PITTSBURGH (AP) – Qadree Ollison ran for 235 yards and three touchdowns, Darrin Hall added 186 yards rushing and a score of his own as Pittsburgh moved closer to its first ACC Coastal Division title with a dominant 52-22 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday.
The Panthers (6-4, 5-1 ACC) rolled up a school-record 654 total yards, 492 coming on the ground. Maurice Ffrench caught a 78-yard touchdown pass from Kenny Pickett and later scored on a 12-yard run off a jet sweep as Pitt jumped to a 31-7 halftime lead and then cruised.
Ollison sealed it with program record 97-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, becoming the sixth Pitt player ever go to over 1,000 yards rushing in multiple seasons in the process.
The Panthers need to win one of their final two games against Wake Forest or Miami to become the sixth different school to win the Coastal Division in as many seasons.
It’s a rise that seemed unlikely at the end of September, when Pitt sat at 2-3 after getting blown out by Penn State and Central Florida. Yet the Panthers have collected themselves behind an elite rushing attack led by Hall and Ollison, who celebrated Senior Day by putting on a showcase on just how far Pitt has come over the last six weeks.
Ryan Willis threw for 231 yards and three touchdowns for the Hokies (4-5, 3-3), two of them to Eric Kumah, but Virginia Tech’s defense offered little resistance.
Despite the stakes, the Panthers insisted they were focused on avenging a 20-14 loss at Virginia Tech last November. Pitt had four chances from just outside the goal line in the final seconds to pull out the victory only to get stopped short, a setback that ultimately cost the Panthers bowl eligibility.
Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi said he wasn’t worried about his team’s ability to deliver it put in a similar spot, and Pitt spent four quarters putting on a blocking clinic. Hall and Ollison spent most of the afternoon roaring through gaping holes and responding in the second half whenever Virginia Tech attempted to get back in it.
The nail came with just under 5 minutes left after the Panthers stopped the Hokies on fourth down at the Pitt 3. Ollison took the next snap and chugged to the end zone, flipping across the goal line to celebrate the longest ever run by a Panther, heady territory for a program that dates back to 1905 and whose roster of alumni includes Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett and current NFL star LeSean McCoy.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies don’t appear interested in tackling anybody. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster hoped his young group would have learned after getting run over in losses to Georgia Tech and Boston College. Instead it was more of the same. Pitt’s offensive line did whatever it wanted while controlling the line of scrimmage and Virginia Tech’s 25-year streak of reaching a bowl appears in serious jeopardy. The Hokies need to beat Miami and Virginia to assure themselves of becoming bowl eligible.
Pitt: The Panthers have perhaps the best one-two backfield punch in the country in Hall and Ollison. The good friends have spent their entire careers taking turns atop the depth chart. Instead of it becoming a problem, it brought them closer together. The results have propelled the Panthers to the cusp to few thought possible two months ago.
Virginia Tech: Welcomes Miami to Lane Stadium next Saturday.
Pitt: Travels to Wake Forest next Saturday in the first meeting between the two schools since Pitt joined the ACC in 2013.
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