Pitt notebook: Voytik fumbles trying to rally Panthers late
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Pitt quarterback Chad Voytik went down trying to make a play — perhaps trying to do more than his body will allow.
But these are trying times for a desperate Pitt team (4-6, 2-4) that lost to North Carolina (5-5, 2-4), 40-35, on Saturday before an announced crowd of 53,000 at Kenan Stadium. Pitt has won only one of its past seven games after starting 3-0.
North Carolina took the lead for good with 50 seconds left, and Pitt was at its 27-yard line when Voytik dropped back to pass, then started to run. He ran up the middle for 21 yards before he was confronted by North Carolina defensive back Malik Simmons.
Voytik, who has been playing with a sore left hand for several weeks, tried to hurdle — or, perhaps, run over — Simmons but ended up somersaulting to the ground and losing the football. Linebacker Shakeel Rashad recovered for the Tar Heels on their 45 with 20 seconds left.
No one knows how the game would have ended had Voytik not lost the fumble, Pitt’s 23rd (12th lost) of the season.
“You are hoping to get more plays in that situation,” coach Paul Chryst said, suggesting Pitt could have spiked the ball on the next play to save its final timeout. “I love a guy going and putting it out there, right?”
But perhaps a give-up slide would have been more appropriate for that moment.
“Are you going to make a difference there?” Chryst said. “It’s going to be hard to hurdle someone.”
Voytik, who was getting medical treatment after the game, was unavailable for comment, a Pitt spokesman said.
He still performed
Despite the final play, Voytik played well for the third consecutive week. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked only once for the first time since the Iowa game Sept. 20, and he stretched his string of games without an interception to three.
“I though he did some really good things in the game,” Chryst said. “There are always going to be those plays you want back that you have to grow from, that you have to learn from.”
Voytik has completed 42 of 60 passes (70 percent) for 647 yards and three touchdowns in the past three games.
Speaking of successful stretches, wide receiver Tyler Boyd has caught 46 passes for 811 yards and three touchdowns during Pitt’s 1-6 slump. On Saturday, he had five catches for 160 yards and a score, his eighth career 100-yard game and third in a row.
Running back James Conner hit a few milestones in one of the most productive days of his career.
He finished with 220 yards yards rushing on 30 carries, with four touchdowns. He has 1,562 yards, breaking the ACC sophomore mark held by Boston College’s Montel Harris, who had 1,457 in 2009.
He also broke LeSean McCoy’s Pitt sophomore rushing record (1,488 in 2008). His third consecutive game with three or more touchdowns gave him 21 and tied the ACC record in that category.
— Jerry DiPaola