CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Before Dave Wannstedt could commit his first act of desperation by turning Pitt’s offense over to true freshmen at quarterback and tailback, the Panthers coach attempted another.
Wannstedt waved a white flag on the opening kickoff, trying an unsuccessful onside kick that gave Virginia its first of several drives starting in Pitt territory.
The Panthers emulated their coach by surrendering 27 first-quarter points in a 44-14 loss at Virginia Saturday night before 60,888 at Scott Stadium.
Just when its 20-point loss to visiting Connecticut last week appeared to be a new low for the Pitt football program, the Panthers (2-3) plummeted even further with its third consecutive loss and second in embarrassing fashion.
It wasn’t Wannstedt’s worst margin of defeat – West Virginia owns that distinction with a 45-13 victory in 2005 – but it came against an opponent the Panthers manhandled last year in a 38-13 season-opening victory at Heinz Field.
This one wasn’t about being overmatched. Pitt was simply sloppy, committing costly turnovers and 11 penalties for 139 yards, which has become a recurring theme this year.
Worse yet, the Cavaliers (4-1) came in allowing more points (19.8) than they were scoring (19.2), but managed to score four touchdowns in the first 21:08 on drives consisting of only 39, 51 and 26 yards.
That rendered the debut of quarterback Pat Bostick and tailback LeSean McCoy in same starting backfield essentially meaningless.
Virginia led 27-0 before Bostick, making his first career start, even attempted his first pass. Bostick finished 18 of 31 for 181 yards with a touchdown and an interception. McCoy led Pitt with 86 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown.
On the opening kickoff, Pitt attempted an onside kick by Cody Sawhill, but the ball was recovered by Virginia and the Panthers were penalized 10 yards because Michael Toerper touched the ball at the Pitt 49.
Virginia needed only four plays to score, as Cedric Peerman ran for 11 yards and had a 15-yard reception and quarterback Jameel Sewell ran for 11 to the Pitt 2. Sewell then found tight end Jonathan Stupar for a touchdown and 6-0 lead. Defensive end Joe Clermond blocked Chris Gould’s point-after kick, the first by a Pitt player since J.J. Horne did so against Rutgers in Oct. 18, 2003.
After Pitt went three-and-out, Virginia used another short field to increase its lead. The Cavaliers started on their own 49 and used pass plays of 16 and 12 yards followed by a Peerman 10-yard run to set up Sewell’s 18-yard scoring pass to tight end Tom Santi for a 13-0 advantage with 9:06 remaining in the first quarter.
Lowell Robinson fumbled the ensuing kickoff at Pitt’s 26, setting up Virginia’s next scoring drive. The Cavaliers needed six plays before Sewell threw a rollout pass to Rashawn Jackson for a 20-0 lead with 6:51 left. It was the first time since 2005 that Virginia had passed for three touchdowns in the first quarter.
Virginia accounted for 116 yards on 15 plays in its first three drives. A 45-yard punt return gave the Cavaliers the ball at Pitt’s 21, and they took advantage of a pass interference penalty against Mike Phillips at the goal line to score on Peerman’s 1-yard run for a 27-0 lead. Virginia took a 30-0 lead on Chris Gould’s 26-yard field goal with 8:52 remaining in the first half.
The Panthers finally got a break when Tyler Tkach recovered a fumbled punt at the 22. The Panthers needed only three plays to score, as Pat Bostick’s 19-yard pass to Oderick Turner set up LeSean McCoy’s 1-yard touchdown run with 5:00 remaining in the first half.
Pitt added a 3-yard scoring pass from Bostick to Turner to cut it to 30-14 at 14:54 of the fourth quarter, but Peerman scored on a 13-yard run to make it 37-14. Virginia added another touchdown on a fake field goal, when holder Vic Hall ran untouched for a 44-14 lead with 5:25 left.