Virginia vs. Pitt: a breakdown

Cavaliers seek third consecutive win


Kurt Benkert, who broke the program record for passing yards against Central Michigan, tossed for 336 yards and three touchdowns against Duke two weeks ago.

Courtesy Virginia Athletics | Cavalier Daily

Here's a breakdown of Virginia's matchup against the Pittsburgh Panthers:

Keys to Game

Air it out

The Panthers have struggled to stop the passing game this season, almost as much as Virginia has. Pittsburgh ranks No. 124 in the nation, with a 302.3 yards allowed average, while the Cavaliers have surrendered 309.6, enough for No. 126. Whichever quarterback is sharper in his reads and execution Saturday will put up more points.

Contain Conner

It’s nearly impossible to bring down the 6-foot-2, 235-pound back with an arm tackle. Wrapping him up by the legs and giving nearby teammates a chance to swarm him is what it takes to contain James Conner. Virginia must limit his second and third level runs, as Conner will secure close to 17 carries Saturday.

Tack on to six

If Benkert and his Virginia offense return to Scott Stadium with the poise they’ve exhibited in recent weeks, Saturday’s game could come down to the wire. Every extra point will count. Getting too cute — as Virginia did in the first quarter at Duke, failing on a trick two-point conversation — could prove costly.

Virginia Players to Watch

Kurt Benkert

Responding the way Benkert did at Duke, a week after his high of setting the school record for passing yards in a single game, was remarkable given his lack of game experience. Benkert tallied 336 yards and three touchdowns, connecting with 11 different Cavalier receivers. Right now, he’s as confident as any collegiate passer.

David Eldridge

After hearing rumors in August about his deep-threat potential and chemistry with Benkert, fans eagerly awaited Eldridge’s breakout performance. Prior to the Duke game, the Bealeton, Va. native had just two receptions for 21 yards. Against the Blue Devils, Eldridge made the most of his two catches, finishing with 112 yards and a touchdown.

Juan Thornhill

Recognized by coach Bronco Mendenhall early on in the season as one of Virginia’s top athletes in coverage, Thornhill put together arguably the best performance of his Cavalier career in the win over Duke. For his four tackles, two huge interceptions and pass break up, Thornhill garnered ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors.

Pittsburgh Players to Watch

James Conner

Having overcome both an MCL injury and Hodgkin lymphoma since the fall of 2015, Conner is back on the gridiron, where he belongs. Widely considered one of the top college running backs before his diagnoses, Conner remains a force between the tackles in 2016, with 474 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

Ejuan Price

From the same Panther line as NFL All-Pro and Los Angeles Ram Aaron Donald, senior defensive end Ejuan Price has developed into one of college football’s top defensive players. Through six games, Price leads the nation with 8.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss, while his three forced fumbles rank inside the top 10.

Quadree Henderson

Sophomore wide receiver Quadree Henderson boasts dynamic athleticism. Not only is he Pittsburgh’s second leading receiver, with 17 catches for 174 yards and a touchdown, and rusher, with 353 rushes for three scores, but Henderson also averages the fifth highest kickoff return average in the country at 33.1. He took a kick 96 yards to the house earlier this season.




Kurt Benkert (QB) -- 60 percent completion; 1,455 yards; 13 TDs; 6 INTs


Albert Reid (RB) -- 59 carries; 318 yards; 5.4 YPC; 4 TDs

Taquan Mizzell (RB) -- 52 carries; 271 yards; 5.0 YPC; 2 TDs


Olamide Zaccheaus (WR) -- 26 receptions; 340 yards; 13.1 YPC; 4 TDs

Keeon Johnson (WR) -- 26 receptions; 264 yards; 10.2 YPC; 3 TDs


Micah Kiser (LB) -- 58 tackles; 5 TFL; 2 FF; 3.5 sacks

Quin Blanding (FS) -- 46 tackles; 0 TFL; 0 FF; 0 sacks



Nathan Peterman (QB) -- 65 percent completion; 1,115 yards; 9 TDs; 2 INTs


James Conner (RB) -- 104 carries; 441 yards; 4.2 YPC; 5 TDs

Quadree Henderson (WR) -- 31 carries; 343 yards; 11.1 YPC; 5 TDs


Jester Weah (WR) -- 17 receptions; 348 yards; 20.5 YPC; 3 TDs

Quadree Henderson (WR) -- 17 receptions; 174 yards; 10.2 YPC; 1 TD


Ryan Lewis (CB) -- 39 tackles; 0.5 TFL; 0 FF; 0 sacks

Jordan Whitehead (SS) -- 37 tackles; 1.5 TFL; 1 FF; 0 sack

related stories