PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Virginia Tech turned the ball over four times in the first half and gave up 305 yards of total offense in the first 20 minutes, and it resulted in a 35-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers in a nonconference game played Saturday afternoon at Heinz Field.
The loss snapped the Hokies’ school-record 13-game winning streak on the road, as they fell to 2-1 overall on the season. Pittsburgh won for the first time this season, moving to 1-2 on the year.
Tech fell behind 21-0 in the first half, but tried to come back. An 85-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Logan Thomas to receiver Marcus Davis with 3:30 left in the third quarter cut the Pittsburgh lead to 28-17.
But the Hokies got no closer the rest of the way, as Pittsburgh put things away midway through the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh quarterback Tino Sunseri threw a touchdown pass to tight end Mike Shanahan with 5:33 left to give the Panthers a 35-17 lead and seal the game.
“I thought they were well prepared, and they hit on all cylinders,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “It was just their day. I think we’ll learn from this and become a better football team. We’ve got to play better, defense and offense, we’ve got to play better. But they deserve all the credit. They played hard, and they played tough – and they played well.”
The first half turned out to be the Hokies’ undoing in this one. Thomas threw three interceptions, a Michael Holmes fumble led to a Pittsburgh touchdown and Tech’s offense amassed just 159 total yards. On the other side of the ball, the Hokies’ defense gave up 305 yards, did not force a turnover and sacked Sunseri just once in the first half.
“I wouldn’t say we weren’t ready to play, but we just came out a little slow,” backer Bruce Taylor said. “There’s nothing wrong with the structure of our defense. We were flying around, and we got downhill fast. We just had too many missed tackles. Missed tackles, penalties, turnovers … we just dug ourselves a hole and couldn’t get out of it.”
The Panthers marched down the field on their first possession, perhaps foreshadowing the day for Tech. Pittsburgh tailback Ray Graham scored on a 12-yard run, and Kevin Harper’s extra point gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
Two possessions later, the Panthers got on the board again, driving 86 yards in eight plays. Sunseri found Devin Street for a 13-yard touchdown pass that enabled the Panthers to take a 14-0 lead with 3:19 left in the first quarter.
Holmes’ fumble early in the second quarter led to the Panthers taking a 21-point bulge. Taking over at the Tech 10, Pittsburgh needed only two plays to get into the end zone, scoring on a 5-yard run by Graham. Harper’s extra point with 13:03 left made it 21-0 in favor of the Panthers.
Tech made it 21-3 on a field goal by Cody Journell with 7:57 left in the first half. The Hokies’ only other score on the day came when Kyshoen Jarrett returned a punt 94 yards for a touchdown – the second-longest punt return in Tech history.
Thomas completed 14 of 31 for 265 yards, with a touchdown and three interceptions. Davis caught four passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. Tech only rushed for 59 yards, with Thomas leading all Hokie rushers with 28.
“They didn’t play as hard in the first two games as they did today,” Thomas said of Pittsburgh’s defense. “They were strong, fast and physical, and they made us make mistakes. We’ll have to look at the film and see what happened, and then correct our mistakes.”
Sunseri completed 19 of 28 for 283 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception. Rushel Shell rushed for 157 yards, as the Panthers racked up 537 yards of offense.
Tech returns home for its next game, a nonconference affair against Bowling Green. Kickoff is slated for noon.
For updates on Virginia Tech football, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Football).