Mistakes have plagued Virginia since the start of the season; two huge mistakes cost Virginia aA 45-31 loss to the Panthers. Virginia came into this game on a two-game winning streak, while the Panthers were also on a two-game winning streak.
In the first half, the Cavaliers took it to Pitt. Kurt Benkert and the offensive coordinator was dialing up some good plays that got the ball down the field within the heart of the Panthers. ThePanthers’ defense was struggling to get some type of pressure on Benkert, but it did not help. In
the first quarter alone, Benkert opened the door wide up with different slant passes, misdirections, and the offensive line held key blocks to spring Albert Reid in the end zone in for the
first touchdown. Pit scored on the second possession that they had after a Virginia three and out. With only seconds left on the clock before halftime, Benkert was picked off by Jordan Whitehead. Whitehead took it to the house and Virginia’s momentum was suddenly in jeopardy.
“It was gigantic. It was gigantic,” Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi said after the Panthers won 45-31 Saturday. “We’ve been waiting for one of those picks in that coverage and we finally got one. …Tremendous football play by him and then he finds a way to get it in the end zone.”
With the unnecessary interception before the half, Pitt outscored Virginia 21-7 and led 35-28 at the half. “Man, it’s hard to keep up that pace of the wildness and emotional levels and the swings,” said Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall. “It’s not normal to return a kick for a touchdown. It’s not normal to have a pick six. Those are plays that don’t happen very often. It’s not normal to have a giant return. There was just some volatility in there, and the second half looked probably like both teams anticipated. When you have the lead, you usually call plays differently. When you’re coming from behind, you normally call plays differently. Sometimes your identity shifts a little bit with the maturity of your team.”
After a pretty explosive first half from both teams, the second half was a defensive struggle for Virginia. Virginia did not have much success with getting first downs and the Panthers put a lot of pressure on Benkert. Reid was not that effective with getting to Pitts’ secondary and their run defensive shut down any holes that Reid was trying to get to. Virginia could not do anything offensively or stop the Panthers from scoring defensively. Pittsburgh scored twice in the second half to put the game away 45-31.
“Really, this was a game of a few special-teams plays and an interception returned for a touchdown,” said Mendenhall. K.Benkurt finished the game 278 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, while Nathan Peterman finished the game 137 yards, two touchdowns, and zero picks.