How does a team go from looking so bad in two games to looking so good against the No. 13 team in the nation?
I am sure folks in Pittsburgh and Blacksburg are asking that very question after the Panthers pulled the shocker of the day Saturday. Pitt won 35-17 in stunning fashion, taking advantage of four first-half turnovers and some terrific play up front to win its first game of the season.
Consider: Pitt could not beat anybody up front on both its offensive and defensive lines in the first two games of the season.
Consider: Pitt lost to an FCS team.
Consider: Pitt had no takeaways going into this one.
But somehow, Virginia Tech had four turnovers on its first six possessions -- including a career-high three interceptions from Logan Thomas, who had one of the worst games of his career.
Virginia Tech -- not Pitt -- got no push from either of its lines. The Hokies allowed more than 500 total yards -- 305 in the first half alone. They gave up 221 total yards against Austin Peay and 288 in the season-opening win over Georgia Tech.
The Hokies failed to slow down Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri, who has played behind a very shaky offensive line for two seasons now. The hard truth is Virginia Tech had no business making Sunseri look like an All-American and its offensive line look like a stealth iron wall. This Virginia Tech defense was supposed to be even better than last year's version. Instead, it gave up more than 250 yards rushing -- including 157 to true freshman Rushel Shell, who showed exactly why he was one of the most highly coveted running backs in the nation.
Meanwhile, the Hokies found no running room at all, and could do no nothing to help Thomas, whose Heisman hopes are all but gone. Given the sluggishness of the offense, the defense was simply on the field way too long and was gassed at the end of the game. Missed tackles were a major issue, too.
As for Sunseri, give major credit to the much-maligned senior, who played perhaps the best game of his career. He made one bad decision -- an interception late in the game -- on a play where he turned his ankle. But Sunseri gamely came back on the next possession and led Pitt on a killer of a drive -- 15 plays, 88 yards in 7:44. It ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Sunseri to Mike Shanahan, essentially ending any hopes for a Virginia Tech comeback.
Virginia Tech had the nation's longest road winning streak at 13 games going into this game. But now the Hokies have lost at least once in the first five games of the season for the fifth time in six years.