FEAST THEN FAMINE
Heading into Pitt’s game Saturday at Virginia, the Panthers were known as a team whose offense came out of the gates rolling but turned somewhat stale after halftime.
Pitt averaged just 15 points per second half before Saturday despite posting nearly 40 points per game. Again, against UVA, the Panthers’ opponent found no answers for Pitt’s explosive offense through two quarters, allowing Pitt to score 35 first half points.
But Pitt gave the ball back to the Cavaliers on its first three possessions in the third quarter, and it wasn’t until the nine-minute mark in the fourth quarter that Pitt snagged a two-possession lead when fullback George Aston broke a tackle after hauling in a shuffle pass from Nathan Peterman and bolted into the end zone.
Pitt would go on to set kicker Chris Blewitt up for a 25-yard field goal later in the quarter to ultimately put the game out of the Cavaliers’ reach.
Pitt now averages 14 points per second half and 24 points per first half. That’s a staggering difference.
CARRYING ON TRADITION
Offensively, the jet sweep and other forms of designed outside rushes (excluding counter runs) accounted for 22 percent of Pitt’s total offensive play calls Saturday (15 of 67 plays), producing 73 yards (30 percent of its total yardage).
Leading the way in Pitt’s newest unofficial offensive category, the jet sweep, was safety Jordan Whitehead, who took three carries for 28 yards. Rafael Araujo-Lopes took two jet sweeps for 16 yards; Tre Tipton took three for 10 yards; Maurice Ffrench took three for 7 yards; Quadree Henderson took two for 6 yards; and Aston took one for 6 yards.
Pitt did not run the ball outside once in the third quarter, the lone quarter in which the Panthers were held scoreless.
JARRETT COMES UP BIG
A couple plays into the fourth quarter, Pitt hog Tyrique Jarrett made what should unanimously be Pitt’s defensive stop of the game. On a third down and 1 at Virginia’s 43 yard line and with Pitt clinging to a 35-28 lead, the senior out of Pittsburgh’s Taylor Allderdice got around his man to wrap up UVA running back Albert Reid shy of the line of scrimmage, forcing a punt.
Pitt scored on its next drive, putting the game away.
PANTHERS DEFENDERS INJURED
Pitt’s star-studded defensive end Ejuan Price appeared to have made awkward contact with a couple players during a passing situation while Price was away from the ball. Price hobbled around for a few seconds before giving his body to the ground, where he lay for a few moments stretching his back. When he stood up and walked off the field, he grabbed his side.
Linebacker Bam Bradley also sacked Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert, but Bradley left the game in the fourth quarter after being pancaked by several Pitt players who swarmed Benkert and took the quarterback down.
Safety Terrish Webb was posting an improved performance before getting injured late in the first half. Webb appeared to get clocked in the head while making a goal line tackle. He, too, did not return.
CONNER DOES IT ALL
Throughout Saturday’s contest, James Conner was Pitt’s go-to on third-and fourth-down situations when the Panthers needed a couple yards to advance the sticks. The junior bull rushed for 90 yards on 20 carries, but he also made an appearance on defense, filling the void of Price.
With Virginia facing a second and 15 midway through the fourth quarter, Conner lined up at right defensive end. When the ball was snapped, Conner spun around 6-foot-5, 290-pound left tackle Jack English and was picked up by 6-foot-6, 295-pound guard Michael Mooney. He averted Mooney and got to Benkert's blind side a step after Benkert launched a pass downfield that fell incomplete, knocking Benkert to the ground.
Conner will likely record a quarterback hurry on the play.