PITTSBURGH - With three consecutive wins, including last weekend’s victory over then-No. 23 Virginia, Pittsburgh is leading the ACC Coastal division and controls its own destiny to appear in its first conference championship game Dec. 1 in Charlotte. But Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi doesn’t want his team to think about where they are in the standings as they prepare for their final home game of the season Saturday against a Virginia Tech team that still has it sights on the division crown.
TV: 3:30 ET, ESPNU. LINE: Pittsburgh -3.
“The focus has got to be on the preparation we need to do to win this football game, period. Nothing else matters. Those standings mean absolutely nothing,” Narduzzi told reporters Monday after Pitt knocked off Virginia 23-13 last Friday night to take over sole possession of first in the Coastal. “I didn't address it last night. I'm not going to address it. There's still a bunch of hungry teams sitting below us.” Darrin Hall ran for 229 yards and three touchdowns, while the defense put together its best performance in nearly a year to get Pitt one step closer to achieving program history and one win away from being bowl eligible after a nine-year run ended during last season’s 5-7 campaign. Virginia Tech failed to keep pace with Pittsburgh last week when it lost 31-21 to Boston College despite three touchdown passes from Ryan Willis. The Hokies will be dangerous, however, as they look to register five straight conference road wins for the first time since winning 10 in a row from 2009-11.
ABOUT VIRGINIA TECH (4-4, 3-2 ACC)
Willis completed 25-of-42 passes for 281 yards with an interception, and the former Kansas signal-caller is completing 59.3 percent for the season with 13 TDs against just four interceptions. The Hokies have dropped three of four, averaging only 23.5 points per contest, but coach Justin Fuente isn’t about to place the blame on Willis. “The guy calling the plays is the same guy that, in his first year here, set 10 school records’” Fuente told reporters Monday. “He still knows what he's doing, but the people out there have changed, and we've got to do a better job of getting things done. … Play-calling has nothing to do with it. Play execution has 100 percent to do with it.”
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (5-4, 4-1)
Hall scored on runs of 41, 2 and 75 yards - the last of which came one play after Virginia closed to 14-13 in the fourth quarter. He has run for 658 yards, seven TDs and a 7.4 yards-per-carry mark behind starter and fellow senior Qadree Ollison, who ranks third in the ACC with 819 yards rushing to go with seven TDs and a 6.2 average per carry. “You talk about selflessness. That running back room is a couple doors down here. I hope the young guys in that room are taking notice to those two guys, how they act. They understand they've got to come out and compete every day in practice,” Narduzzi told reporters. “They're not worried about "me, me." They're worried about "we, we." Those two are the epitome of togetherness, selflessness.”
1. The Hokies lead the all-time series 10-7, including a 20-14 victory last season when Virginia Tech stopped Pitt four times from the 1-yard line in the game’s final minute. “Still goes through my mind 4th-and-1. Four downs at the one last year where we could have taken that game back to Pittsburgh. We're going to play angry, as well,” Narduzzi told reporters this week.
2. Hall also ran for 254 yards on 24 carries and three touchdowns last year in a win over Duke
3. Pitt is averaging 230.8 rushing yards to rank 20th nationally and third in the ACC.
PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 27, Pittsburgh 24
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