Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
Virginia Tech's season has been defined by steady improvement over the past two months with the Hokies putting together their two best performances of the season the past two weeks with a dominant 36-17 home victory against Wake Forest and a 45-0 shutout against Georgia Tech. However, the Hokies topped those two games with their best performance of the season to send Bud Foster out on a winning note inside Lane Stadium, and eliminate Pittsburgh from the Coastal race.
Virginia Tech beat Pittsburgh 28-0 to improve to 8-3 on the season including 5-2 in ACC play while Pitt fell to 7-4 including 4-3 in ACC play. The Hokies' victory sets up next week's game against Virginia as a Coastal Championship game with Pitt eliminated from Coastal title contention after their loss to the Hokies. This was also the first time Virginia Tech had back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 45-0 victories over Duke and Ohio in 2005.
The Hokies were the dominant team by far as they outgained Pittsburgh 263-177 while also forcing a turnover via a Rayshard Ashby strip sack that was returned for a touchdown by Norell Pollard. The Hokies also held Pitt to 3-15 on third down while the Panthers also were 0-3 on fourth down.
Hendon Hooker had a strong performance going 10-13 for 153 yards and 2 touchdowns while running for 27 yards. The redshirt sophomore continues to be solid for the Hokies while also not having any passes that feel at great risk of being interceptions.
Tayvion Robinson was the Hokies' biggest offensive star with 106 yards on 3 touches including a 71-yard reception and a 32-yard delayed reverse carry. Tre Turner was productive as well with 3 catches for 30 yards and a touchdown plus 4 carries for 18 yards while Damon Hazelton had a 2-yard touchdown reception. Dalton Keene had 2 catches for 45 yards while James Mitchell had a one-yard touchdown run and Deshawn McClease had 31 yards on 12 carries.
Rayshard Ashby was the defensive star for the Hokies with 7 tackles including 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble that was recovered by Norell Pollard for a touchdown. Chamarri Conner also shared the team lead in tackles with 7 including 1.5 total tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks plus a QB hurry. Jermaine Waller had 3 pass breakups and 3 tackles while Reggie Floyd had 5 tackles and 1 pass breakup.
Almost everything was positive for Virginia Tech outside of going 3-12 on third down and averaging only 2.3 yards per carry. Overall, the Hokies were dominant especially on the defensive side with Pitt averaging 2.2 yards per carry and Kenny Pickett completing only 10 of his 26 passes.
Virginia Tech's defense had a vintage performance worthy of Bud Foster's final game in Lane Stadium while the offense handled the weather well for a solid performance overall. What continues to be clear is that the Hokies are the second-best team in the ACC as they continue to improve.
Next week, they'll take on the one team that may be able to challenge that claim in Virginia in what may is the biggest Commonwealth Cup game in years with the Coastal also on the line in this game for the first time since 2011.
Virginia Tech started at their 25 after a Pittsburgh touchback. The Hokies started with a nine-yard run from Hendon Hooker after he did a great job of faking a pitch with Deshawn McClease picking up 2 and a first down on the next play. Tre Turner had a one-yard gain on a jet sweep on first down followed by a three-yard gain from Deshawn McClease to set up a 3rd and 6 with Hooker being unable to pick up the first after being stopped at the line of scrimmage. Bradburn had a 36-yard punt that was fair caught at the Pitt 24.
Pittsburgh opened their first drive with a pair of incompletions broken up by Caleb Farley and Reggie Floyd. Pitt was unable to convert on third down with Jermaine Waller having the pass breakup to force a punt. Pitt's punt was caught at the VT 33 by Tayvion Robinson with Robinson returning it 2 yards and a 5-yard penalty against Pitt giving the Hokies the ball at their 40.
After a first down incompletion, Hendon Hooker scrambled for 3 yards to set up a 3rd and 7. Virginia Tech was unable to convert as Pittsburgh sacked Hooker for a 5-yard loss to force a punt. Bradburn's second punt went over 40 yards with Pitt downing it at their own 20.
