Early Pitt Interception Scores Help Sink the Cavaliers

Ken Cross

November 15, 2022 at 1:37 pm.

So, a college football trivia question arises from Pitt’s 37-7 win over Virginia on Saturday.

Have you ever seen two pick-sixes for interceptions on back-to-back offensive plays in a game?

The automatic answer is “No,” but if you were tuned into Saturday’s game, you were able to see that happening in real time.

Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong has had a tough season as he has completed only 54.1 percent of his passes for 221 yards per game and has seven touchdown passes compared to 12 interceptions.

Armstrong had a pair of mishaps in the first 16 seconds of Saturday’s game that could have underlined his season.

“I need to do a better job of coaching Brennan in those situations to help him be able to process,” said Virginia head coach Tony Elliott. “The first one is when you work all the way across the field and if you’re late … (interception occurs). You know that’s on me. I have got to do a better job of making sure he is prepared.”

Pitt cornerback M.J. Devonshire returned the interception 29 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Panthers lead only five seconds into the game.

Then, Pittsburgh cornerback Marquis Williams accomplished the same feat as he took his interception 39 yards on the next Virginia play from scrimmage and the Panthers had a 14-0 lead with 14:44 remaining in the first quarter.

“On the second one, what you saw there was just their guy made a good play,” explained Elliott. “He was sitting on a situation with an out route, and he guessed and he came off of the out route and made a play.”

“I’m just gonna say this was the next play mentality,” said Virginia linebacker Nick Jackson. “Everyone knows there is a next snap, next play, so you control what you can control.”

From there, Pitt scored on a one-yard run from Israel Abanikanda with 8:04 remaining in the first quarter. On the next drive, the Panthers built their 28-0 lead when quarterback Kedon Slovis hit Bub Means on a 31-yard scoring toss.

Virginia could have been so stunned that gathering focus to get back into the game was a tough assignment.

In the big picture, Armstrong had a tough afternoon as the Pitt defense allowed the Cavaliers only 144 total yards as they were (-8) yards rushing on 24 attempts. The lost yardage was via eight Pittsburgh sacks which caused a loss of 69 yards for the Cavaliers.

“I think those first two plays bothered them a lot,” said Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi. “We have got a good D-Line and the linebackers were doing their job. It takes 11 doing their job. When the corners are pressed out there, there’s no free access.”

Malachi Fields adds touchdown for the Cavaliers

Virginia has been beset with injuries this season and on Saturday wide receiver Malachi Fields scored his first career touchdown. He caught a nine-yard pass in the back left side of the end zone on a fade pattern late in the third quarter.

Fields was returning after being out since the early summer with a broken fifth metatarsal. He caught five passes for 58 yards in his return after a freshman season where he caught 11 balls for 172 yards.

“It was a routine play that we go out and do all the time in practice, so we just go out there and execute,” Fields said.