Two quick pick-6’s put UVA in early hole in 37-7 rout by Pitt

By Scott Ratcliffe

Photo by Michael Bruder

Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong’s first two pass attempts of the day were intercepted and returned for six, as Pitt outscored the Cavaliers 28-0 in the first quarter en route to a 37-7 blowout at Scott Stadium Saturday.

UVA (3-7, 1-6 ACC) posted negative-8 rushing yards on the afternoon and just 144 total yards, dropping its third straight game and sixth of the last seven.

Armstrong was picked by M.J. Devonshire on the opening play from scrimmage, as the Pitt junior stepped in front of intended receiver Sackett Wood Jr. and took it 29 yards to the house, and Virginia trailed 7-0 five seconds in.

On the very next play from scrimmage, Pitt’s Marquis Williams doubled the lead with a 39-yard pick-six of his own down the same sideline, and the Panthers (6-4, 3-3) had a 14-0 lead just 16 seconds into the contest.

The UVA offense was again without starting receivers Keytaon Thompson, Dontayvion Wicks and Lavel Davis Jr., and unlike last week, couldn’t get much of anything going against the hard-nosed Pitt defense.

“We knew it was going to be a challenge,” said Virginia coach Tony Elliott, “and [the Panthers] did a good job and they showed up with the right mindset and ready to play, and I didn’t do a good job of having the guys with the right mindset, understanding the matchup that we had, the physicality that it was gonna take, the intensity and enthusiasm that we started the game with. So it’s not on the players, it’s on me to make sure that I fully articulate having them being prepared to be able to play in a game like this.”

The Cavaliers punted on its next five series — including three-straight three-and-outs that spanned a total of 4:34 — before Will Bettridge’s 43-yard field-goal attempt with 20 seconds left in the first half sailed wide left, and Pitt led 28-0 at halftime.

The Panthers scored all 28 of those points in the first quarter, as Israel Abanikanda scored on a short touchdown run and Kedon Slovis threw a 31-yard toss for six to Bub Means with still 2:33 remaining in the opening period.

Pitt stretched its lead to 31 with a Ben Sauls 25-yard field goal midway through the third quarter. Virginia finally got on the board with 3:48 left in the third, as Malachi Fields hauled in his first career touchdown catch after missing the first nine games with an ACL injury. Fields, from Monticello High School in Charlottesville, was a bright spot, leading the Hoos with 58 receiving yards on 5 catches, but the Hoos still trailed by 24.

After a third-down stop by Aaron Faumui, the Cavaliers tried a reverse flea-flicker that lost 16 yards on the final play of the third quarter.

Sauls added two more field goals in the fourth quarter for the final result.

Virginia, which was just 2 for 13 on third-down conversions and only possessed the football for a season-low 23:58, is now eliminated from postseason consideration and will finish with a losing record for the first time since the 2017 campaign.

Armstrong completed 17 of his 33 attempts for 152 yards, including the 9-yard touchdown pass to Fields, but was sacked 8 times for 69 yards. He finished the game with 10 carries for negative-46 yards rushing. The Cavalier running backs combined for just 38 yards on 14 attempts.

Abanikanda rushed for 121 yards on 24 carries, Slovis was 14 of 24 for 208 yards passing, and Means led all receivers with 90 yards on just 3 grabs, including the touchdown.

Game Stats

Scoring Summary
Pitt       28 0 3 6 — 37
Virginia   0 0 7 0 — 7

First Quarter
Pitt (14:55) — M.J. Devonshire 29-yd interception return (Ben Sauls kick). Pitt 7, Virginia 0.
Pitt (14:44) — Marquis Williams 39-yd interception return (Ben Sauls kick). Pitt 14, Virginia 0.
Pitt (8:04) — Israel Abanikanda 1-yd run (Ben Sauls kick). Pitt 21, Virginia 0.
Pitt (2:33) — Bub Means 31-yd pass from Kedon Slovis (Ben Sauls kick). Pitt 28, Virginia 0.

Third Quarter
Pitt (7:21) — Ben Sauls 25-yd field goal. Pitt 31, Virginia 0.
UVA (3:48) — Malachi Fields 9-yd pass from Brennan Armstrong (Will Bettridge kick). Pitt 31, Virginia 7.

Fourth Quarter
Pitt (8:21) — Ben Sauls 27-yd field goal. Pitt 34, Virginia 7.
Pitt (2:23) — Ben Sauls 39-yd field goal. Pitt 37, Virginia 7.

Player Stats

Pitt — I.Abanikanda 24-121; R.Hammond 13-39; C.Flemister 8-38; TEAM 3-(minus-9). Total: 48-189. UVA — M.Hollins 8-23; R.Walker Jr. 4-10; X.Brown 2-5; B.Armstrong 10-(minus-46). Total: 24-(minus-8).

Pitt — B.Means 3-90; K.Mumpfield 7-60; J.Wayne 2-40; V.Davis 1-10; I.Abanikanda 1-8. Total: 14-208. UVA — M.Fields 5-58; B.Kemp IV 4-38; S.Wilson 3-25; M.Hollins 3-22; S.Wood Jr. 1-5; X.Brown 1-4. Total: 17-152.

Pitt — K.Slovis 14-24-208-1-0. Total: 14-24-208-1-0. UVA — B.Armstrong 17-33-152-1-2. Total: 17-33-152-1-2.

Game Notes

Pitt quotes

The Cavaliers close out the home schedule next Saturday at 3:30 against Sun Belt foe Coastal Carolina before finishing the season at Virginia Tech on Nov. 26.