PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Panthers made quick work of the Virginia Tech Hokies at Heinz Field on Saturday, beating them 47-14.

However, the Panthers were without 16 players due to the team’s COVID-19 protocol.

Those 16 players were the most the team had missed all season thus far and the team is still feeling the impact from COVID-19 concerns that caused a postponement just one week ago.

“We got hit with COVID coming back from Tallahasse somehow, someway, I don’t know what happened,” said Pitt Head Coach Pat Narduzzi.

Narduzzi was referencing the Panthers’ November 7 game against Florida State. Five days later, the team was forced to pause team operations and then ultimately postpone their November 14 matchup with Georgia Tech.

“We’re just always going to protect our football team and our kids and as much as we wanted to play that game, we just didn’t feel good going down there,” Narduzzi said.

According to Narduzzi, the 16 players that sat out against the Hokies were related to the previous week.

“We were close all week,” Narduzzi said when asked how close the team came to not playing against Virginia Tech. “The positive thing is we were clean all week, too, so that was really, we didn’t lose anybody this week in practice. It was really the previous week we were waiting on.”

With changes to the state’s mask guidelines brought changes at Heinz Field.

Players wore face coverings on the sidelines but did not have to wear them while actually playing.

Then, in a year of celebrating in non-traditional ways, the Panthers honored their seniors.

“They played a video of my family right before I ran out for my senior walkout and that was a special moment,” said senior defensive back Damar Hamlin.

“Corona 2020, so I took it how I could,” added senior defensive lineman Rashad Weaver. “For them to have all my family, there was a ton of people up on that screen on a Zoom call introducing me, to run out on the field for that…”

Pitt isn’t the only team that’s been touched by COVID-19, the ACC has been plagued with COVID-19-related issues recently.

Two games this week were postponed and another was canceled.

Shelby Cassesse