Sep 30, 2023; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies running back Bhayshul Tuten (33) runs the ball during the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Kyron Drones (5 TDs) leads Virginia Tech past Pitt

Kyron Drones threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more as Virginia Tech secured a much-needed 38-21 victory against visiting Pittsburgh on Saturday night in Blacksburg, Va.

Bhayshul Tuten rushed for 109 yards and caught a touchdown pass for the Hokies (2-3, 1-0 ACC), who snapped a three-game losing streak.

Drones completed 12 of 19 passes for 228 yards and gained 41 more on 21 carries. He played in a limited capacity last year for Baylor, and then played sparingly in the first two games this year before his role expanded.

Virginia Tech held the Panthers scoreless for the final 24 1/2 minutes.

Pitt (1-4, 0-2) sputtered again with its fourth consecutive loss. Quarterback Phil Jurkovec was back for the Panthers after leaving a week earlier with an undisclosed injury in a loss to North Carolina. He had trouble getting much cranked up, although two of his first four completions went for touchdowns. He finished 11-for-22 for 235 yards.

Pitt’s first two scores came on one-play possessions. Jurkovec threw to Bub Means for a 75-yard play just 12 seconds after the Hokies’ first touchdown.

The Panthers trailed 28-7 after a 10-yard touchdown run for Drones gave Virginia Tech its largest lead of the season. That margin was brief because of Jurkovec’s 61-yard pass play to C’Bo Flemister on the next snap.

Just 37 seconds later, Pitt’s Braylan Lovelace recovered a Drones fumble for a touchdown as the Panthers closed within 28-21.

Drones responded by throwing a 53-yard touchdown pass to Jaylin Lane with 3:27 left in the third quarter.

The Hokies were up 20-7 at halftime after Tuten, a transfer from North Carolina A&T, scored on a 12-yard reception. Virginia Tech scored earlier on Drones’ 54-yard pass to Da’Quan Felton and on Drones’ 2-yard run.

Tuten ended up with 24 carries. Pitt’s offense had 24 total rushing plays, compiling only 38 yards.

–Field Level Media

Pittsburgh Panthers Phil Jurkovec prepares to fire the ball downfield while looking for an open receiver during the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA on September 23, 2023.

Report: Pitt QB Phil Jurkovec to start against Virginia Tech

Pitt starting quarterback Phil Jurkovec will play Saturday night on the road against Virginia Tech, multiple outlets reported.

Jurkovec’s status had been unclear after he left last week’s game against North Carolina before halftime after he absorbed a hit from Tayon Holloway.

Holloway was flagged for targeting and ejected.

Jurkovec, a sixth-year senior, was 11 of 15 for 109 yards against the Tar Heels.

Jurkovec is still in big need of a strong effort to turn around his and his team’s season. Jurkovec has completed 51.1 percent of his pass attempts for 583 yards and four touchdowns to go with three interceptions for Pittsburgh (1-3, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference).

He spent two seasons at Notre Dame, followed by three at Boston College.

Virginia Tech (1-3, 0-0 ACC) likely will be without its starting QB, Grant Wells. He missed the past two games due to an unspecified injury. On the season, he’s thrown for 494 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions.

If Wells can’t play, Kyron Drones will start. He has completed 41 passes for 390 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He’s added two touchdowns and 164 yards on the ground and is the second-leading rusher for the Hokies.

–Field Level Media

Sep 23, 2023; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers tight end Kole Taylor (87) celebrates with teammates after catching a pass for a touchdown against the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the fourth quarter at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia Tech seeking consistency when Pitt visits

Two teams in need of a positive result meet on Saturday when Pitt faces Virginia Tech in an Atlantic Coast Conference matchup in Blacksburg, Va.

This will be the ACC opener for Virginia Tech (1-3), which has lost three games in a row. The past two have come in road encounters with Rutgers and Marshall.

“We’re not consistent enough to be a good team,” Virginia Tech coach Brent Pry said. “We’re falling short in areas at different times.”

