Virginia Tech suffered an embarrassing loss at the hands of Pittsburgh, 35-17 in Heinz Field on Saturday afternoon. The Hokies dropped to 2-1 on the season, while Pitt won their first game and now stand at 1-2.
A team that was 0-2 after suffering losses to 1-AA Youngstown State 31-17 and to Cincinnati 34-10 dominated Tech on both sides of the ball on Saturday. The Tech defense was blown off the ball from the opening whistle, surrendering 537 yards of total offense. Pittsburgh ran for 254 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry.
True freshman tailback Rushel Shell, whom the Hokies recruited out of high school, had easily the best game of his young career. He carried the ball 23 times for 157 yards, while returning starter Ray Graham (coming off a torn ACL) had 24 carries for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Tino Sunseri was 19-of-28 for 283 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception. Despite being injured in the second half, Sunseri carried his team down the field against the Tech defense while limping noticeably.
The Virginia Tech offense had basically the same faults that they had the first two games of the season: the offensive line was whipped at the line of scrimmage in the running game, and Logan Thomas played poorly.
The line pass blocked fairly well, but they got no push in the running game. Tech ran for just 59 yards and averaged only 2.3 yards per carry. Logan Thomas led the team with 28 rushing yards. Martin Scales had four carries for 16 yards, and he was the only running back who showed any sort of a spark, but he was only in the game for a couple of series.
Tech’s touchdowns came via the big play. Kyshoen Jarrett returned a punt 94 yards for a touchdown, keyed by a big block by Ronny Vandyke. It was the second-longest punt return for TD in Tech history, behind Frank Loria’s 95-yard return against Miami in 1965. Marcus Davis scored on an 85 yard touchdown pass from Logan Thomas, and Davis shook off the first tackle and outran the defense to the endzone. Other than that, the VT offense couldn’t sustain any drives.
Thomas was just 14-of-31 for 265 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions. In the first two games of the season, he made good decisions, but threw inaccurate passes. On Saturday, he threw inaccurate passes and made bad decisions. One of his interceptions was badly overthrown, and there was a bad decision (two Tech receivers ran into each other in the middle of the field on that play…still, the ball was so badly overthrow that it has to be considered a bad decision.)
Thomas had another chance to hit Marcus Davis on a big touchdown over the middle, but he badly overthrew it, and Davis threw his arms up in frustration.
On the whole, it was a terrible game for Virginia Tech. They couldn’t block, they tackled poorly, and the injured Detrick Bonner (who missed a lot of practice time this week due to an injury) was torched early in the game. To top it off, Kyle Fuller suffered a shoulder contusion and missed much of the game. That forced Bonner to move to cornerback, while r-freshman Michael Cole was inserted at rover.
The good news: it’s not a conference loss, and Virginia is getting beat 35-7 at the hands of Georgia Tech at the time of this writing, so the door is still wide open for the Hokies in the Coastal Division. We’ll have much more on this game tomorrow.
The Hokies return to action next Saturday when they host Bowling Green at noon on ESPNU.