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Football takes down Pittsburgh 30-14 in season opener

The Cavaliers led early and often against ACC Coastal rival

<p>Senior wideout Hasise Dubois recorded 45 yards and a touchdown off four receptions.</p>

Senior wideout Hasise Dubois recorded 45 yards and a touchdown off four receptions.

After falling to Pittsburgh in disappointing fashion last season, Virginia football avenged the loss with a 30-14 road victory over the Panthers Saturday night at Heinz Field. 

The win marks just the second time the Cavaliers (1-0, 1-0 ACC) have defeated Pittsburgh (0-1, 0-1 ACC) since the Panthers joined the ACC in 2013.

The Virginia defense set the tone early, forcing Pittsburgh to punt on its very first drive. The Cavaliers proceeded to drive 53 yards down the field before faltering in the red zone and settling for a 39-yard field goal courtesy of junior kicker Brian Delaney.

After another quick three-and-out from the Panthers, Virginia sophomore outside linebacker Noah Taylor blocked the ensuing punt, and senior wide receiver Hasise Dubois recovered the ball at Pittsburgh’s 19-yard line. 

Unlike on their first trip to the red zone, the Cavaliers made sure to find the end zone this time around with senior quarterback Bryce Perkins hitting senior tailback Chris Sharp on a two-yard touchdown pass. 

Two possessions later, the Panthers finally got on the scoreboard with junior running back AJ Davis capping off an 85-yard drive with a short touchdown run. A few plays prior, Davis exploded for a 59-yard catch to put Pittsburgh in a great position to score.

Just as the Panthers were gaining momentum, Virginia marched 63 yards down the field to set up another Delaney field goal, giving the Cavaliers a 13-7 advantage early in the second quarter.

After scoring on their first three drives, the Cavaliers were forced to punt for the first time on their next possession. 

Pittsburgh then put together a methodical 80-yard drive led by junior quarterback Kenny Pickett. Pickett finished the drive and gave the Panthers their first lead of the game with a three-yard touchdown pass with 38 seconds left in the half. Despite a slow start, Pittsburgh went into halftime with a 14-13 lead over the Cavaliers. 

Pittsburgh’s lead was short-lived as Virginia regained the advantage on the first drive of the second half with yet another field goal from Delaney.

Moments later, junior outside linebacker Matt Gahm recorded his first career interception to give Virginia the ball right back in Pittsburgh territory. The Cavaliers extended their lead to 23-14 after Perkins completed a pass to Dubois who used an incredible physical effort to get into the end zone.

Both defenses stepped up over the remainder of the third quarter and most of the fourth quarter as neither team scored over the next seven drives. Sophomore tailback Wayne Taulapapa ended the scoring drought with a 10-yard touchdown run — his first career score — with under a minute left in the game. Taulapapa’s run sealed a 30-14 win for Virginia.

The Virginia offense produced 310 total yards, while the defense contributed two interceptions, four sacks and seven QB hits.

While the victory was a team effort, several Cavaliers stepped up with big efforts. Perkins threw for 181 yards and added 44 on the ground with no turnovers. In his first game as a starter, Taulapapa ran for an efficient 66 yards and a touchdown, while Dubois led all receivers in yards, 45, from just four receptions.

On the defensive side of the ball, junior inside linebacker Zane Zandier led all players with nine tackles. However, junior free safety Joey Blount was the standout performer with seven tackles, two sacks and an interception.

Virginia will next play William and Mary Friday for the 2019 home opener. The in-state matchup is set to kick off at 8 p.m. from Scott Stadium.