Pitt, which lost 41-24 to North Carolina last Saturday in its ACC opener, is 1-3 through four games for the first time since 2017. Since the Panthers just started conference play, there’s no reason to panic, according to coach Pat Narduzzi.

“The two teams that will be in the (ACC) championship game at the end of the year will have one loss, guaranteed,” Narduzzi said. “There’s too much parity in this conference, and there’s going to be two teams with one loss I think. … So everything we’ll do is still ahead of us.

“We’ll be back and go down to Virginia Tech and get it done.”

Pitt might be going through a shakeup on offense. Quarterback Phil Jurkovec left Saturday’s loss to UNC due to an undisclosed first-half injury. Christian Veilleux filled in, but he threw two interceptions.

“It doesn’t matter who is out there,” Narduzzi said. “We still had a chance to win with a makeshift offensive line.”

The Panthers’ work on special teams was easy to spot in the game against the Tar Heels. While Pitt gave up a punt return for a touchdown, it also benefited from Kenny Johnson’s 100-yard kickoff return for a score and Rasheem Biles’ second blocked punt in as many games.

Virginia Tech expects a physically demanding game with Pitt, so moving the ball on the ground could help the Hokies after they racked up 184 rushing yards in the 24-17 loss to Marshall.

Pitt and Virginia Tech have split 22 games in the all-time series, though the Panthers have won the last three meetings. The Hokies have won seven of 10 matchups in Blacksburg.

Pitt won 45-29 at home last October in the most recent meeting between the teams.

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Panthers offensive lineman Matt Goncalves (76) takes the field to warm up against the Clemson Tigers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt LT Matt Goncalves undergoes season-ending surgery

Pitt standout left tackle Matt Goncalves underwent surgery Monday for a lower-body injury and will miss the rest of the season.

Goncalves, an NFL prospect, was injured during the fourth quarter of a game against West Virginia on Sept. 16.

“I’m sad for him,” Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi said Monday during a press conference. “I’m sad for his family that will be at every game anyway, because they’re so blue and gold. It’s nothing you expect. He’s in such good shape, he’s a tough dude. It’s a hit to our offense.”

Goncalves was a preseason first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection. He was a third-team All-ACC choice after the 2022 season and is a team captain.

“The amount of love and care I have for the University of Pittsburgh cannot be measured,” Goncalves said on social media. “I’ll be there for my teammates and help the team whatever way I can throughout this recovery process. Thank you to my coaches, my teammates, and my family for helping me get past this.”

Narduzzi said Goncalves will reveal the injury details at a later date.

Also, Panthers quarterback Phil Jurkovec is in jeopardy of missing Saturday’s game at Virginia Tech. He sustained an undisclosed injury while taking a hard hit during the second quarter of last Saturday’s 41-24 home loss to North Carolina.

Jurkovec has passed for 583 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. He is in his first season at Pitt after playing two seasons at Notre Dame (2018-19) and three at Boston College (2020-22).

Christian Veilleux is being prepared to start in case Jurkovec isn’t available. He was 7-of-18 for 85 yards and two interceptions against North Carolina.

Veilleux spent two seasons at Penn State before transferring to Pitt prior to this season.

The Panthers (1-3, 0-1 ACC) have lost three straight games.

–Field Level Media

Sep 23, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels running back Omarion Hampton (28) crosses the goal line to score a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the first quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Drake Maye powers No. 17 North Carolina past pesky Pittsburgh

Drake Maye ran for two touchdowns and threw an unconventional pass for another touchdown as No. 17 North Carolina defeated host Pittsburgh 41-24 on Saturday night.

Maye normally throws right-handed but he added a left-handed toss while draped by a defender as the Tar Heels (4-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) won in their first true road game of the season.

Alijah Huzzie had a first-half punt return for a touchdown and made a second-half interception for North Carolina, which benefited from the Panthers’ three turnovers. The Tar Heels didn’t commit a turnover and were charged with only three penalties.

Pittsburgh (1-3, 0-1) couldn’t keep up despite a kickoff return for a touchdown by Kenny Johnson.

Maye completed 22 of 30 passes for 296 yards. Kicker Noah Burnette had third-quarter field goals from 43 and 48 yards.

