Pitt is on course for its first ACC Coastal title. While it’s fun and distracting to just marvel at the Panthers being about to have as many divisional titles in the ACC as Miami, doing that comes with a risk. The danger is that you might miss what happened to make it a reality: the pureeing of historic proportions Pitt put on Virginia Tech in Week 11.
This was supposed to be one of the closest games of the week.
The S&P+ computer system picked the Hokies to win 31.3-31.0. It was the epitome of a tossup, with S&P+ liking Virginia Tech by about 3 points on a neutral field. Because this game was played at Heinz Field, the computer moved it to a 50/50 game.
Human oddsmakers pegged Pitt as a 4-point favorite. That assessment still had it as one of the closer games in FBS this week.
In reality, the game wasn’t close. Pitt won 52-22. But the 30-point margin doesn’t even start to tell the story of how epic a bludgeoning this was.
Pitt’s 13.9 yards per play weren’t just the most in recent times. They were almost a half-yard better than anyone’s done since Reggie Bush’s Heisman year.
Most yards per play in a game (vs. FBS), 2005-18:— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) November 11, 2018
1. 2018 Pitt vs. VT (13.9)
2. 2016 UNM vs. Wyo (13.5)
3. 2011 GT vs. Kansas (13.5)
4. 2010 NIU vs. EMU (13.2)
5. 2017 Memphis vs. ECU (13.0) https://t.co/BCUk8Axr3b
The only other Power 5 game to get close involved a triple-option team playing Kansas. There’s no precedent at all for a team in this era having a day like Pitt had.
The Panthers rang up:
- 654 yards of offense on 47 plays (13.9)
- 492 rushing yards on 36 carries (13.7)
- 162 passing yards on 7-of-11
Pitt’s drive chart is one of the most impressive I have ever looked at. Wildly, even that table full of touchdowns doesn’t quite describe the game.
Pitt had 10 possessions that weren’t just half-ending kneels. Seven were touchdowns, one was a field goal, one was a punt, and one was a touchback on a fumble from right before the goal line. Absent that fumble, Pitt would’ve had eight TDs in 10 true drives, which is really rare against a Power 5 peer:
And, not to be inappropriate, but look at how long these things are:
Virginia Tech forced a three-and-out right after halftime. Other than that, the Hokies did not hold Pitt to any real drives of fewer than 50 yards. Yet Pitt scored five of its touchdowns on drives of less than two and a half minutes, so the Hokies — while giving up alllllllllll of those points — still possessed the ball for 34 minutes and ran 86 plays to Pitt’s 47 plays.
So it will not surprise you that the Hokies didn’t have much of an offensive game themselves. That led to this historic margin:
Largest YPP margin (vs. FBS), 2005-18:— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) November 11, 2018
1. 2010 NIU vs. EMU (+10.7)
2. 2018 Pitt vs. VT (+8.9)
3. 2013 FSU vs. Cuse (+8.5)
4. 2010 Hawaii vs. UNM (+8.4)
5. 2011 GT vs. Kansas (+8.2) https://t.co/VmM1t3hZiO
Again, that doesn’t happen in Power 5-on-Power 5 games. The closest in the last 14 years involved Jameis Winston’s undefeated national champion Seminoles against a 7-6 team.
The numbers are gobsmacking. Just as bizarre is watching the tape.
The Panthers ran a variety of plays. All of them worked.
Blowing open massive holes with zone blocking and fullback kick-outs?
Split zone looks, with the fullback mashing open a hole for a runner?
Other zone runs with the fullback creating holes?
Bootlegs with the QB running untouched for ages, as the fullback slows up the only guy with a chance of tackling him?
Check. Thanks to lead blocker George Aston, Pitt’s offense is fullback erotica.
Virginia Tech showed Pitt plenty of eight-man boxes, a hallmark of longtime coordinator Bud Foster’s, and it didn’t help at all. It looked on a few occasions like VT having so many defenders close to the line of scrimmage meant none of them had an angle once Pitt’s Darrin Hall or Qadree Ollison got a head of steam, which happened, like, every play. It was like the Hokie defense was butter and the Pitt running backs were light sabers.
You can watch college football for years and not see one Power 5 team to do another what Pitt did to Virginia Tech.
This wasn’t Georgia Tech running over VT without throwing a single pass, but it was functionally the same. Pitt did the Hokies like only a flexbone option team should be able to do anyone.