In Last week’s win over the Duke Blue Devils, the Pitt Panthers rushed for 336 yards, which included 254 from RB Darrin Hall, so it didn’t take Einstein to assume that they would emphasize the run against the Virginia Cavaliers, a team that has a better record than Duke, but were licking their chops after getting blown out by Boston College a week ago.
If you assumed that the Panthers would once again emphasize the run in this game, then you are correct as they rushed for as they beat Virginia 31-14 in the cold and rain at Heinz Field. Once again, Hall was the featured rusher for the Panthers as he ran for 111 yards on 25 carries and a TD. So that gives him 365 yards in 2 games, which is more than any of the Pitt running backs had before Hall Exploded and they needed him to do so after RB Quadree Ollison failed to take the bull by the horns and Chawntez Moss was suspended indefinitely. Freshman AJ Davis has only played sparingly and he has had troubles holding onto the ball when he does. In fact, it was so bad that S Jordan Whitehead led the team with 73 yards rushing in their loss to Syracuse several weeks ago.
I admit that I wasn’t a fan of Hall. He ran like he couldn’t find the end zone without the help of a map of GPS. Yet Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi continued to give him opportunities, and it looks like it has finally paid off. Hall truly is the man right now.
He may not have been as flashy as he had against Duke, but Hall got the job done. But you also have to once again give credit to Pitt’s offensive line as they once again played solid and provided lots of holes for Hall to run through. Ollison wasn’t too shabby either as he rushed for 47 yards (including a 25-yard TD) while serving as Hall’s backup.
The Passing game wasn’t so shabby either as QB Ben DiNucci started and played the entire game. He passed for 134 yards (18-25), a TD and an interception. His TD pass was a sharp one to WR Jester Weah, who bounced of several Virginia defenders en route to a 25-yard TD. Other than that, Weah wasn’t as impressive as he dropped 2 deeply thrown passes that were on the mark by DiNucci.
What also caught my attention about DiNucci was his choice to stretch the field. On several plays, he threw the ball deep and they were impressive passes, one of them was caught by WR Maurice Ffrench for 32 yards. Either he’s showing more confidence or Narduzzi is losing the reins on DiNucci. Whatever the reason, it was pretty impressive.
The other TD came on a spectacular 75-yard TD by Qudree Henderson. #10 has been mostly quiet all year, mostly because I believe that teams were prepared for him, but Henderson snatched the punt and raced it up the sideline and just when you thought he would get tackled, he kept running until he leaped for the end zone. His return partly reminded me of Pittsburgh Steelers LB James Harrison 100-yard TD interception return back in Super Bowl 43. Yeah, it was that impressive.
But the defense was impressive as well. To only give up 14 points to a 5-2 team (when you’re 3-5) is nothing to take lightly, especially when you’re Pitt’s defense. They shut down Virginia’s offense, which included 4-down stands (including a goal-line stand) they held Cavalier RB Jordan Ellis to 58 yards and kept the pressure on QB Kurt Bennett as they sacked him 4 times (no that’s not a misprint) and intercepted him once when LB Saleem Brightwell snatched a pass from Benkert in the first quarter. This unit looked hungry today, and if they want to get a Bowl game, they have to keep it up.
Overall, it was a huge win for the Panthers as they earned their second ACC win in a row. It wasn’t even realistic to think they had a chance at a Bowl game, but now, they are only 2 wins away from getting one. They will have a bye week before hosting North Carolina Thursday night.
Ray Porter Jr
@urbanmediaRay on twitter