Ray Graham, bottom, reaches across the goal line for one of his two rushing touchdowns. He also added an 18-yard scoring reception.
Sept. 15, 2012
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh running back Ray Graham ran for 94 yards and two scores and added an 18-yard touchdown reception to lead the Panthers to a 35-17 upset of No. 13 Virginia Tech on Saturday.
The Panthers never trailed, forced four turnovers and took advantage of uncharacteristically sloppy play by the Hokies.
Virginia Tech (2-1) had won 13 straight true road games, the longest active streak in the country, but let Pitt race to a quick three-touchdown lead and never really threatened. Logan Thomas completed just 14 of 31 passes for 265 yards and one touchdown against three interceptions.
Pitt is jumping to the ACC next year along with Syracuse and will face the Hokies on a yearly basis as part of the league's Coastal Division, reigniting a spirited rivalry that ended in 2004 when Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College abruptly left the Big East.
ACC commissioner John Swofford even offered a pregame videotaped introduction before the opening kickoff, welcoming the Panthers to the league in 2013.
Somehow - after two baffling, listless losses to open the season - Pitt looked more than ready to make the move.
Using Graham and Shell expertly to chew up yardage and time, the Panthers controlled the ball for over 38 minutes, rolled up 537 yards against one of the better defenses in the country and hardly looked like the team that was barely competitive in losses to Youngstown State and Cincinnati.
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer downplayed Pitt's early season struggles, calling it the byproduct of having three different coaches in as many seasons.
The Panthers think they've finally found a keeper in Chyrst, who has given the program a sense of calm. He insisted there was no panic in his team after such a horrific start.
He was right.
Instead, it was the Hokies who looked jittery during a horrific first half in which the Panthers built a 21-3 lead.
Pitt, which hadn't led in a game since a 33-20 victory over Syracuse last December, raced 75 yards on six plays on its first possession. Graham covered the last 12, juking past a Virginia Tech defender to waltz into the end zone.
The Panthers made it 14-0 late in the first on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Sunseri to Devin Street and the hole continued to grow deeper for Virginia Tech, which couldn't seem to get out of its own way. A Michael Holmes fumble gave Pitt the ball deep in Hokies territory and when Graham darted in for his second score of the day the Panthers led 21-0.
Virginia Tech has won 211 games since Beamer took over in 1987, but none after trailing by three touchdowns.
The Hokies got within 21-10 in the third quarter following Kyshoen Jarrett's 94-yard punt return for a score, but the Panthers responded with an expert toss from Sunseri to Graham, whose surgically repaired right knee appears just fine.
Again Virginia Tech responded with a big play, as Thomas hit Marcus Davis for an 85-yard catch-and-run to make it 28-17. And when the Hokies got the ball back at the Pitt 36 following a Sunseri interception early in the fourth quarter, it looked as if the Panthers were wobbling.
Thomas was sacked on first down and followed it up with two straight incompletions. The Hokies punted and Pitt drove 88 yards in a crunching 15-play drive to put Virginia Tech away. At one point the Hokies had appeared to hold Pitt to a field goal, but an offside penalty on the kick gave Pitt a first down at the Virginia Tech 4 and Sunseri followed with a 4-yard toss to Mike Shanahan to put the Hokies away.
Pitt Football Positional Preview: Special Teams
Pitt's Conner Named to Walter Camp Award Watch List
Pitt Football Positional Preview: The Defense
Pitt's Conner Named Preseason Doak Walker Award Candidate
Three Pitt players named Wuerffel Trophy candidates
Pitt's Bisnowaty Named to Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List