The Pitt Panthers looked like they might be ahead of schedule in their first season as a member of the ACC. They entered Saturday’s contest against the Virginia Tech Hokies at 3-1 overall and 2-1 in conference play as Paul Chryst found playmakers on offense to carry Pitt in the early going. But the Hokies dominated Chryst’s offense this weekend as the offensive line completely fell apart under the Virginia Tech attack and undercut any shot the Panthers had at pulling off the win.
Tom Savage has been a key piece to Pitt’s hot start at quarterback and he needed to have a great day if the Panthers wanted to upend Frank Beamer‘s squad. Instead, Savage spent the day running for his life (without much success) as the Tech defense got after him in a major way and made his life miserable for all four quarters. The Hokies recorded a season-high 8.0 sacks on the day (one more than their previous best of 7.0 sacks against the East Carolina Pirates) and pressured Savage another seven times. The offensive line offered little resistance as their quarterback got harassed.
And they didn’t redeem themselves much in the running game either. Pitt backs gained just 51 yards on the night and broke just one running play longer than 10 yards. Part of the problem was that the pressure getting through on passing plays was putting the Pitt offense behind schedule in terms of down and distance. Getting knocked back on first or second down on a pass play makes it hard to lean on the running game to get first downs. Chryst was put in no-man’s land from a play-calling perspective because of how completely dominated his offensive line was all night long.
The Virginia Tech defense is one of the strengths of the Hokies this season, without a doubt. But the performance they gave on Saturday was other-worldly. Pitt’s offensive line was completely overmatched from the start and prevented the Panthers from having any shot at victory. If they can’t do a better job than that, Pitt will find the rest of their schedule a daunting and impossible challenge.