BLACKSBURG, Va. — Try as he did, Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage can’t take all the blame for the beating he’s received in his past two games, during which he’s been sacked 15 times and hit countless more times.
Once on a three-game winning streak, the Panthers (3-2, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) have an issue.
“It’s clearly something we’ve got to clean up,” Panthers coach Paul Chryst said of the pass protection.
Savage wound up with a concussion against Virginia, but managed to finish Saturday’s 19-9 loss to Virginia Tech. He even ran for a touchdown with about two minutes to play. Still, he tried to shoulder the blame.
“I think they did a great job, but I think on our part we have to execute better,” he said after completing 13 of 28 passes for 187 yards. The Panthers ran for just 23 yards on 26 carries.
“There’s nothing out there that we saw that we weren’t expecting,” Savage said.
Three weeks ago, Savage tied an ACC record with six touchdown passes in a 58-55 victory against Duke. Since then, the Panthers have managed 199 yards against Virginia, and 210 against Virginia Tech.
Still, he earned the respect of the Hokies.
“When we get that much pressure on somebody at Lane Stadium, they usually go down,” Hokies coach Frank Beamer said.
“Lots of credit to him, He’s a big, tough guy and he played a really tough game today.”
So did Beamer’s quarterback, Logan Thomas. He threw an early touchdown pass, and led drives that lasted long enough to produce four field goals by Cody Journell as the Hokies ended a four-game losing streak against the Panthers. They also avenged a 35-17 loss last season that started a long skid.
Savage never had a chance to get wide receivers Devin Street and Tyler Boyd into the game. Street finished with five catches for 104 yards, and Boyd with two for 20. Savage’s sacks totaled minus-49 yards.
The Hokies were sharp at the outset, driving 71 yards in eight plays the first time they had the ball. They didn’t face a third down until they were deep in Pittsburgh territory, and that’s when Thomas hit freshman tight end Kalvin Cline for a 27-yard touchdown. It was the first touchdown reception of Cline’s career.
After a three-and-out for Pittsburgh, which ended with a sack when the lumbering Savage kept the ball on third-and-1 and tried to run around the right side, the Hokies drove again.
Journell’s career-best 48-yard field goal made it 10-0, and even though the Hokies offense stalled pretty much the rest of the way, gaining just 211 yards in the last three quarters, it hardly mattered because the defense was allowing almost nothing.
Journell added field goals of 37, 42 and 23 yards, and missed on a 33-yarder.
The Panthers first points came on a 51-yard drive late in the first half, the key play a 48-yard pass from a pressured Savage to Street.
Savage, a pro-style quarterback who was only cleared to play this week after sustaining a concussion against Virginia, got more of the same treatment from a defense that started the game leading the country with 13 interceptions, sharing the national lead with 19 sacks and ranked fourth overall, allowing just 264 yards per game.
Dadi Nicolas had three sacks for the Hokies, and Derrick Hopkins had two.
Savage did get some measure of payback with 2:01 remaining, escaping the arms of one tackler and running 9 yards for a touchdown. On the two-point conversion try, however, he was swarmed and fumbled the ball away.