Last season, Pitt and Virginia Tech had a thrilling match right down to the end setting up a new rivalry in the ACC. Friday night at 7 p.m., Pitt hosts the Hokies yet again and this time it is for at least a share of the ACC Championship. Get ready for the showdown with highlights from last year's Pitt victory, as well as interviews with head coach Jason Peters and wrestlers Nick Bonaccorsi and Shelton Mack.
The Hokies lead the all-time series with 7 wins to the Panthers' 4, but Pitt has won the previous four contests.
The Last Time
Pitt and Virginia Tech last met on September 15, 2012 in a 35-17 Panthers' win at Heinz Field. Senior running back Ray Graham rushed for 94 yards in the contest, scoring two touchdowns on the ground and hauling in an 18-yard touchdown pass from Tino Sunseri. Pitt's defense was stellar against the Hokies, forcing four Virginia Tech turnovers. The win was the Panthers' signature victory in 2012, as they snapped the 13th-ranked Hokies' 13 game road winning streak.
2012-13 Virginia Tech Season Review
Head Coach: Frank Beamer (26th season)
2012-13 2012-13 Record: 7-6 (4-4 ACC, 4th in Coastal Division), Russell Athletic Bowl Champions
Beat Sun Bowl Champion Georgia Tech 20-17 (OT) to open the season.
Beat Rutgers 13-10 (OT) to win the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Entering his 27th season at the helm of the Virginia Tech Football Program, Frank Beamer has come to define the measure of success in college football - winning. Under his leadership, the Hokies have appeared in 20 consecutive bowl games, won four ACC titles, five ACC Coastal Division crowns, three Big East championships, made six BCS appearances and earned a trip to the national title game. A Virginia Tech grad, Beamer is the winningest active coach in the FBS with 258 career victories. The only thing missing from his resume, you ask? A win at Heinz Field - his teams are 0-3 on the Panthers' home turf since its opening in 2001.
Loeffler charged with revamping VT Offense, QB Thomas in 2013
After being named Second-Team All-ACC in 2011, Virginia Tech senior quarterback Logan Thomas saw his performance drop off in 2012. His completion percentage plummeted, dropping from 60% in 2011 to 51% last season. He also threw six more interceptions. As Thomas' productivity decreased, so did the effectiveness of the Hokie Offense. Virginia Tech finished 9th in the ACC in Total Offense in 2012 as compared to 3rd in 2011.
Enter Scot Loeffler; Frank Beamer's newly appointed offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Loeffler, a Michigan graduate, has worked with the likes of Tom Brady, Tim Tebow, Brian Griese, Chad Henne, Drew Henson and John Navarre during his 15 year coaching career. His career stops include a six-year stint at his alma mater and two years at Florida. Most recently, he served as offensive coordinator at Temple (2011) and Auburn (2012). Loeffler's ability to adapt his scheme to different quarterbacking styles (i.e. John Navarre vs. Tim Tebow) bodes well for Thomas and the Hokie offense in 2013.
Looking at the Hokies Offense: 5 starters lost, 6 return
1. Look for an improved Logan Thomas in 2013 - Never mind the fact that Thomas loses his top three receivers from last season, I look for him to be much improved in 2013. From the sound of things, his coaches do as well - he was named the Hokies' most valuable player of spring practice as well as a permanent captain for the upcoming season.
2. Returner at running back - Though he didn't enter the 2012 season as Tech's starter, sophomore J.C. Coleman returns as the Hokies' feature back for 2013. He showed tremendous improvement over the course of his first active season. Playing in all 13 games and starting six, Coleman rushed for 492 yards on 109 carries in 2012, scoring 2 touchdowns. He also added 21 receptions for 132 yards and a score. Alongside Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech's leading rusher in 2012 (174 att., 524 yards, 9 TD), I would expect Coleman to be a big part of the Hokies' offense in 2013.
Defense: 2 starters lost, 9 returning
1. The strength - The second ranked defense in the ACC last year doesn't lose much coming into the 2013 season. The strength of this unit will be its front four. The Hokies finished first in the conference in sacks, registering 35 in 2012 (2.69/game). Top returners include first-team All-ACC linebacker Jack Tyler (119 tackles in 2012) and second-team All-ACC selections CB Antone Exum (5 INT) and DE James Gayle (11 TFL, 5 sacks).
Keys to Victory
1. Win the turnover battle - This key to victory will never change. Need a case in point? The Panthers won the turnover battle against the Hokies last season by a wide margin (VT-4, Pitt-1).
2. Watch last year's tape - If there is a blueprint to flustering QB Logan Thomas, it can be found on last year's game tape. Get after him, contain him and force him to make tight throws. I do think he will be better this season, but I believe Pitt's defense will be also.
Check back next for a preview of Pitt's week 6 Opponent, Old Dominion.