Pitt opened with a carry by Shocky Jacques-Louis who was stopped for no gain off the jet sweep. V'Lique Carter picked up 4 on second down to set up a 3rd and 6 with Pickett's pass going incomplete to force another punt. Tayvion Robinson had a great punt return off this punt taking it 20 yards to the Pitt 47.
Tech started with a swing screen hybrid pass to Keshawn King for a one-yard loss followed by a King carry for no gain on second down, setting up 3rd and 11 at the Pitt 48. Hooker found Tre Turner for a 10-yard gain to set up a 4th and 1, but the snap ended up over Hooker's head with VT losing 12, giving Pittsburgh the ball at the 50.
Pitt handed it to AJ Davis to start this possession with Davis going for no gain followed by another carry for Davis going for 3 yards to set up 3rd and 7. After a false start, Pitt's 3rd and 12 pass was incomplete forcing the Panthers to punt. Tayvion Robinson took the punt from the 6 and returned it four yards to the VT 10.
Deshawn McClease got the Hokies going with an 11-yard gain on first down followed by a 7-yard catch and run to the VT 28 on the next play. Hooker then stepped up as the rush was getting to him and found an open Tayvion Robinson who made multiple Pitt players miss and took it 71 yards to set up a 1st and goal on the 1. James Mitchell punched it in on the next play to give Virginia Tech a 7-0 lead with 3:16 to go in the first quarter.
After a John Parker Romo touchback, Virginia Tech's defense had another big play with Rayshard Ashby getting a strip sack on Kenny Pickett and Norell Pollard recovering it, running it 7 yards for his first career touchdown. Brian Johnson tacked on the extra point after to give Virginia Tech a 14-0 lead with 3:07 to go in the first quarter.
After another Romo touchback, Pitt started with a five-yard carry from AJ Davis followed by another 4 yards from Davis to set up a 3rd and 1. Kenny Pickett scrambled for the first down on the next play gaining 8 yards to the Pitt 42. After a first down incompletion, Pickett's second down completion to Taysir Mack went for a 2-yard loss to set up 3rd and 12. Pickett was able to escape a collapsed pocket and find AJ Davis who only gained 7, setting up another Pitt punt with the punt going out of bounds at the VT 19.
Virginia Tech opened their drive with the final play of the first quarter, a three-yard carry for Deshawn McClease. Hendon Hooker gained 3 more before Tre Turner picked up 17 yards on a screen to pick up the first down. McClease had a 2-yard gain on the next play followed by a 1-yard for Hooker, setting up 3rd and 9. VT's pass was incomplete, but they gaines the first due to a 10-yard defensive holding penalty against Pitt. Hooker then loss 7 after a first down sack with holding pushing VT back 10 more yards. Hooker and McClease combined for 2 yards of loss before VT punted with Oscar Bradburn's punt being downed at the Pitt 32.
Pitt picked up their first big gain of the day to start this drive with Pickett finding an open Jared Wayne for a 31-yard gain and a first down followed by a 19-yard completion to Taysir Mack at the VT 18. Pickett had to scramble away on the next play for no gain. Shocky Jacques-Louis picked up four on a jet sweep to set up a 3rd and 6. The Panthers burned their second timeout before the play with Pickett scrambling for 4 to set up a 4th and 2 at the VT 10. Pickett got the fourth down pass off just before Chamarri Conner got to him, but the pass was low and slightly behind V'Lique Carter who was unable to bring it in, giving VT the ball and a huge fourth down stop.
Hooker opened the drive with a 5-yard gain on the ground followed by a Tre Turner jet sweep that gained 5 more and a first down at the VT 20. Turner then had a false start to make it 1st and 15 at the VT 15 with Hooker gaining that back and then some via an 8-yard run, Hooker then escaped a collapsed pocket and made a guy miss before gaining 10 yards and a first down at the VT 33. King gained one yard on a fumble recovered by himself at the VT 34. Hooker then found Dalton Keene on a checkdown screen to gain 18 yards to the Pitt 48.
