The Hoos put on a show at Scott Stadium with the alumni back in town for Homecomings Weekend, but could not deliver the fans a “W,” as they fell to Pittsburgh 45-31.
On the first drive of the game, Albert Reid ran for five yards to put Virginia up by seven early. More in line with how Big 12 teams play, the scoring did not stop there, from either team.
Pittsburgh was able to tie it up with a thirty-eight yard touchdown pass from Quarterback Nathan Peterman. The Panthers are known for their powerful rushing game, averaging 244.2 yards per game, but big plays from Virginia’s defense kept their first quarter stats low, earning only 25 yards.
Mizzell ran for 44 yards and a touchdown with a little under two minutes remaining in the first quarter. Virginia’s cushion was quickly deflated, as a special teams blunder allowed a 93-yard kickoff return by Pittsburgh’s Quadree Henderson.
Although Virginia’s staff prepared for Pittsburgh’s potent returns, Coach Mendenhall commented, “the difference today was special teams.”
Scoring momentum continued as Benkert threw a beautiful 74-yard pass to Olamide Zaccheaus, ending the first quarter 21-14.
Pitt’s running game returned in the second quarter as James Conner scored two touchdowns on the goal line, facing a fired up Virginia defense. With four seconds on the clock, the Panthers picked off Benkert’s pass and ran it 59 yards for a touchdown.
During the press conference Offensive Coordinator Coach Anae made sure it was known that it was his call to attempt a long pass with seconds remaining in the half. “I blew the call and I put our quarterback in a bad situation.”
It seems that interception was the beginning of Virginia’s downfall. “It certainly was a big play and it certainly was a momentum shifter,” said Coach Mendenhall.
After a missed field goal by the Panthers, Virginia’s drives fell short of the quality they held in the beginning. Both Virginia’s sidelines and fans in the stadium recognized the shift in atmosphere.
“In the second half, we got out of our game plan,” commented Coach Anae. He also emphasized how inconsistent the players became after a seemingly solid first half.
The Hoos lone score in the second half was an insignificant late field goal. Coach Mendenhall remarked, “the second half looked more like what both teams had probably anticipated,” in contrast to the pace and wildness of the first half.
Despite their first loss in the ACC, the Hoos will continue to try to improve and work on their consistency as they face North Carolina at home next Saturday.