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Pittsburgh handles punchless Virginia Tech, 47-14

Pittsburgh handles punchless Virginia Tech, 47-14

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Virginia Tech Pittsburgh Football

Pittsburgh running back Vincent Davis (22) celebrates with offensive lineman Matt Goncalves (76) after scoring against Virginia Tech on Saturday, in Pittsburgh.

PITTSBURGH – Two years ago, Virginia Tech played at Pittsburgh and got beat 52-22. Recalling that bludgeoning this week, Hokies linebacker Dax Hollifield said the Panthers “wanted blood” that day.

Saturday, Pitt had the same thirst.

Playing behind an offensive line missing three starters, Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett picked apart the Virginia Tech defense, throwing for 404 yards and two scores in a 47-14 blowout, handing the Hokies their third straight defeat.

It was Pickett’s short, dart-like completions that controlled the game. But it was his one long bomb that blew it open for the Panthers (5-4, 4-4 ACC).

After Pitt stuffed the Hokies (4-5, 4-4) on a fourth-and-goal bid from the 1-yard line, Pickett led the home team on a 99-yard scoring drive – with 64 of those yards coming on a touchdown pass to D.J. Turner that gave the Panthers a 33-14 lead in the third quarter.

That was the end for a mostly punchless Tech team that lost its third straight going into an open date.

Turner set an opponent record with 15 catches against Tech, gaining 184 yards and scoring once. Alex Kessman kicked four field goals, including a 52- and a 53-yarder. He scored the first nine points of the game.

For its part, Virginia Tech couldn’t do much right all day, as it suffered its most lopsided defeat since a 45-10 home loss to Duke last season.

Offensively, the Hokies struggled to run the ball. Defensively, the tackling was shoddy and the pass rush mostly ineffective.

For a cherry on top, kicker Brian Johnson missed a 38-yard field goal.

The first half was marked by timidity on the Tech side. The offense had wave-the-white-flag play-calls on third and longs, running the ball inside out of the shotgun. The defense seemed to be in a perpetual state of prevent, afraid to give up big plays, playing back and giving Pickett and the Panthers time and space to get in a rhythm.

Pittsburgh played without 16 players, including the three starting offensive linemen but the Hokies – down two corners off their two-deep – seemed reluctant to go after Pickett with much more than a four-man rush.

They gave up 298 yards in the first half and went to the locker room down 23-14, a competitive margin thanks only to a pair of Tre Turner touchdown receptions, the first, a 55-yard throw over the top of the Pitt defense by Hendon Hooker, the second a tough-as-nails athletic catch on a quick slant in the end zone for an 11-yard score.

Tech thought it could get back to its run-first identity Saturday in the first half, with leading rusher Khalil Herbert finally healthy after battling a hamstring injury that limited him the past two weeks. But neither Herbert nor the rest of the Hokies offense could get in gear on the opening drive, a lifeless three-and-out.

Things didn’t improve much when the Hokies tried to get creative. Their second possession ended when wide receiver Tre Turner slipped at the line, then stumbled as he took a reverse pitch from Herbert, fumbling a ball Pittsburgh recovered.

Tech’s four first-quarter possessions resulted in two punts, the fumble and a turnover on downs. Pittsburgh ended the period up 6-0 after a pair of field goals by Alex Kessman.

The first sign of life from the Tech offense in the first half came on the first play of its sixth possession, on the deep ball from Hooker to Turner.

The duo got the Hokies into the end zone once more before halftime. That would be it for the game.

Twitter: @RTD_MikeBarber

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