Despite a horrendous start to the game, Pitt’s offense was rolling early in the second half. James Conner was looking like James Conner. The play calling was looking good as well. Nathan Peterman was making a few timely throws. With the defense starting to buckle from a great start, Pitt needed to keep putting up points.
The bend, but don’t break D managed to keep Virginia Tech to a field goal to maintain a two point lead with about seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. Peterman bolted 20+ yards and the Panthers maintained possession after he fumbled the football. This gave Pitt a golden opportunity to put a lot of pressure on the Hokies. They faced a first-and-ten at their own 47-yard line. It was here that I think everyone questioned the next series of plays called by Pitt offensive coordinator, Matt Canada.
On first down, Canada went to a play that has been very successful this year. A jet sweep to Quadree Henderson. Please note that I said “has been” in that last sentence, because from the start last night, it was NOT. It didn’t work all night and you could hear the rumblings in the crowd, as Virginia Tech safety Chuck Clark lit up Henderson for a three-yard loss. From there, Dontez Ford fell down on out pattern downfield. I don’t think anyone had an issue with that, but the next play?
On 3rd and 13, from their own 44, Pitt went ultra conservative and to the jet sweep yet again. This time they tried it with Ford, who was promptly surrounded by four Virginia Tech defenders and dropped for a one-yard gain. Why? Peterman was making throws. Conner was rolling. Pitt had a chance to really put the pressure on the Hokies and missed.
It cost them. Virginia Tech took the lead on the next possession and the best Pitt could do after that was tie the game, at one point, on a two-point conversion. That didn’t last long, as Tech continued to throw deep ball after deep ball against Pitt’s outmatched defensive backfield.