For the second time in three games this season, Virginia Tech’s offense stalled repeatedly in scoring position and failed in short yardage.
“We moved the ball all day,” quarterback Logan Thomas said after Saturday’s 35-17 loss to unranked Pittsburgh. “We got inside their 40 and then we just stopped and sputtered. I don’t know what it was. … but when we got inside (midfield) we just fell apart.”
Indeed, the first six times the Hokies reached midfield or beyond, they produced one measly field goal. The also failed to convert a third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 on consecutive snaps in the third quarter.
Much the same transpired in the season-opener against Georgia Tech. But Thomas’ 140 passing yards in the fourth quarter and a stout defense allowed Virginia Tech to win in overtime.
The defense was anything but stout Saturday, and other than a 44-yard completion to Dyrell Roberts on his first pass and an 85-yard scoring strike to Marcus Davis – he caught the ball at the 25 and ran the final 75 yards – Thomas was pedestrian at best.
He threw a career-high three interceptions, and his 45.2 completion percentage was the second-lowest since he became the starter last season. He was 8-of-20 (40 percent) last year in Week 2 at East Carolina.
“I think some of it was Logan and some of it was his receivers, not being where they’re supposed to be,” coach Frank Beamer said.
Thomas attributed the picks to different causes. The first was tipped by Davis, the second came after his arm was hit, and the third was his bad read.
“They made it tough on us, pressing us up and making us throw into tight windows,” Thomas said.
A running game would help the passing cause, but in two games against the Bowl Subdivision, the Hokies have rushed for 96 yards (Georgia Tech) and 59 (Saturday). The line isn’t blocking well, and starting tailback Michael Holmes is too tentative.
“There’s no question we need to run the ball better,” Beamer said.
Other notes and observations from a loss that ended Tech’s national-best, 13-game road winning streak:
* Linebacker Bruce Taylor was none too pleased with the personal foul penalty he drew for slamming quarterback Tino Sunseri to the ground on a third-and-1 sneak in the third quarter.
“I got until the whistle and I didn’t hear a whistle,” Taylor said. “He was still trying to get forward, so I’m trying to get him down. I didn’t try to overly slam him extra hard or anything like that. If I’m wrong, then tell me. But when they run the ball, they’re a running back. So however you have to get him down, you have to get him down.”
Taylor’s mistake was the body slam, and it proved costly. The Panthers took advantage of the subsequent first down and drove to the touchdown that gave them a 28-10 lead.
* Kyshoen Jarrett’s 94-yard punt return for touchdown was the second-longest in Tech history, 1 yard shy of Frank Loria’s record-setter against Miami in 1967. Ronny VanDyke threw the key block, which leveled Mike Shanahan and Devon Porchia.
“I actually meant to hit the punter,” VanDyke said. “I missed him and actually heard the crowd screaming, so I knew Kyshoen had broke (free). “I turned around and saw 87 (Shanahan) and another number. I just knew if I hit them clean, Kyshoen going to score.”
Since 2000, Tech has won 10 consecutive games against the MAC by margins ranging from 21 to 63 points. But Bowling Green gave Florida fits in their season opener before falling 27-14. The Falcons then defeated Idaho 21-13 before facing league and state rival Toledo on Saturday night.
Through two games, Bowling Green had thrown 87 passes with only 54 rushes. So expect to see plenty of junior quarterback Matt Schilz, a three-year starter who threw for 487 yards, one touchdown and two picks in this season’s first two games.
(Pre-dawn update: Bowling Green lost at Toledo 27-15 on Saturday night, with Schilz completing 24-of-36 passes, but for only 216 yards with an interception and no touchdowns.)
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Saturday that Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison (knee) expects to remain sidelined, creating opportunity for Worilds. Harrison also missed last week’s opener, at Denver, where Worilds split time with Chris Carter.
Nursing a wrist injury that sidelined him throughout preseason, Worilds had two tackles, including a sack.
“It was better than anybody expected,” Worilds told the Post-Gazette about how his wrist responded to game action. “I came in the next day and everything was fine. I definitely think I took a step forward. There were a few plays I wish I had back, but I guess that’s to be expected.”
“I think Jason will get nothing but stronger,” defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau told the Post-Gazette. “He played well in the game.”
* Saturday’s victory is the first for Pitt rookie head coach Paul Chryst after opening losses to Youngstown State and Cincinnati.
“It felt pretty good,” he said. “I got to hear the fight song (in the locker room). It was pretty neat.”
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