Tayvion Robinson had a catch-and-run to the edge for a 3-yard gain on first down with McClease gaining 2 more yards to set up 3rd and 5. McClease gained 3 more on third down to set up a 3rd and 2 with VT drawing an offsides to pick up a 1st and 10 at the Pitt 35. Virginia Tech then ran a delayed reverse to Tayvion Robinson who gained 32 yards to set up first and goal at the 3. Hooker's first down run was stuffed for no gain with VT calling timeout with 50 seconds left in the first half followed by a Pitt. Virginia Tech punched it in on the next play with Hooker finding Tre Turner for a 3-yard touchdown to give the Hokies a 21-0 lead with 45 seconds left in the first half.
Pittsburgh fair caught the kickoff to give themselves the ball at their 25. The Panthers started with a 1-yard screen pass to Taysir Mack followed by a second down incompletion to set up 3rd and 9. V'Lique Carter ran for 8 yards, but came up just short with Justin Fuente calling a timeout to force a Pitt punt with 9 seconds left in the half. Pitt was able to get the punt off cleanly with the play ending the half as VT took a 21-0 lead into halftime.
The Hokies were the dominant team outgaining Pittsburgh 202-77 while forcing a Pittsburgh turnover via a Rayshard Ashby strip sack that Norell Pollard returned for his first career touchdown. The Hokies also only had 2 penalties for 15 penalty yards while Pitt had 4 for 25 including a fourth down offsides that kept VT's late second quarter TD drive alive.
Tayvion Robinson was the offensive star in the first half with 106 total yards on 3 touches including a 71-yard reception and a 32-yard carry. Hendon Hooker was productive and efficient going 7-8 for 129 yards and a touchdown while running for 24 yards on 12 carries. Tre Turner also made a big difference with 3 catches for 30 yards and a touchdown plus 2 carries for 6 yards while James Mitchell had a 1-yard rushing touchdown.
Defensively, Rayshard Ashby led the way with his aforementioned strip sack as he shared the team lead in tackles with 4 along with Divine Deablo. Norell Pollard had his first career touchdown via a fumble return plus a tackle and QB hurry while Caleb Farley had a pass breakup and QB hurry, and Reggie Floyd had 3 tackles and a QB hurry.
Pittsburgh fair caught the kickoff to give the Pathers the ball at their 25. The Panthers opened the drive with a 20-yard completion from Kenny Pickett to Jared Wayne. Pickett threw a pass that was intercepted by Divine Deablo by offsetting penalties of illegal motion and a controversial defensive pass interference. Pickett gained nothing on the new first down play followed by a Pitt false start to set up 2nd and 15 with Pitt calling timeout before the play.
Pitt gained 8 on a short pass play to Shocky Jacques-Louis followed by a wrong late hit penalty against Chamarri Conner to tack on 15 and a Pitt first down at the VT 37. Pickett then found Wayne for 8 more through the air, but a 10-yard holding wiped out a long completion on the next play to set up 2nd and 12 at the VT 39. Davis gained 1 on the second down carry to set up a 3rd and 11 with Jermaine Waller breaking up the third down pass to force a Pitt punt. Pittsburgh punt barely went for a touchback, giving the Hokies the ball at their 20.
The Hokies started with a two-yard loss for Deshawn McClease followed by a 13-yard loss for Hendon Hooker on a Pitt sack, setting up 3rd and 25 at the VT 5. Hooker gained one yard as VT tried to get the ball away from their own end zone leading to an Oscar Bradburn that was fair caught in VT territory with an illegal formation penalty giving Pitt the ball at the VT 39.
Pitt opened with a Pickett incompletion followed by a drop by Shocky Jacques-Louis to set up 3rd and 10. Bud Foster then dialed up a blitz that worked perfectly with Rayshard Ashby and Chamarri Conner sacking Pickett for a 13-yard loss, forcing Pitt to punt. Pitt's punt went inside the 10 with Tayvion Robinson returning it to the VT 16. However, a block in the back pushed VT back to their own 8 to start their next possession.
McClease opened this possessions with a two-yard loss followed by an incompletion to Damon Hazelton that likely should have been defensive holding or pass interference. Hooker scrambled for 6 yards, but the run wasn't enough with VT being forced to punt. Bradburn got the ball out of Tech territory with Pitt fair catching it at the Pitt 46.
