Cava­liers’ fi­nal surge fiz­zles as road woes con­tinue

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY WILL GRAVES

pittsburgh — Given two weeks to re­cover from an em­bar­rass­ing ly one-sided home loss to Boise State, Vir­ginia Coach Mike Lon­don praised his play­ers for spend­ing ex­tra time in the film room in hopes of break­ing out of an early sea­son funk in dan­ger of be­com­ing some­thing far worse.

The ef­fort was bet­ter on Satur­day against Pittsburgh. The re­sults not so much.

A late come­back bid stalled in the fi­nal sec­onds of a 26-19 loss that dropped the Cava­liers to 1-4. Eye­ing a fresh start in the ACC af­ter a for­get­table non­con­fer­ence sched­ule, Vir­ginia fell two touch­downs be­hind early and couldn’t quite catch the Pan­thers.

“We are very close,” quar­ter­back Matt Johns said. “It’s just a mat­ter of two or three plays.”

Johns com­pleted 17 of 33 passes for 209 yards with a touch­down and an in­ter­cep­tion. His 32-yard score toCanaanSev­erin pulled the Cava­liers within seven with 5 min­utes 50 sec­onds togo. Johns hitT.J. Thorpe for 32 yards on fourth and 25 to put the ball at mid­field in the fi­nal minute but Vir­ginia’s hopes of forc­ing overtime ended with four straight in­com­ple­tions. The Cava­liers’ road los­ing streak hit 12 straight when Johns’s side­line throw to Thorpe on fourth and 10 sailed wide.

“It is very frus­trat­ing, but that’s just a tes­ta­ment to this team’s char­ac­ter,” Johns said. “The game was never over for us. We were fight­ing un­til the end.”

Nate Peter­man threw for 222 yards and two scores for Pitt. Qadree Ol­li­son added one on the ground as the Pan­thers im­proved to 4-1 for the first time since 2009 and 2-0 in the ACC.

“Hope­fully now we’ll get some re­spect around the coun­try and peo­ple will start notic­ing this is a dif­fer­ent team than we had in the past,” tight end Scott Ornd­off said.

Pitt never trailed and ap­peared on the verge of an early blowout but­neededa late stand to pre­serve its best start in six years.

“I think we’ve learned how to win,” Coach PatNar­duzzi said.

Nar­duzzi stressed he wouldn’t al­low his team to get too high af­ter an em­phatic road tri­umph at Vir­ginia Tech last week. The Pan­thers cer­tainly came out sharp, rac­ing to a quick 17-3 lead. Peter­man hit Ornd­off for a 37-yard touch­down pass on game’s fifth play, Chris James ripped off a 48-yard sprint to set up a 4-yard scor­ing run by Ol­li­son later in the first quar­ter and the Pan­thers ap­peared to bein firm con­trol.

Vir­ginia strug­gled to gain any trac­tion. Sev­eral times the Cava­liers had re­ceivers run­ning open deep in the sec­ondary in the first half only to nar­rowly miss a mo­men­tum-turn­ing play. The de­fense, sur­pris­ingly, pro­duced a touch­down when Mike Moore hit Peter­man. The ball popped up in the air and de­fen­sive end Kwon­tie Moore snagged it, tak­ing the first turnover pro­duced by Vir­ginia all sea­son and chug­ging 27 yards to the end zone to bring the Cava­liers within 17-10.

Pitt ex­tended its lead back to 13 whenMatt Galam­bos re­turned an in­ter­cep­tion 51 yards to set up Tyler Boyd’s pretty 8-yard touch­down re­cep­tion. When Johns was tack­led in the end zone for a safety with 13:23 to go, thePan­ther­swere up 26-13.

Vir­ginia, how­ever, didn’t crum­ble. Johns led a 66-yard drive that ended with a lob from Johns to a wide-open Sev­erin. The Cava­liers missed the ex­tra point to stay seven points back but kept com­ing. The Pan­thers went three-and-out to give Vir­ginia one last chance.

Two penal­ties pushed the Cava­liers back to fourth-and-25. Johns stood his ground and hit Thorpe down the left side­line. Things stalled, how­ever, and none of Johns’ fi­nal four throws were par­tic­u­larly close.

“It was tough to get into a rhythm,” Johns said. “The drives were weird and then we would have a big play.”

Just not enough to give the Cava­liers their first ACC road win since 2012.

“We bat­tled to­day but not good enough to win a football game,” Vir­ginia coachMike Lon­don said. “Pitt is a good football team and you have to be able to cap­i­tal­ize and min­i­mize your mis­takes.”

KEITH SRAKOCIC/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Corner­back­Mau­rice Canady and Vir­ginia have dropped 12 straight road games. The Cavs fell to 1-4 on the sea­son with their loss at Pitt.

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