Blacksburg, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - Former Big East rivals are set to square
off for the first time as Atlantic Coast Conference foes, as the 24th-ranked
Virginia Tech Hokies host the Pittsburgh Panthers at Lane Stadium on Saturday
Pittsburgh has had two weeks to prepare for this contest after getting a bye
this past weekend. Pittsburgh has won three straight for the first time since
2010 after notching a 14-3 triumph over Virginia on Sept. 28.
"We got some things accomplished last week," Panthers head coach Paul Chryst
said at his weekly press conference. "We worked on some different areas that I
thought we needed work on. We got some guys a little bit healthier hopefully."
The Panthers' only loss so far was in the season opener against No. 6 Florida
Newly ranked Virginia Tech currently leads the ACC Coastal Division with a 2-0
league mark. The Hokies are seeking their sixth straight win after taking down
North Carolina over the weekend, 27-17. Like Pitt, their only loss came in the
season opener against top-ranked Alabama (35-10).
Virginia Tech holds a 7-5 lead in the all-time series. These teams met up last
season as non-conference foes at Heinz Field, where Pitt claimed a 35-17
victory over the then 13th-ranked Hokies. The Panthers have won the last four
A week after claiming a 58-55 win over Duke and scoring its most points in 18
years, Pitt's offense came back down to Earth against Virginia. Quarterback
Tom Savage completed only 13-of-30 passes for 190 yards with a touchdown and
two interceptions. He was also sacked seven times and did not take the field
for Pitt's final series after taking several big hits. According to coach
Chryst, Savage has been cleared to play this week. Freshman Tyler Boyd tallied
seven catches for 111 yards in the win over UVA. He and Devin Street have
combined for 44 catches, 870 yards and seven receiving touchdowns on the
season, as both are averaging better than 100 receiving yards per game. Pitt
is one of only three teams in the nation to have two players averaging more
than 100 yards receiving. Street, a senior, needs only seven catches to become
the school's all-time leader.
The Panthers yielded a mere 188 total yards against Virginia. They recovered
fumbles on back-to-back series in the first quarter to set up both of Pitt's
touchdowns. And while the offense was held off the scoreboard the rest of the
way, the defense never relented. The Cavaliers converted only 3-of-18 third
downs and was 1-of-4 on fourth down. Pitt held UVA quarterback David Watford
to 15-of-37 passing for 123 yards, while no Cavaliers player rushed for more
than 34 yards. Despite the success in that game, coach Chryst talked about the
challenges his defense will face in trying to slow down Hokies' quarterback
Logan Thomas and the spread attack.
"We want to make the quarterback uncomfortable," Chryst said. "But I think
they re settling in as they keep evolving. He's obviously a tremendous
athlete and talented quarterback. If he's going, their team is going. It'll be
a challenge for us. He's a good player."
One player who is certainly capable of making Thomas uncomfortable is senior
defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who ranks second nationally in both sacks (1.5
per game) and tackles for loss (2.3 per game).
Logan Thomas has compiled 8,158 yards of total offense in his career, second
all-time at Virginia Tech. While he has the ability to beat defenders with his
legs, lately he has been doing so by spreading the ball around. Tech has had
seven or more players catch passes in each of its last five games. D.J. Coles
has only caught 11 passes, but five of those receptions have gone for
touchdowns. In the win over UNC, the Hokies ran for only 48 yards and averaged
1.4 yards per carry as a team. However, Thomas was an efficient 19-of-28
passing for 293 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Willie Byrn
paced the receiving corps with 123 yards on four grabs.
Defensively, Virginia Tech has recorded at least one interception in 10
straight games. Cornerback Kyle Fuller notched his sixth career pick against
UNC, while Kyshoen Jarrett also came up with an interception. Jack Tyler and
Tariq Edwards shared team-high honors with 11 tackles apiece. Tech was also
strong against the run, limiting UNC to 99 rushing yards on 38 attempts (2.6
ypc). The Hokies have limited opponents to just nine trips inside the red zone
this season. Additionally, they have allowed only three rushing touchdowns all
season. The Tar Heels had only two red-zone opportunities and produced one
touchdown and one field goal.
The Sports Network