The Virginia Cavaliers used a big second quarter and build a lead and hung on to defeat the Pittsburgh Panthers 24-19. KP Parks led the way for the Hoos, with one of the best games of his career, running for 169 yards and a TD on 29 carries. With the win, UVA improves to a perfect 2-0 in the ACC and 4-2 overall, while Pitt drops to 3-3 (1-1 ACC).
After the teams traded field goals in the first quarter, the Hoos scored 21 unanswered points, electrifying an enthusiastic Scott Stadium crowd. (The "white out" called for by UVA players didn't quite pan out, but the turnout was a vast improvement over last week, especially from the students).
Parks gave UVA a 10-3 lead when he broke a 48 yard run, the team's longest this season, for a score. The next Virginia TD was set up by a creative call, when Matt Johns, filling in for an injured Lambert, threw a backwards lateral to Miles Gooch, who then found Zach Swanson for a 28 yard gain. Johns hit Khalek Shepherd to score 3 plays later. Just minutes later, the defense got in on the action, when Mike Moore destroyed QB Chad Voytik, whose pass fell into the waiting arms of Max Valles. Valles took it into the endzone, giving Virginia a 24-3 halftime lead.
Johns finished the game 9 of 16 for 93 yards, with an interception and a touchdown. He made one poor decision on the interception, but generally realized his role was to manage the game and allow his running backs to make plays. He also broke 2 nice, but awkward, runs for key first downs.
In the second half, the Wahoo offense sputtered, but the team made just enough plays to hold on. The wind appeared to come out of the sails quickly, when Pitt blocked a punt, leading to a TD, then intercepted Johns on the next drive. But the UVA defense made a big goal line stand to hold the Panthers to a field goal, and turned up the pressure for the remainder of the game. On Pitt's next two offensive drives, big sacks from Moore, Harris, and Coley put them into second and third and long situations that they couldn't recover from.
Special teams may not have cost the Hoos the game, but it continues to cost fans days off the end of their lives. The damage today was the blocked punt, which set up a Pitt TD, two kickoffs out of bounds, and numerous punts misplayed by Khalek Shepherd. The punt coverage gave Pitt a last gasp chance by allowing a 45 yard return that set up Pitt's TD to cut UVA's lead to 24-19, (and ruin its perfect against-the-spread record). Luckily, the Hoos recovered the ensuing onsides kick to seal the game. (More aptly, it rolled out of bounds untouched.)
Virginia gets a week off to bask in their perfect ACC record before they head to Durham for a showdown with the Blue Devils. The ACC Coastal is wide open, and through a quarter of the conference season, Virginia is in a good spot to compete in the race. The perfect ACC teams so far: UVA, Georgia Tech, Florida State. There's been some ups and downs...but what else can you ask for?
One more note: Those helmets. How cool were they!
UPDATE: Mike London announced that Demetrius Nicholson will redshirt this season and return next year:
London: "Demetrious Nicholson is done for the year. We'll look to redshirt him and are looking forward to having him back next season."— Virginia Football (@UVa_Football) October 5, 2014