Hokies take control of ACC Coastal with 39-36 win at Pitt

Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans (4) throws the ball against Pittsburgh in the first half of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/John Heller)
Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans (4) throws the ball against Pittsburgh in the first half of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/John Heller)

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Jerod Evans shook off a right ankle injury to throw for a career-high 406 yards and two touchdowns and lead No. 25 Virginia Tech to a 39-36 victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

Joey Slye tied the school and Atlantic Coach Conference records by making six field goals to help the Hokies (6-2, 4-1) beat the Panthers (5-3, 2-2) on the road for the first time in 17 years.

Isaiah Ford’s 10 receptions included his school-record 23rd receiving touchdown.

Evans left briefly in the third quarter after getting his right leg rolled up on but returned to overwhelm one of the nation’s worst pass defenses. Bucky Hodges caught six passes for 145 yards and a touchdown and Cam Phillips added 109 yards receiving as Virginia Tech all but ended Pitt’s hopes of an ACC Coastal Division title.

James Conner ran for 141 yards and three touchdowns for the Panthers. Nate Peterman completed 13 of 22 passes for 267 yards with a touchdown and an interception while also catching the first pass of his career as Pitt offensive coordinator Matt Canada went deep into his playbook once again. Pitt offensive tackle Brian O’Neill scored his second touchdown of the season, this time on a pitch from Peterman that resulted in the 6-foot-6, 300-pound O’Neill barreling over the goal line from 5 yards out.

O’Neill’s unlikely score tied it at 29 with 13:25 remaining but the Hokies responded quickly. Slye hit his sixth field goal to put Virginia Tech back in front and following a Pitt punt Evans needed just three plays to take the Hokies 57 yards. Ford took care of the last 16, making a leaping grab to give Virginia Tech a 10-point cushion.

Pitt scored once more to draw within three but the Hokies ran out the clock to assure they’ll end the weekend no worse than tied in the loss column with North Carolina atop the Coastal. Virginia Tech owns the tiebreaker, having beaten the Tar Heels decisively this month.

THE TAKEAWAY

Virginia Tech: The Hokies have the weapons to run the table. Pitt could do little against the 6-foot-7 Hodges and Evans often looked like a point guard lobbing alley-oop passes as he went up top to his receivers again and again. If Evans can avoid turning it over, the Hokies will be in the ACC title game.

Pitt: Midway through Narduzzi’s second season, the defense remains a chaotic work in progress. Even the debut of ballyhooed freshman safety Damar Hamlin’s long anticipated debut did little to help. If Pitt’s pass defense was even average, the Panthers would be a threat to reach the ACC title game. It’s not, and the Panthers almost certainly won’t be in Orlando in December.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Travel to Duke on Nov. 5. The Hokies fell to the Blue Devils 45-43 in four overtimes last season.

Pitt: Begin a tough two-game stretch at Miami on Nov. 5. Hurricanes have won two of three meetings since Pitt joined ACC.