Virginia Tech’s dreams of a national championship ended Saturday afternoon, as they fell to the Pittsburgh Panthers 35-17.
"I give Pittsburgh a lot of credit," said Frank Beamer, head coach. "I thought they were well prepared. I thought (Rushel Shell) was hard to bring down. I thought they were hitting on all cylinders. It was their day."
Pittsburgh jumped out to an 21-0 lead in the first half, helped in part by three Logan Thomas interceptions.
The redshirt-junior quarterback finished just 14-for-31 for 265 yards and one touchdown.
"They played good defense, gotta give them a lot of credit," Thomas said. "I guess we’ll just look at the film and see what happened."
The loss was the Hokies’ biggest to an unranked opponent since 2006, a 22-3 loss to Boston College.
The Hokies struggled to move the ball all game against the Panthers, who held Thomas and company to just 324 total yards.
"They’re a good defense," Thomas said. "They’re strong, they’re physically, they’re fast and they make you make mistakes. They did that today and that’s what won them the game."
Bud Foster’s defense had a no-show performance as well, as Pittsburgh quarterback Tino Sunseri led the Panthers offense to the tune of 540 yards.
"They came out and we weren’t ready," said backer Bruce Taylor. "That’s basically what it boils down to. They’ve got some great running backs. We knew that coming in. Like I said, (Shell) kind of surprised us with how well he ran. But it wasn’t the structure of defense or anything, it was just missed tackles for the most part."
Tech lost star cornerback Kyle Fuller in the first half with a shoulder injury. He did not return.
Poor tackling plagued the Hokies all day, as Pittsburgh broke numerous long runs after first contact.
"We’ll have to see it on film," said redshirt-junior cornerback Antone Exum. "I know a lot of guys maybe weren’t wrapping up or running through tackles. We’ll have to look at it on film and we’ll get better."
With the score 28-17 in the fourth quarter, cornerback Antone Exum intercepted Sunseri at the Pittsburgh 36-yard line. The Hokies could not capitalize on the momentum shift, proceeding to go three-and-out.
"That was a turning point, too. No question about it," Beamer said. "We got the interception, had a little momentum and couldn’t take advantage of it."
Although the Hokies closed the gap late in the game, the story was Pittsburgh’s offensive line and their running game. Tailbacks Rushel Shell and Ray Graham combined for 251 yards rushing on 47 carries.
The Hokies return home to face Bowling Green next Saturday. Kick off is set for noon.