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Addison Leads Pitt to Coastal Title

By Dave Holcomb
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Dave Holcomb recaps Pitt's division-clinching win over Virginia.

A lot of the focus coming into the Virginia-Pitt matchup Saturday was on the quarterbacks. Rightfully so, as Kenny Pickett and Brennan Armstrong have been tremendous this season.

But at Heinz Field in Week 12, it was the wide receivers who stole the show. That was especially true for Jordan Addison, who scored four of Pitt’s five offensive touchdowns to lead the Panthers to a 48-38 victory against the Cavaliers.

With the victory, Pitt clinched its second ACC Coastal division title in the last four years. The Panthers will face either Wake Forest or Clemson in the ACC Championship on Saturday, Dec. 4.

Addison has been one of the best wide receivers in the ACC this season, and yet, it still feels like he saved his best for the most important game of the regular season. Pitt involved Addison early and often in the passing game, as he led the team with 14 receptions and scored twice in the first 20 minutes of the contest.

In the second half, Pickett threw an interception on the first possession after halftime. But following the Panthers defense holding the Cavaliers to a field goal, Pickett again turned to Addison. The two connected for a 34-yard touchdown with the game tied 24-24.

Virginia kept answering, tying the game at 31 later in the fourth quarter. When the Panthers took a 41-31 lead, the Cavaliers scored a touchdown less than 30 seconds later to pull back within three.

But Addison just kept catching passes. Pickett found the sophomore wideout for one more score late in the fourth quarter -- a 62-yard scamper down the sideline -- to clinch Pitt a spot in the ACC Championship.

Addison’s 14 catches set a new career high and was almost double his previous season high of eight. With 202 receiving yards, he became the first Pitt receiver with more than 200 yards since Larry Fitzgerald.

Addison accounted for nearly 60 percent of Pitt’s passing yards and scored all four of Pickett’s passing touchdowns. The only other Panthers offensive touchdown came from Rodney Hammond Jr. on the ground.

No other Pitt pass-catcher had more than four receptions or 33 yards.

Virginia had a pair of wideouts shine on their side as well. Dontayvion Wicks and Keytaon Thompson each had at least 10 catches and more than 100 yards. Wicks led the team with 144 yards while Thompson had a team-high 11 receptions and a touchdown. Fellow wide receiver Ra’Shaun Henry and tight end Jelani Woods each posted at least 75 receiving yards and scored touchdowns too.

But Addison was the biggest difference maker along with the Pitt ground game. While Hammond scored the only Pitt rushing touchdown, Vincent Davis averaged 8.3 yards per carry and ran for 100 yards.

The Panthers outgained the Cavaliers on the ground, 169-27.

Pitt leading rusher Israel Abanikanda only had 19 rushing yards on three carries, but he made his biggest impact on special teams. Abanikanda returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

The Cavaliers led 7-0 after the first quarter, but thanks to the explosive plays from Addison and on special teams, Pitt never trailed again after the 14:56 mark of the second quarter. The Panthers accomplished that despite Armstrong arguably outplaying Pickett.

Armstrong finished 36-for-49 passing with 487 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Pickett was 26 of 41 through the air for 340 yards. He also had the four touchdowns to Addison and two interceptions.

The loss eliminates the Cavaliers from the Coastal division race, but they still have a big matchup with rival Virginia Tech next week. With the victory, Virginia can clinch its third winning season in the last four years.

Maybe even more importantly, the Cavaliers can say they beat the Hokies two of the last three years with a win next week.

For Pitt, the Panthers are on to bigger things. They also have a matchup with rival Syracuse next Saturday. The Panthers will want to stay focused on the Orange to avoid an unnecessary loss that could eliminate them from a New Year’s Six bowl.

But in two weeks, Pitt is eyeing to win its first ACC Championship. The last time the Panthers won even a share of their conference championship was in 2010 in the Big East. In program history, they have never won a conference championship game or captured a conference title outright.