Pitt vs. Virginia score: Panthers upset No. 25 Cavaliers as ACC Coastal race gets interesting

No. 25 Virginia’s opening drive of the night should have been all the indication anyone needed that its game against Pitt was going to be a weird one. The Cavaliers fumbled, but recovered, their opening kickoff, and then proceeded to run eight plays for 10 whole yards that took 4:30 off the clock. That set the tone for coach Bronco Mendenhall’s team losing to Pitt 23-13, and losing its grip on the ACC Coastal race in the process. 

As far as Pitt’s tendency to upset ranked teams, this doesn’t register as much. However, it shakes things up even more in the ACC Coastal race, so it is meaningful all the same. Here’s what we learned. 

Virginia shot itself in the foot in a costly way: Mistakes can be extra costly in close games like these. In a penalty-riddled game, the Cavaliers were the worse offender with 10 penalties for 81 yards. One of those penalties, a horse collar tackle on a third-and-11, kept a Pitt drive alive and resulted in a 15-play, 84-yard scoring effort to put the Panthers up 14-10 in the third quarter. Additionally, Virginia lost a fumble and gave up a lot of sack yards to get behind the sticks. 

Pitt asserting itself in the trenches was a difference: Virginia made mistakes, but that’s not to say Pitt didn’t deserve to win. The difference was how assertive the Panthers were in the ground game. An early example was coach Pat Narduzzi’s decision to go for a fourth-and-1 … from his own 10-yard line. The Panthers got the first down and were 2-of-2 on fourth down for the night. 

But things really turned a corner during the aforementioned 15-play, third-quarter scoring drive in which the Panthers pounded the rock 13 times. Running back Darrin Hall then followed that drive up with a 75-yard touchdown run on Pitt’s next possession. The senior was a monster with 229 yards at 12.1 yards per rush and three touchdowns. Pitt was the better team in the trenches on both sides, with five sacks on defense and 260 yards rushing. 

Pitt controls its ACC Coastal destiny, but things can get interesting: This was shaping up to be Virginia’s division to lose, as unlikely as that seemed just a couple of months ago. The Hoos were 4-1 in conference play — the only loss was to NC State from the Atlantic division — and with a win Friday, would have been in good position to finish things off at Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. The script has flipped now. For a night, at least, it’s Pitt that has a half-game lead on Virginia Tech in the Coastal race. The Hokies play No. 22 Boston College on Saturday, so they’d reclaim a half-game lead with a win. But with so much left to finish this weekend, and for the next few weeks, going over all of the scenarios would make your head spin. 

Just know that Pitt’s Nov. 10 game vs. Virginia Tech now has some significant meaning. And Virginia, for the record, still isn’t out of the running. We may not get the seven-team 4-4 tie, but this is classic ACC Coastal madness. 

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