CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Darrin Hall had already had a big night against a team that game-planned to stop him when he put a dazzling cap on it.
Hall ran for 229 yards and three touchdowns, the last a 75-yard burst one play after Virginia had awakened it fans by closing to within 14-13, and Pittsburgh beat No. 23 Virginia for the fourth year in a row, 23-13 on Friday night.
Hall also had a 41-yard scoring run in the first half and a two-yard run in the third quarter, capping a drive that ended with an injury-depleted Cavaliers defense looking incapable of stopping the bruising 225-pound tailback.
“That’s all we do. We just continue to fight, continue to wear down the defense,” said Hall, who carried just 19 times.
The two-yard run capped a 15-play, 84-yard march and gave the Panthers a 14-10 lead and seemed to wear Virginia down.
“Even on short yardage, I was getting 4 yards before I was even touched,” he said.
The Panthers (5-4, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) moved into first place in the Coastal Division.
“That’s great. That’s awesome,” left guard Connor Dintino said. “But next week we’ve got (Virginia Tech). We’ve got to go 1-0. That’s it. We’re not thinking ahead.”
With 738 rushing yards in the last two games, they seem to be hitting their stride.
“We did it the old fashioned way, running the football for 250 yards,” coach Pat Narduzzi said. “Darrin Hall was a beast.”
Bryce Perkins threw for 205 yards and a touchdown for Virginia (6-3, 4-2, No. 23 CFP), but Pittsburgh never allowed him to get untracked in the running game and sacked him five times for 46 yards in losses. The Cavaliers’ three-game winning streak was snapped.
“We got him a couple times in the backfield. That’s the first thing,” Narduzzi said of Perkins, who has three 100-plus-yard games this season but finished with minus 7 yards. “Put pressure on him and force him to have to make some throws or make some decisions.”
Pittsburgh trailed 10-7 at halftime, but used the drive that lasted 8:40 to go ahead. The Panthers converted four third downs on the march and Hall finished it with runs of 18 and 2 yards as the Virginia defense, which lost three starters during the game, began to wear down.
After being limited to 24 plays in the first half, the Panthers ran 21 in the third quarter alone, mostly grinding on the ground.
“I don’t think anything changed” from the first half to the second half, Virginia linebacker Jordan Mack said. “They were just executing at a high level and lack of execution from us.”
The Cavaliers drove for Brian Delaney’s second field goal, bringing the crowd alive, but Hall quieted them with his long scoring burst.
The Panthers special teams botched a pair of extra point tries, but converted one when a penalty gave them a do-ver.
Narduzzi said placekicker Alex Kessman was not to blame, and he clinched the victory with a 53-yard field goal, his fourth from 50 or more yards this season and the sixth of his career.
“That was a gigantic kick,” Narduzzi said.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers are very much a power running team, but Darrin Hall especially has break-away speed, too, as he showed on his long scoring runs. With tailbacks Hall and Qadree Ollison each weighing in at 225 pounds, their bruising style wore Virginia down during two long possessions to begin the second half.
Virginia: The Cavaliers to find more offensive weapons to employ when teams focus great attention on Perkins, Olamide Zaccheaus and Jordan Ellis. Terrell Jana’s 42-yard touchdown catch more than doubled his receiving yardage for the season (29), and he caught two more passes before halftime. And tight end Tanner Cowley had just three catches for 28 yards in the first eight games before taking a pass from Perkins 40 yards down the Virginia sideline in the first half.
Pittsburgh returns home to face long-time rival Virginia Tech in its final home game.
Virginia wraps up a three-game homestand with its final home game, and last out-of-conference game, against Liberty.