With a chance last week to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2011, Virginia fell behind by 24 points early in the second quarter en route to a 41-10 thumping against a struggling Boston College squad. The Cavaliers will try once again this Saturday when they travel to Heinz Field for an ACC Coastal clash against a Pittsburgh team that found a running attack for the first time all season last week against Duke.
The Eagles totaled 512 yards and converted 10-of-19 on third down as well as 2-of-3 on fourth down while Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert was battered all day long and threw for a season-low 126 yards before departing in the fourth quarter. ”I think (the loss) shows that we can’t just show up and expect to win, that it’s not just going to be handed to us. We have to go take it,“ Benkert told reporters after the game. “These teams prepare just like we prepare, and no game in the ACC is going to be easy.” The Panthers had dropped five of six until reserve Darrin Hall broke out for 254 yards on 25 carries and three touchdowns, including runs of 79 and 92 yards - the longest in school history - that helped turn a 10-point, third-quarter deficit into a 24-17 victory. Despite the Panthers’ 336-yard outburst on 57 attempts last weekend, Pitt still enters this game averaging only 141.5 yards rushing per game and 3.8 yards per carry.
TV: 12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network. LINE: Pittsburgh -3.
ABOUT VIRGINIA (5-2, 2-1 ACC): For the season, Benkert has completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 1,806 yards with 15 TDs and four interceptions. Jordan Ellis leads the team with 602 yards rushing while Olamide Zaccheaus provides a dual threat with 49 catches for 505 yards and 142 yards rushing on 16 attempts from his receiver position. The defense yields just 341 yards per game and ranks third in the ACC with nine interceptions - three by freshman safety Brenton Nelson.
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (3-5, 1-3): Hall entered the game with 108 yards on 31 carries, prompting coach Pat Narduzzi to say, “Right now, he’s the guy. It’s his job. I think he’s got a lot of confidence right now.” Ben DiNucci started his second straight game under center and completed 8-of-18 passes for 149 yards. Benkert has a great chance for a bounce-back game, as the Panthers rank 13th in the ACC in pass yards allowed (270.4) and are last in third-down conversions (41.1 percent).
1. Pitt leads the all-time series 6-3, including a 45-31 victory last season in Charlottesville.
2. The Panthers are tied for the ACC lead with six fumbles recovered and third with 13 turnovers forced.
3. Virginia S Quin Blanding (432) needs four tackles to pass Jamie Sharper and become the school’s all-time career leader in that category. He needs 35 tackles to pass North Carolina’s Dexter Reid (2000-03) for the most career tackles in ACC history by a defensive back.
PREDICTION: Virginia 24, Pittsburgh 21