Back Hot Read: Pickett Leads Pitt to Rout

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Hot Read: Pickett Leads Pitt to Rout

By Dave Holcomb
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Dave Holcomb recaps Pitt's 47-14 win over Virginia Tech.

Most teams are better with its starting quarterback, but on Saturday, it became abundantly clear how important quarterback Kenny Pickett is to Pitt’s chances of winning.

Throwing for 400 yards for the second time this season, Pickett shined Saturday with one of the best performances of his career. Behind his efforts, Pitt ran away from Virginia Tech in the second half to win, 47-14.

Here are five takeaways from the Pitt victory:

The Panthers missed Kenny Pickett even more badly than initially realized

Most ACC fans already knew Pickett was one of the best quarterbacks in the conference, but he cemented it with his dazzling performance versus Virginia Tech. He carried the offense in the first half with 40 pass attempts and while the running game improved in the final 30 minutes, Pickett still finished with an impressive 404 passing yards, averaging 7.8 yards per attempt, and two touchdowns with an interception.

With Pickett playing so well and Pitt winning upon his return, one can’t help but wonder what the Panthers’ season would have looked like without losing Pickett. With all due respect to Miami and Notre Dame, at the very least, Pitt probably doesn’t lose by an average of 27.0 points in those two games without Pickett.

Pitt WR DJ Turner also shines on senior day

No Panthers receiver missed Pickett more while he was injured than Turner. He posted a career-high 186 receiving yards on eight catches against NC State on Oct. 3, but he hadn’t recorded two receptions in a game since then.

Without Pickett, Turner had two catches for six yards in two games. In Pickett’s return last week, he posted one catch for negative yardage.

But in his final career game at Heinz Field, Turner again went over the 180-receiving yard mark with 15 catches for 184 yards and a touchdown. What a way to end his home career at Pitt.

Virginia Tech running game successful but not enough

Virginia Tech came into the afternoon with the top ACC rushing attack while Pitt possessed the ACC’s best run defense. Both “got the better” of the other at times Saturday.

The Hokies rushed for 156 yards, which is the most Pitt has allowed in a game this season. Virginia Tech also became just the second team to average more than 4.2 yards per rush versus the Panthers.

But that runshing attack came up short in the biggest series of the game. With Pitt ahead 26-14, Virginia Tech faced a first-and-goal at the Pitt 4-yard line. After gaining three yards on first down, the Panthers defense stuffed the Hokies for no gain on second down and then forced an incompletion on third. Electing to go for the touchdown on fourth down proved to be costly, as again, Pitt stopped the Virginia Tech running game once more for no gain.

Even from his own 1-yard line, Pickett took advantage of the opportunity, driving Pitt to the end zone in four plays to push the Panthers ahead by 19.

Second-half mistakes cost Virginia Tech again

The Hokies never held a lead in this game, but similar to last week, Virginia Tech made too many mistakes in the second half. In addition to failing to score on four straight plays inside the 5-yard line, the Hokies had an interception to begin the second half and missed a field goal that would have brought Virginia Tech within two scores.

After making those errors, the Hokies defense lost energy, and then the Pitt running game broke their will.

Pitt kicker Alex Kessman key early

Most game recaps of a 23-point win won’t include much about a kicker, but Kessman was very important early in Pitt’s victory. Kessman scored Pitt’s first nine points. On the first two field goals, the Panthers offense stalled inside the red zone, and the third Kessman make came from 52 yards.

Virginia Tech scored a touchdown next, but thanks to Kessman’s three field goals, Pitt still led 9-7. He finished 4-for-4 and made two tries from beyond 50 yards. Kessman was also 5-for-5 on extra points.