PITTSBURGH — One Virginia side put on a dazzling performance that had the opposing coach raving. The other side had a dismal effort that had Mike London speaking on the potential for personnel changes.
But both UVa defensive and offensive players had to board the same plane back to Charlottesville on Saturday evening after a collective 14-3 loss at Pittsburgh.
Against the Panthers, UVa’s extreme lack of unit balance was key in a frustrating defeat.
“The only thing you do is try to stay positive as a team,” said Virginia safety Anthony Harris. “Guys will hang out together, go through stuff together. We got to stay together through a time like this.
“As a defense, we got to look to help the offense improve and just look to see where we can improve ourselves.”
The Cavs are 2-2 and 0-1 in the ACC entering this week’s final non-conference game of the season with Ball State (4-1). The early line has Virginia as a 5-point favorite.
Of course, that would mean the Wahoos will have to score more than they did against Pitt.
The Panthers beat UVa on Saturday with their lowest scoring total in a victory since 2007.
They didn’t need to be the offensive juggernaut they appeared to be the week before in a wild 58-55 win over Duke.
“Offensively, we struggled and never really got into a rhythm,” said Pitt coach Paul Chryst. “Virginia has a good defense.”
“I’m just proud of our defense,” said Pitt receiver Devin Street, who scored the Panthers’ second touchdown with a 15-yard catch late in the second quarter. “They stepped up.”
UVa didn’t make it entirely challenging for them.
The Cavaliers dropped to 112th nationally in total offense with an effort of 188 yards, 11 first downs and three third-down conversions on 18 attempts. Of Virginia’s 16 drives, 10 failed to produce a first down.
There was a fumbled snap by quarterback David Watford in the first quarter and 10 dropped passes.
Meanwhile, UVa improved from 33rd to 16th nationally in total defense by holding Pitt to 199 yards, 11 first downs and five third-down conversions on 18 attempts. The Cavaliers made three takeaways, registered seven sacks and only got scored on following Virginia turnovers deep in its own territory.
Statistically, it was a clear wasted performance.
But UVa defenders didn’t point fingers afterward, putting some of the blame on their own shoulders.
“Even though we got turnovers,” said linebacker Max Valles, “offense didn’t capitalize on them, but as a defense, we have to step it up. If the offense doesn’t do something, we have to back them up even if [Pitt’s] in the red zone.
“We’re a family and have to take advantage of it — make a play so they don’t score a touchdown.”
Pitt’s scoring drives went 19 and 18 yards
“It’s frustrating,” said defensive tackle David Dean, “but at the same time we have to do our job as a defense. Wherever you are on the field, not matter what the situation, we got to stop them.”
During a Sunday teleconference, London said Virginia will be making offensive line changes. Those are expected to be announced during Monday’s press conference. ... London said Ian Frye strained his quad on his first kickoff of Saturday’s game. That played a role in Virginia twice going for it on fourth down inside Pitt’s 30-yard line instead of opting for a field goal try. “If Ian was healthy, would we have kicked the field goal?,” London said. “Absolutely.” Dylan Sims handled UVa’s final kickoff.