Pittsburgh's jet sweep to Jacuqes-Louis was sniffed out with Chamarri Conner bringin him down for a 7-yard loss. Pitt then had a second down incompletion to Mack to set up a 3rd and 17. Pitt converted on their first try, but an illegal formation wiped it out to set up 3rd and 22 at the Pitt 34. The Panthers were unable to convert this time with AJ Davis only gaining 7. Hezekiah Grimsley muffed the punt, but Armani Chatman was there to dive on the ball immediately at the VT 17.
Hooker gained five on a run up the middle to start the drive followed by a two-yard run from Hooker to set up 3rd and 3. Virginia Tech was able to convert after a five-yard run from McClease to the VT 29. Hooker then found an open Dalton Keene who made a great catch to gain 27 yards and a first down at the Pitt 44. Tre Turner gained 8 more yards on a double reverse on first down with McClease picking up another first down after a 6-yard carry to the Pitt 30.
Hooker ran for a two-yard loss on the next play followed by an incompletion to set up 3rd and 12. Tech was unable to convert after McClease was tackled for a five-yard loss on a screen play, leading to a punt. Bradburn had a great punt with Armani Chatman catching it to down the ball at the Pitt 3, but an illegal formation wiped out the first punt. Bradburn had another great punt that was downed at the Pitt 5 by Oscar Shadley.
AJ Davis ended the third quarter with a four-yard carry to set up 3rd and 6 at the Pitt 9. Pickett opened the fourth quarter by scrambling for 5 yards to set up a third and 1 at the Pitt 14 that Pickett converted with a two-yard QB sneak to the Pitt 16. Pickett's first down pass was incompletion, but he found Jared Wayne for a nine-yard gain to set up another 3rd and 1 that Pitt failed to convert after AJ Davis was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Pitt went for it on 4th and 1, but Pickett's pass was broken up at the line of scrimmage by Jarrod Hewitt.
McClease opened the drive with a two-yard loss, but a facemask against Pitt wiped out the run and gave the Hokies a 1st and 10 at the 12. Tre Turner gained four on a jet sweep with a Paris Ford hit causing Turner to fumble out of bounds. Additionally, Ford's hit was determined to be targeting with Ford being ejected, giving VT a first and goal at the 4. Hooker gained 1 yard up the middle on first down followed by no gain for Hooker on second down to set up 3rd and goal at the 3. Virginia Tech punched it in on third down as Hooker found Damon Hazelton for a three-yard touchdown to give Virginia Tech a 28-0 lead with 10:12 to go.
After a John Parker Romo touchback gave Pitt the ball at their 25, V'Lique Carter opened the Pitt drive with a 26-yard run to the VT 49. Pickett then took a deep shot that was nearly an interception with Chamarri Conner dropping it. Vincent Davis gained 5 on second down to set up a 3rd and 5 that they failed to convert after a 2-yard pass play to Vincent Davis, setting up 4th and 3. Pitt's fourth down failed as Pickett's pass was incomplete, giving VT the ball at their own 42.
The Hokies brought in Quincy Patterson at QB to start this drive with Caleb Steward picking up 5 yards on first down that was wiped out by a five-yard false start. Steward gained 2 yards on third down with Quincy Patterson's pass to Phil Patterson being incomplete, leading to a punt. Bradburn had a solid punt that Pittsburgh fair caught at their own 16.
Pitt brought in backup QB Nick Patti to start this drive with Vincent Davis gaining six on first down. V'Lique Carter lost four on second down to set up a 3rd and 8 with Patti finding by Aaron Matthews for 14 yards and a first down at the Pitt 32. Patti's first down pass was incomplete with a five-yard penalty against Pitt setting up 2nd and 15. Vincent Davis ran for 4 on 2nd down to set up a 3rd and 11 with Pitt failing to pick it up after Patti scrambled for 3 yards, forcing a Pitt punt. Hezekiah Grimsley returned the 42-yard punt six yards to the VT 30.
Caleb Steward picked 10 yards on 2 carries to give the Hokies a first down and allow Virginia Tech to kneel it out.