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Aggressive defense propels Pitt in rout of Virginia

Nov 12, 2022; Charlottesville, Virginia, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers running back Israel Abanikanda (2) carries the ball to score a touchdown as Virginia Cavaliers defensive back Coen King (9) defends during the first half at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

M.J. Devonshire and Marquis Williams each returned an interception for a touchdown as visiting Pitt overwhelmed Virginia from the start on its way to a 37-7 Atlantic Coast Conference victory Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.

Israel Abanikanda added 121 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries and Kedon Slovis threw for 208 yards and a score for the Panthers (6-4, 3-3), which became bowl eligible while ending the postseason hopes of the Cavaliers (3-7, 1-6).

Pitt also sacked Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong eight times and held the Cavaliers to 144 yards. Including the sacks, Virginia had minus 8 yards on 24 rushing attempts.

Calijah Kancy had three sacks and John Morgan III added two before he was ejected along with Virginia center Ty Furnish for fighting in the third quarter.

The first interception came from Devonshire, who crossed in front of a receiver and raced 29 yards untouched up the Pitt sideline to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead.

On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Williams made Armstrong pay again as he picked off another pass near the Pitt sideline and streaked 39 yards to the end zone.

When the Pitt offense finally got on the field, it produced a 63-yard scoring drive. Abanikanda, who entered Saturday as the nation’s all-purpose yardage leader, carried on seven of the drive’s eight plays. His 1-yard plunge made it 21-0.

The next time Pitt got the ball, Slovis scrambled out of the pocket and found Bub Means open in the end zone on a 31-yard touchdown. The play put the Panthers up 28-0 before the game was 13 minutes old.

After a scoreless second quarter, Pitt increased its lead to 31-0 on the first of three field goals from Ben Sauls.

Virginia broke through late in the third quarter with a 65-yard march capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass from Armstrong to Malachi Fields.

Armstrong, who was without his top three receivers for the second straight game, finished with 17 completions in 33 attempts for 152 yards.

Slovis completed 14 of 24 attempts, with Konta Mumphield making seven catches for 60 yards.

–Field Level Media