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PHOTO: Panthers running back James Conner (24) rushes for a fifteen yard touchdown past Virginia Tech Hokies Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Quarterback Chad Voytik led the Panthers for a career-high 118 yards rushing
PITTSBURGH (PittsburghPanthers.com and AP) - Chad Voytik ran for a career-high 118 yards and threw a 53-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd to help Pittsburgh end a three-game losing streak with a 21-16 victory over Virginia Tech on Thursday night.
James Conner ran for 85 yards and two scores for the Panthers (4-3, 2-1 ACC), who took control early and held off a late rally by the Hokies.
Virginia Tech (4-3, 1-2) trailed by 12 in the fourth quarter but had the ball and a chance to take the lead in the final minutes. Michael Brewer's fourth-down pass to Cam Phillips sailed high and the Panthers ran out the clock.
Brewer shook off a slow start to finish with 265 yards passing and a 14-yard score to Phillips, but the Hokies remained winless in four visits to Heinz Field.
Pitt came in reeling, having seen its promising 3-0 start evaporate into puzzling losses to Iowa, Akron and Virginia. Their chance to be any sort of factor in the wide-open Coastal Division on the line, the Panthers responded with a dominant - if not exactly crisp - performance.
Relying heavily on its two sophomore stars and the nation's fourth-ranked defense, Pitt took a 14-6 halftime lead. Voytik found Boyd down the seam on the Panthers' second possession and the Boyd did the rest, catching it at the Virginia Tech 30 and sidestepping two defenders on his way to a 53-yard touchdown, Pitt's longest pass play of the season.
Forced to plumb the bottom of the depth chart at running back with Shai McKenzie, Marshawn Williams and Trey Edmunds all out with injury, the Hokies could do little offensively. The Hokies ran for 26 yards, the longest run of the night a 9-yard burst by Sam Rogers.
Only Pitt miscues kept Virginia Tech close. Twice the Panthers had the ball inside the Hokies 35 only to come away with no points. Still, Conner bolted in from 15 yards out to make it 14-3 before Virginia Tech pulled within eight on Joey Slye's second field goal. The kick came at the end of an ugly sequence that included Pitt having an interception called back due to a late hit on Brewer and Virginia Tech's Cam Phillips dropping the ball innocently on the turf while attempting to run it in.
The Hokies made it 14-9 early in the second half before the Panthers appeared to put it away in the fourth quarter when they stopped Virginia Tech on fourth down and Voytik followed by darting 49 yards on a read-option and Conner bulled his way in from 13 yards out.
Pitt missed a chance to take a two touchdown-lead when the Hokies blocked Chris Blewitt's field goal attempt and the brief appearance of "Beamer Ball" seemed to give Virginia Tech life.
Virginia Tech responded with a brisk 80-yard drive, with Brewer hitting Phillips to cut it to five. Pitt couldn't run out the clock but the Hokies drove to midfield before stalling. Brewer's final pass sailed high and Phillips absorbed a punishing blow as it feel incomplete. There was no flag thrown and the Panthers exhaled after resurrecting their season.