Football falls to Pittsburgh, 23-13

Pitt’s Darrin Hall leads the Panthers past the Cavaliers


Sophomore wide receiver Terrell Jana caught a 42-yard touchdown pass Friday night against Pittsburgh.

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

For the first time this season the Virginia football team walked out of Scott Stadium with a loss, as Pittsburgh beat the Cavaliers (6-3, 4-2 ACC) Friday night. 

“[Pittsburgh] certainly earned it and deserved it,” Coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “We never did find rhythm offensively from beginning to end [with] turnovers and a number of penalties. The penalties meaning concentration-ish penalties rather than ones that I think were forced.”

Virginia was penalized 10 times, which is a season high, and the penalties totaled up to 80 yards. In addition to that struggle, the Cavaliers were greatly challenged by the Panthers (5-4, 4-1 ACC) rushing game. 

“[There were] a couple of big plays defensively that we gave up,” Mendenhall said. “We knew that was going to be a critical part to the game ... But, in general, I don’t think a staff, led by me, prepared this team, our team, to execute ... at a high enough level to deserve the win. Critical plays matter and we didn’t make enough of them, I think that is really the bottom line.”

In the first period, which got off to a rainy start, the Panthers were first to get on the scoreboard when Pitt senior running back Darrin Hall broke free and rushed for 41-yards to get in Virginia’s end-zone. 

It didn’t take long for Virginia to respond, with the Cavaliers evening out the score not even a minute later. After a 37-yard kick return from junior wide receiver Joe Reed, the Virginia offense took advantage of its good field position as junior quarterback Bryce Perkins found sophomore wide receiver Terrell Jana for a 42-yard touchdown pass. 

“Making my first touchdown as a Cavalier was an amazing feeling,” Jana said. “I come into every game hoping that I will make every single play. I’ve been working as hard as I can since spring ball. My focus is on being a more reliable option for the quarterback, the coaches and the team in general. I’m getting opportunities to grow.”

Reed finished with 73-yards on kick returns brought him to a career total of 1,903 kick return yards, which made him the program’s all time career leader in kick returns yardage.

The second quarter got off to a shaky start as senior tight end Evan Butts fumbled the ball on the opening play of the quarter. Virginia’s defense kept the mishap from causing any damage, though. The Cavaliers continued to remain solid on the defensive end, keeping the Panthers from getting on scoreboard for the rest of the half. The Cavaliers managed to get a slight lead before the half came to a close as sophomore kicker Brian Delaney nailed a 29-yard field goal with just a few seconds to play. 

In the second half, the Panthers started to dominate. Pitt reclaimed the lead with 21 seconds left in the third quarter as Hall ran for a two-yard touchdown. The play capped off a 15-play drive for 84 yards. 

Delaney drilled a 42-yard field goal to give Virginia three more points, bringing the Cavaliers within one of Pitt’s lead. But, the Panthers wasted no time jumping back in the lead as Hall continued to be problematic for Virginia’s defense and ran for a 75-yard touchdown. The Cavaliers managed to block the extra point to keep the game at 20-13. Pitt added another three to its lead as they sent in a 53-yard field goal. 

Hall carried the ball 19 times for 229 yards for the night, which was over half of Pitt’s total offensive yards. 

Meanwhile, Virginia’s offense struggled to perform, as they were held to 249 offensive yards, with only 44 rushing yards. Perkins had 205 passing yards and a net of -7 rushing yards. 

“Every play and every game is a learning experience for [Perkins],” Mendenhall said. “As this season continues to move forward, and we become more and more successful, that continues to create new circumstances. As he learns to manage those, every play is a learning experience, and every game is. And so this one, yeah, there’s plenty to learn.”

Perkins also took responsibility for some of his choices, knowing he has room for improvement.

“Those two long sacks were on me,” Perkins said. “I got to be more critical, especially in those tight situations in the fourth quarter. I can’t take those sacks. I got to be more smart and play smarter, especially when it comes down to crunch time.”

This loss was tough on the Cavaliers, but it also gave them an opportunity to think about what it’s going to take to be successful going forward.  

“We got to look ourselves in the mirror and make sure we are prepared, and you got to be honest with yourself about how you played and about the assignments you did,” Perkins said. “You’ve got to take that to heart.” 

A bright spot for the Cavaliers was senior punter Lester Coleman who had 179 punting yards, with an average of 44.8 per punt. The defensive standouts were senior safety Joey Blount, who had a team-high 11 tackles, followed by sophomore linebacker Zane Zandier who had eight tackles and sophomore linebacker Charles Snowden who had six tackles along with a sack. 

Unfortunately for Virginia, after the game, Blount left the game in crutches, along with sophomore lineman Mandy Alonso. Senior safety Juan Thornhill and sophomore safety Brenton Nelson also were banged up. 

“We see our defense as a unit, so we have the next-man-up mentality so obviously we don’t like to see any of our players go down,” Snowden said. “But we do expect the next man up to fulfil the responsibility in his place.”

The Cavaliers are back in action next weekend as they host Liberty at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10 for the final home game of the season. After that, they’ll hit the road for the last regular season games against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.  

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