Pittsburgh quarterbacks Phil Jurkovec and Christian Veilleux combined for 197 passing yards. Rodney Hammond Jr. gained 83 rushing yards on 14 carries.
The Tar Heels had plenty of highlights in building a 28-17 halftime lead.

Huzzie’s 52-yard punt return for a touchdown gave the Tar Heels their first lead with 7:23 remaining in the first half.

After Ben Sauls’ 44-yard field goal for Pittsburgh, the Tar Heels extended their margin.

Under duress, Maye’s left-handed touchdown pass to Kobe Paysour covered 7 yards and came with one minute left in the first half.

North Carolina opened the second-half scoring with a 75-yard drive ending on Maye’s 1-yard run.

Pitt used almost eight minutes on a game-opening touchdown drive that was capped by Hammond’s 7-yard run.

That began a back-and-forth with the teams trading touchdowns. Omarion Hampton ran 3 yards for North Carolina’s touchdown before Daniel Carter’s 1-yard run for the Panthers.

Maye helped the Tar Heels tie it 14-14 on a fourth-and-1 touchdown run.

North Carolina lost in overtime in its last two visits to Pittsburgh but avoided drama this time.

–Field Level Media

Sep 16, 2023; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA;  North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) passes the ball in the fourth quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt clamors for QB correction as Drake Maye, No. 17 UNC arrive

No. 17 North Carolina leaves the Tar Heel State for the first time this season when it travels to Pittsburgh on Saturday to face the Panthers in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams.

UNC (3-0) scored a dominant 31-13 home win over Minnesota last week, a showcase of sorts for ACC Preseason Player of the Year Drake Maye. Maye completed 29 of 40 passes for 414 yards and two touchdowns, and he also rushed 13 times for 34 yards.

In just 17 games as the Tar Heels’ starting quarterback — and two other appearances as a backup in 2021 — Maye now has 43 career passing touchdowns, pushing him past Mitch Trubisky for sixth place in program history. The Minnesota game marked the second time Maye has thrown for at least 400 yards in a single game in his career. UNC is 7-1 all-time when Maye tops 300 yards through the air.

However, Maye has also thrown four interceptions through three games this season after throwing just seven all of last year. He knows he can be better.

“We got a lot going for us offensively,” Maye said. “We still haven’t played our best. We are hitting our stride on some drives.”

Pitt (1-2) has two hands on the wheel and is looking to make a U-turn after losing a pair of games to regional non-conference rivals Cincinnati and West Virginia.

Against WVU in the Backyard Brawl, Pitt quarterback Phil Jurkovec connected on just 8 of 20 passes for 81 yards and three interceptions.

Jurkovec came to Pitt this past offseason after three seasons at Boston College. The fit seemed natural because Jurkovec was reuniting with former BC offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, who had been the play-caller for the Eagles when Jurkovec had his best season, throwing for 17 touchdowns and rushing for three more in 2020.

Jurkovec is completing just 46.7 percent of his passes, a career worst. Against WVU, Pitt ran the ball 12 straight times to start the game. This has all led some to question the coaching staff’s confidence in the quarterback.

“I’m not a quarterback whisperer. I’m not a quarterback guru,” Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi said. “But I do believe, from anywhere that I’ve ever been, that it takes time to jell with your guys.”

And if a change is made at quarterback, that’s a decision Narduzzi will delegate to Cignetti.

“I’m leaning on Frank and the offensive staff to make the right decision at every position,” Narduzzi said. “Those guys know better. I don’t sit in there. I spend 85 percent of my time in the defensive side of the room.”

The Heels are 11-5 all-time against Pitt and won last year’s contest 42-24 in Chapel Hill.

“They always play you tough,” UNC coach Mack Brown said of Pitt. “They’re one of the toughest teams in this league.”

The Tar Heels are just one of four teams in FBS with two non-conference wins against Power 5 opponents; the others are Utah, Colorado and Fresno State.

