards).
- Terrell's reception in the fourth quarter extends his consecutive game streak with a reception to 18.
Pitt Postgame Notes
- Stretching its winning streak to three games, the University of Pittsburgh (3-1, 2-1 ACC) outlasted Virginia (2-2, 0-1 ACC), 14-3, in a defensive battle on Saturday afternoon at Heinz Field. The Panthers recorded their third consecutive victory for the first time since a four-game winning streak that overlapped between the 2010 and '11 seasons. Pitt now has its first same-season three-game winning streak since the team defeated Syracuse, Rutgers and Louisville consecutively in 2010.
- The 14 points Pitt scored was the lowest points total in a victory for the team since the Panthers defeated West Virginia 13-9 on Dec. 1, 2007. The win also marked Pitt's first ACC triumph at home.
- Wide receiver Tyler Boyd recorded his third consecutive 100-yard receiving game, becoming the first Pitt freshman to achieve that feat since Antonio Bryant in 1999. Boyd finished with seven catches for 111 yards.
- The Pitt defense had its best game of the season, forcing two turnovers that the Panthers converted into first-quarter touchdowns (scored by James Conner and Devin Street) and limiting the Cavaliers to just 179 yards of total offense. The two turnovers resulted from first-career fumble recoveries by redshirt freshmen Trenton Coles and Bam Bradley, respectively. The Panthers' defensive unit made clutch plays throughout, holding Virginia to 1-for-4 on fourth-down attempts and halting five UVA drives in Pitt territory.
- Both teams struggled to run the ball effectively. Pitt held Virginia to 65 yards rushing; the last time the Panthers held an opponent to less than 75 yards rushing was at South Florida on Dec. 1, 2012 (eight yards). As a partial result of quarterback Tom Savage being sacked seven times, Pitt finished with just eight yards rushing, its lowest total since SMU held the Panthers to 10 rushing yards in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Jan. 7, 2012.
- The last time Pitt held an opponent to three points was at South Florida on Dec. 1, 2012.
- Senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald tallied two of Pitt's three sacks of Virginia quarterback David Watford. The pair of sacks pushed Donald's career total to 24.5, moving him into seventh place on the school's all-time sack list ahead of Brandon Lindsey (22.5), Dennis Atiyeh (23) and Bryan Knight (23.5).
- For the third straight week, Todd Thomas forced a turnover on downs by making a key tackle on fourth down. The junior linebacker snuffed out fake-punt attempts by New Mexico and Duke the last two weeks, and against Virginia he brought down Cavaliers running back Kevin Parks on a fourth-and-two play in the second quarter.
- Junior linebacker Anthony Gonzalez recorded a team-high and career-high 10 total tackles. His previous career-high total was eight tackles, which he achieved twice and most recently against Duke last week.
- Two true freshmen made their first career starts for Pitt: linebacker Matt Galambos and H-Back Jaymar Parrish. Galambos and Parrish joined tight end Scott Orndoff and wide receiver Tyler Boyd as true freshmen to earn a start for Pitt this season.