Logan Thomas threw an early touchdown pass, Cody Journell kicked four field goals and No. 24 Virginia Tech sacked Pittsburgh's Tom Savage eight times in a 19-9 victory on Saturday.
"We got eight, but I bet we probably missed eight," coach Frank Beamer said.
The Hokies (6-1, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their sixth straight game and ended a four-game losing streak against the Panthers, avenging a 35-17 loss a year ago that sent Virginia Tech into a long skid. More importantly, a year after throwing three interceptions at Pittsburgh, Thomas and the Hokies were turnover-free for the third straight game.
With their relentless defensive front playing at the top of its game, the Hokies finished with a season-high eight sacks Saturday, including a career-high three from defensive end Dadi Nicolas, and limited the Panthers to just 210 yards. It’s the most sacks Virginia Tech has had since a 2006 win over Duke, and the Hokies were credited with seven additional hits on Savage.
"(Virginia) did something similar with one of their guys and I guess they had a bunch of sacks," linebacker Jack Tyler said, speaking of Cavaliers freshman linebacker Max Valles, who had two of Virginia's seven sacks against the Panthers.
Seeing that, he said the Hokies decided on a similar approach this week, and it worked. Nicolas finished with three sacks, Derrick Hopkins had two and four other players had at least a share of one. The Hokies had 10 stops for loss.
Savage, who tied an ACC record with six touchdown passes three weeks ago in a 58-55 victory against Duke, never had much of a chance to get wide receivers Devin Street and Tyler Boyd into the game, but said that's not all on his line.
"Any good quarterback, you can't worry about that stuff," he said of the pressure. "I have the best line in the country. I'm confident with those guys out there. It's just my job to get rid of the ball."
Savage, a pro-style quarterback who was only cleared to play this week after sustaining a concussion against Virginia, has been sacked 15 times in his last two games. The Hokies came in leading the country with 13 interceptions, sharing the national lead with 19 sacks and ranked fourth overall, allowing just 264 yards per game.
The Hokies were sharp at the outset, driving 71 yards in eight plays the first time they had the ball. They didn't get to third down a third-and-9, when Thomas hit freshman tight end Kalvin Cline (career-high four catches for 65 yards) for a 27-yard touchdown. Cline was double covered, but behind his man, and Thomas hit him in stride heading toward the pylon on the right side of the end zone.
"These past couple games, Logan's definitely put it on the money," Cline said of his first career touchdown.
Thomas finished 19 for 34 for 239 yards, and ran 16 times for a team-best 27 yards. Even though the Hokies offense stalled pretty much the rest of the way, gaining 211 yards in the last three quarters after 104 in the opening 15 minutes, it hardly mattered because the defense was allowing almost nothing.
Journell added field goals of 48, 37, 42 and 23 yards, and missed on a 33-yarder.
The victory leaves the Hokies entering their bye week in prime position to compete with Miami for the ACC’s Coastal Division title. The two teams do not meet until Nov. 9 in South Florida.
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