–Field Level Media

Sep 16, 2023; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown speaks with Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi after the game at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia leans on defense to take care of Pitt

West Virginia totaled 151 yards on the ground and saw its defense force three takeaways en route to a 17-6 victory over Pitt in the 106th edition of the Backyard Brawl on Saturday night in Morgantown, W.Va.

Despite the Mountaineers (2-1) losing starting quarterback Garrett Greene early on, backup Nicco Marchiol filled in adequately, completing 6 of 9 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown.

Sophomore running back CJ Donaldson racked up 102 yards rushing on 18 attempts and had a 1-yard touchdown plunge that gave West Virginia a 14-6 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter. Donaldson came up injured early in the fourth and did not return.

Jaylen Anderson was also effective on the ground, going for 62 yards on 19 touches.

The Mountaineers also created problems for a pedestrian Pitt offense led by quarterback Phil Jurkovec, who once again struggled to find any rhythm, completing just 8 of 20 passes for 81 yards and three interceptions.

West Virginia turned two of those interceptions into 10 points, which was more than enough to overcome its rival and take vengeance for a 38-31 defeat that ended with an M.J. Devonshire pick-six with three minutes to go at Pitt last season.

The Panthers were held to just 73 yards of total offense in a second half where the Mountaineers outscored them 10-0.

Pitt settled for two short field goals in the first half — when it did threaten in the red zone — the last being a 36-yarder by Ben Sauls that cut West Virginia’s lead to 7-6 with just nine seconds to go before halftime.

But a 13-play, 46-yard drive that ate up 7:48 of clock orchestrated by Marchiol that ended with Donaldson’s touchdown gave West Virginia a comfortable eight-point cushion that it never found itself in jeopardy of losing.

Pitt (1-2) hosts No. 20 North Carolina next Saturday night. West Virginia hosts Texas Tech next Saturday afternoon.

–Field Level Media

Sep 9, 2023; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown walks long the sidelines during the second quarter against the Duquesne Dukes at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia, Pitt get back to Brawling

Let’s Brawl.

Pitt and West Virginia take different routes to arrive for the 106th installment of the “Backyard Brawl” set for Saturday.

The Panthers are looking to right the ship. Pitt has the rivalry to focus on as it buries the disastrous 27-21 home setback to Cincinnati last week.

Pitt quarterback Phil Jurkovec completed just 10 of 32 passes for 179 yards. While he also threw for three touchdowns, the Panthers turned it over on downs in Cincinnati territory on their final possession.

It won’t get any easier for the redshirt senior when Pitt (1-1) visits West Virginia (1-1) for the first time since 2011.

“Getting the ball out quicker,” said Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi on what he needs to see from Jurkovec moving forward. “When you get hit 21 times — any NFL quarterback can tell you — when you get hit 21 times in a game and you get hit early when you shouldn’t, you’re going to struggle.”

The Panthers’ defense, which allowed 216 yards rushing last week, will be tasked with slowing down West Virginia running backs CJ Donaldson Jr. and Jahiem White.

The pair combined for 166 of the Mountaineers’ 304 yards rushing in what wound up being a 56-17 drubbing of FCS opponent Duquesne last Saturday.

After a subpar outing in a 38-15 blowout loss to Penn State in the season opener, junior quarterback Garrett Greene had a bounce-back performance at home against the Dukes with 240 yards passing and four touchdowns.

Three of those scores went to wide receiver Hudson Clement. He posted five catches for 177 yards and West Virginia coach Neal Brown rewarded the redshirt freshman by putting him on scholarship.

“I think life’s about opportunities, and what you do with your opportunities,” said Brown of Clement. “He earned a scholarship. Super happy for him.”

The Panthers came away with a thrilling 38-31 win over the Mountaineers in last year’s opener when M.J. Devonshire returned an interception 56 yards for a pick-six with three minutes to play.

This year’s contest could come down to which team can better handle the environment that is sure to be a factor in one of the fiercest rivalries in college football.

“Our opener last year seemed like our opener this year against Cincinnati, so hopefully we’ll be tied in more. We’ve seen live bullets in the game,” Narduzzi said. “Won’t be a surprise as much as it was last year.”

