PITTSBURGH – Kenny Pickett, Jordan Addison and No. 20 Pittsburgh took the chaos out of the ACC’s Coastal Division.
Pickett threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns – all of them to Addison – in his final game at Heinz Field and the Panthers claimed their second Coastal title in four years with a 48-38 victory over Virginia on Saturday night.
The Panthers (9-2, 6-1 ACC) earned a trip to Charlotte on Dec. 4 by relying heavily on the best quarterback-wide receiver combination in the country. Addison’s four scores tied a school record and boosted his season total to 15, tops in FBS.
Pitt needed every single one of them.
The Cavaliers (6-5, 4-3) kept hanging around until Addison outjumped a defender for a ball and raced the rest of the way for a 63-yard touchdown with 2:10 remaining that let the Panthers finally exhale. Addison, a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award given to the best wide receiver in the country, finished with 14 receptions for 202 yards.
Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong returned from a one-game absence due to injury to throw for 487 yards with three touchdowns and an interception but was also sacked five times. When Armstrong’s fourth-down pass to Jelani Woods fell incomplete with 1:19 to play, Pickett came on for a couple of kneel downs, his performance bookending his breakout as a true freshman in an upset of then-No. 2 Miami four years ago.
Keytaon Thompson provided 143 yards of total offense for the Cavaliers, who saw their chance for a second Coastal crown in three seasons evaporate thanks to a defense that continues to have problems getting stops when it matters.
Pickett added to his ever-growing stash of school records when he broke Rod Rutherford’s mark for yards passing in a single season (3,679) and smashed Rutherford and Hall of Famer Dan Marino’s standard for touchdowns responsible for in one year (40) on his last heave to Addison.
Virginia: The offense is good enough to compete for an ACC title. The defense is not. The Cavaliers surrendered 509 yards had no answer for Addison. Whenever the Panthers found themselves in a tight spot, Pickett would look for Addison, who was often wide open.
Pitt: Head coach Pat Narduzzi’s program finally seems to have achieved a true breakthrough in year seven. The Panthers have their first nine-win season since 2009 with two more games to go before whatever bowl they might land in.
Pitt is likely to rise into the teens when the next poll comes out Sunday. A massive jump is likely out of the question after another narrow victory at home.
Virginia: Welcomes Virginia Tech to Scott Stadium next Saturday. The Hokies have won 16 of 17 against the Cavaliers.
Pitt: Will try to extend its mastery over Syracuse when the Panthers wrap up the regular season on the road next Saturday. Pitt is 7-1 against the Orange since both schools joined the ACC in 2013.