James Conner ran for 90 yards and two touchdowns and Pittsburgh shut Virginia down in the second half in a 45-31 victory on Saturday.
The Panthers (5-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) got a 93-yard kickoff return touchdown from Quadree Henderson and a 59-yard interception return touchdown from Jordan Whitehead, the latter to allow the Panthers to take a 35-28 lead into halftime.
Virginia (2-4, 1-1) had its two-game winning streak end. The Cavaliers moved the ball at will in the opening 30 minutes, piling up 270 yards, but were just the opposite thereafter. They gained 15 yards in the third quarter and finished with 108 yards in the half.
Nathan Peterman threw two touchdown passes for Panthers, the last making it 42-28 with 9:47 left.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers have scored at least 36 points in six consecutive games, a program record, so offense isn’t a problem. Their run defense is statistically solid, but might be artificially so because its pass defense is spotty. Kurt Benkert thrived in the first half, when Pitt had no sacks, but the Cavaliers quarterback seemed rattled after the Panthers sacked him three times in four plays early after halftime.
Virginia: The Cavaliers have the capacity to play well for long stretches, but adversity still presents them with challenges that coach Bronco Mendenhall attributes to a history of more failure than success. The adversity against Pitt came in two stages — Whitehead’s interception return touchdown, and when the Panthers came out firing on defense and applied pressure Benkert hadn’t seen before halftime.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers have a bye next weekend, and will then play Virginia Tech at Heinz Field on Thursday night, Oct. 27.
Virginia: The Cavaliers continue their three-game homestand by taking on longtime rival North Carolina.