Pitt leads the all-time series against West Virginia with a 62-40-3 mark, but the Panthers are just 3-7 in their last 10 visits to Morgantown, including a 21-20 defeat in 2011.

–Field Level Media

Sep 2, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Panthers tight end Gavin Bartholomew (86) makes a catch as Wofford Terriers linebacker David Powers (34) during the second quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Phil Jurkovec has big game in Pitt debut, a rout of Wofford

Playing quarterback for his hometown team for the first time, Phil Jurkovec threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score as Pitt rolled past visiting Wofford 45-7 in the season opener for both teams.

Rodney Hammond Jr. had two touchdown runs and Daniel Carter added another as the Panthers dominated the Football Bowl Subdivision Terriers in the first-ever meeting of the teams.

Jurkovec, a Boston College transfer who started his college career at Notre Dame in 2018, completed 17 of 23 passes for 214 yards.

He scored on a 23-yard keeper in the second quarter and capped the opening drive of the second half with a 1-yard scoring pass to Karter Johnson.

After starting 2-for-4, Jurkovec completed his next eight passes, all for gains of at least 10 yards as he directed touchdown drives on four straight possessions. The surge gave the Panthers a 28-0 halftime lead.

The Pitt defense overwhelmed Wofford of the Southern Conference, limiting the Terriers to 126 yards and seven first downs. On 19 rushes, the Terriers netted minus 1 yard.

Bam Brima had one of Pitt’s four sacks and added a fumble recovery, ending Wofford’s deepest drive of the first three quarters at the Panthers’ 46.

Wofford quarterback Bryce Corriston completed 12 of 17 passes for 127 yards. He accounted for the Terriers’ lone score, throwing a 75-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Parker with 1:13 left.

It was a return to Pittsburgh for Wofford head coach Shawn Watson, who was the Panthers offensive coordinator in 2018-19, under current Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi.

Watson was promoted in the offseason after guiding the Terriers to a 3-3 mark as their interim head coach last season.

Coming off a 9-4 season, Pitt produced 491 yards and 29 first downs. The Panthers didn’t commit a turnover and scored on all five of their opportunities in the red zone.

Carter carried 11 times for 65 yards to lead the Panthers rushing attack.

Pitt’s final score came with 1:27 left when Christian Veilleux tossed a 39-yard touchdown pass to Jake McConnachie.

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2022; Louisville, Kentucky, USA;  Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi watches from the sideline during the first half against the Louisville Cardinals at Cardinal Stadium. Louisville won 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Coaches set friendship aside as Wofford opens at Pitt

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi will look to put friendships aside when the Panthers host Wofford in the season opener for both teams on Saturday.

Narduzzi will be pitted against longtime friend Shawn Watson, who served as the Terriers’ interim head coach for six games last season before landing the full-time position on Dec. 1, 2022. Watson worked under Narduzzi as Pitt’s offensive coordinator from 2017-18.

“They didn’t win a game before (Watson) took over,” Narduzzi said. “They were 3-3 (with him) as the interim head coach, that’s how he got the job.”

Although Narduzzi is proud of what Watson has accomplished so far, come Saturday, it’s all business.

“You never want to see anybody lose, especially your friends,” Narduzzi said. “But you never want to get beat by your friends.”

Watson’s familiarity with the Panthers certainly should come in handy, but he knows it won’t be easy to break through against a Pitt team that surrendered 24.3 points per game last season en route to a 9-4 record.

“It’s going to be tight coverage. They can cause all kinds of havoc,” Watson told when speaking about the Panthers. “They can play out of their base look, and their havoc package out of it is one of the things you have to be prepared for as an opponent.”

Quarterback Bryce Corriston will be tasked with trying to carve up the Pitt defense. He saw limited action in 2022, attempting just two passes across nine games. One of those pass attempts resulted in an interception.

After spending the past three seasons at Boston College, Phil Jurkovec will be starting under center for the Panthers. He threw for 1,711 yards with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his final season with the Eagles.

Saturday marks the first meeting between Pitt and Wofford. The Terriers haven’t had a winning season since 2019 after going 3-8 last year.

–Field Level Media