Pittsburgh dominated Boston College for most of Friday night’s game, but the Panthers’ 10-point margin of victory could have been a lot closer—or even in the Eagles’ favor. BC had chances to take hold of the game early, keep it close at half, and stay within a haymaker of a victory in the fourth. The Eagles blew all three opportunities, and are one loss away from a losing record as USC brings its loaded roster to Chestnut Hill Saturday.
BC led 7-3 with the ball at Pitt’s 29-yard line with 2:13 left in the first quarter after linebacker Steven Daniels’ interception. Quarterback Tyler Murphy missed a wide open Dan Crimmins on first down, overshot Josh Bordner on a play action pop-pass on second down, and short-armed a left-sideline back shoulder throw to Shakim Phillips on third down. Kicker Alex Howell then missed a 46-yard field goal attempt, and BC chased Pitt from behind for the rest of the night.
“They had a nine-man box, they were loading it against the run really heavy, basically playing a lot of cover-one,” BC head coach Steve Addazio said. “I made a decision on the turnover there, we went after two play-action passes, and they were right there, right on the money. And we didn’t connect on two wide open passes … we didn’t get any points out of the drive … you gotta capitalize on those opportunities.”
With two minutes left in the second quarter, a BC false start at Pitt’s 29-yard line on third and 12 led to a fourth and 17 at the Pitt 34. Instead of attempting another long field goal or going for the first down, Addazio sent Howell out to punt, which landed just on the goal line for a touchback and a net 14-yard gain. The Panthers went 80 yards in 57 seconds and took a 20-7 lead, which turned out to be lethal.
“Fourth and ? What, you want me to go for it? C’mon,” said Addazio when asked about his decision. “[Pitt’s scoring drive was] probably a bit of a dagger … you can’t let a team go 80 yards on you like that. That can’t happen. Just can’t happen.”
Addazio played it conservative again in the fourth down 27-14, declining a third down Pitt holding call in BC territory that gave way to a 30-14 Pitt lead off a 41 yard field goal. Down 30-20 after Murphy scored with 43 seconds left in the game, the Eagles had to attempt a two-point conversion to keep the contest within one possession and failed to convert. Addazio said he didn’t consider an alternative to declining the penalty, considering the way his defense looked at that point.
“We were hanging on a little bit there, I wasn’t about to line us back up there to play coverage,” Addazio said. “Not gonna give them another crack there.”
Pitt’s passing game
Both teams wanted to run the ball Friday, and Pitt did it better than BC. But when the Panthers had to have a play through the air, QB Chad Voytik and receivers Tyler Boyd and Manasseh Garner delivered.
Daniels picked off Voytik because Voytik stared down his intended target from snap to throw. It was the only major mistake Pitt’s QB made all night, and BC’s passing game couldn’t take advantage, failing to bust the game open. On the ensuing drive after Howell’s missed field goal, Voytik had his own third and 10 deep in opponents’ territory. Voytik saw that Boyd had single coverage on the right sideline and dropped the ball just over Eagles defensive back Justin Simmons’ head and into the back of the end zone before safety Ty-Meer Brown could give Simmons help. Boyd plucked Voytik’s pass off the top of Simmons’ helmet and the lead from BC for the rest of the game.
Then on the Panthers’ morale-killing march against BC at the end of the half, Boyd rushed for 19 yards on first down and Pitt picked up 15 more when Eagles linebacker Sean Duggan got called for a horse-collar tackle. Voytik took it from there, scrambling out of a sack on first down and rushing for ten yards on second down. He completed a nine-yard pass to the BC 27 and then showed off his touch again when he threw a back shoulder fade along the left sideline to Garner, who adjusted to the ball at the five-yard line before stepping out of bounds. Voytik hit Boyd in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown the next play.
Murphy hit Phillips for a 48-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but the Eagles’ passing game didn’t do enough to offset their rushing attack’s struggle. Murphy and Voytik each had 10 completions, but more of Voytik’s made a difference.
“When it came to the pass game, I didn’t do a good enough job of getting the ball [to my receivers],” Murphy said.
“We need to help him out,” Phillips said. “We need to catch the ball better, that’s it.”
Of Voytik, Addazio said he was “competitive,” but singled out the Pitt rushing attack as the reason for his team’s defeat. With that running game, “competitive” was all the Panthers needed, and Voytik and his wideouts provided it.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor