The Hokies battled from behind for most of the game tonight in a 21-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers. They fell behind early when Pitt quarterback Chad Voytik hit Tyler Boyd for a 53 yard touchdown pass on the opening drive of the game. Boyd smoked the VT secondary for 86 yards on 6 catches in the game. On the ground, Voytik and superb running back James Conner combined for over 200 yards rushing. Meanwhile, the Virginia Tech offense morphed from abysmal in the first half to merely serviceable in the second.
The offensive play calling in the second defined any sort of logic and was a key reason why the Hokies did not have a single first down until about six minutes left on the second quarter. Offensive Coordinator Scot Loeffler consistently called plays on first down with little to no chance of being converted for a first down. The ultra conservative play calling was likely a consequence of the Hokies missing their top three running backs (Marshawn Williams, Shai McKenzie, and Trey Edmunds) and quarterback Michael Brewer‘s prolific propensity for turning the ball over.
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However, even the uninspired play calling proved to be too much for the inconsistent Hokies to execute. Virginia Tech was penalized 8 times for 45 yards, including multiple pre-snap red zone penalties. Then there were the turnovers. While usual suspect Brewer had a turnover free night, his teammates proved to unable to hold onto the football. While there was only one fumble lost in game, there were several fumbles that the Hokies either had overturned on replay or recovered. At one point, a fumble was overturned by instant replay only for the Hokies to turn the ball over on the very next play.
Oct 16, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner (24) rushes for a fifteen yard touchdown past Virginia Tech Hokies safetyDetrick Bonner
(8) and defensive backKyshoen Jarrett
(34) during the second quarter against at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Hokies did not put the ball into the end zone until there was less than five minute left in the half, as they consistently settled for field goals. Unfortunately, Pitt was busy scoring touchdowns. As it tends to happen, trading field goals for touchdowns rarely is a winning formula. It certainly wasn’t tonight.
In the end, the Hokie offense’s failure to show up in the first half was their ultimate undoing. Those missed opportunities put the defense in a hole as they were not able to have a long breather in the first half. By the time the VT offense seemingly showed up in the second half, it was too little too late.
The Hokies fall to 4-3 on the season and now have two losses in the ACC, making a return the ACC Championship Game appearance as the Coastal Division champ increasingly unlikely.