CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – First place in the ACC Coastal division is on the line Friday night when No.22 Virginia hosts a Pittsburgh squad who scored with five seconds left to notch an exciting victory over Duke last weekend. The Cavaliers posted a 31-21 triumph against North Carolina behind four total touchdowns from quarterback Bryce Perkins (three passing) to return to the national rankings for the first time since 2011, while the Panthers’ offense finally broke out and scored their most points in nearly two years.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2. LINE: Virginia -7.
Perkins completed 18-of-27 passes for 217 yards and added 112 more on the ground as Virginia won its third conference game in a row for the first time since 2011 to remain atop the division at 4-1 with Pitt and Virginia Tech sitting 3-1. “You can feel it in the locker room. We are not satisfied,” Perkins said after the game. “We come out, and coach tells us every day that we can win however many we want to. We go out there and play - we have a different kind of swagger, and you can feel it on the field when we play together. We want the Coastal, and we are not going to be satisfied until we get that.” Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett, who has struggled under center all season, connected with Maurice Ffrench on a 25-yard touchdown strike to provide Pitt a 54-45 victory over the Blue Devils (the Panthers added a safety on the final play of the game for the nine-point margin). The Pittsburgh offense registered 634 yards, including 484 yards rushing, second most in school history, but the defense continued to underwhelm, yielding 619 yards.
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (4-4, 3-1 ACC)
Defensive back V’Lique Carter, a 5-9, 170-pound freshman, moved to running back and gained 137 yards on seven carries with two touchdowns in the first game of his career against Duke, while workhorse Qadree Ollison added 149 yards and a score on 18 carries to push his rushing total for the season to 795 yards - third in the ACC. Pickett (60.6 completion percentage, eight TDs, five interceptions), who is averaging just over 10 yards per completion this season, finished 8-of-18 for 150 yards (72 in the final drive) and two touchdowns with Ffrench catching a 50-yard scoring pass prior to the game winner. The Panthers surrendered just 19 points in a five-point loss to Notre Dame on Oct. 13 but 120 in the previous three contests, prompting coach Pat Narduzzi to sum up the defense’s play by saying, “one step forward and two steps back.”
ABOUT VIRGINIA (6-2, 4-1)
Perkins, a junior college transfer who tied season highs in passing and total touchdowns while rushing for 100 yards for the third time, has completed 63.1 percent of his 217 attempts for 1,623 yards and 21 total touchdowns (15 passing) against eight interceptions. Olamide Zaccheaus (team highs of 56 receptions, 690 yards and six TDs) collected 10 catches for the second week in a row, recorded his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season and became Virginia’s all-time career receptions leader with 213. The Cavaliers are surrendering 18.8 points - 18th in FBS and second in the ACC -- and 327 yards per game, and they have held seven opponents under 400 yards and all but two to 21 points or fewer.
1. Pittsburgh beat Virginia 31-14 last season and has won three straight in the series.
2. Perkins (575 yards) passed Bill Dudley (469, 1940) and Shawn Moore (505, 1989) into second place all-time at Virginia for single-season rushing yardage by a quarterback.
3. Zaccheaus is the only active player in the nation with 2,000 receiving and 500 rushing yards and one of three ACC players to accomplish the feat since 2000. "The capability has always been there, but his drive for excellence keeps accelerating to a higher level," coach Bronco Mendenhall told reporters.
PREDICTION: Virginia 28, Pittsburgh 24