- Associated Press - Saturday, September 15, 2012

PITTSBURGH — A videotaped message from ACC commissioner John Swofford offered Pitt a warm welcome to the ACC in 2013 moments before the Panthers hosted conference power Virginia Tech on Saturday.

Somehow — after two baffling, listless losses to open the Paul Chryst era — Pitt looks ready to make the move.

Ray Graham rushed for 94 yards and two scores and added an 18-yard touchdown reception as the Panthers upset the 13th-ranked Hokies in a 35-17 romp.

“We definitely went out there and made noise today,” Graham said. “I think playing an ACC team just gives us a feeling for what we can do when it’s time to go in the ACC. This is a good ACC team. It can only get better from here.”

It couldn’t have gotten much worse for the Panthers (1-2), who began the season getting upset at home by Youngstown State then blown out on the road at Cincinnati.

Yet Chryst, the program’s third coach in as many seasons, doesn’t really do panic. Even with the seemingly surging Hokies (2-1) looming, he told his players things would be fine so long as they stuck to the plan.

“It’s not like the movies, ‘Any Given Sunday,’ it’s not just a pregame speech,” Chryst said. “It’s the process and that’s what you appreciate going through. This is the culmination of the work week.”

One the Panthers hope provides a welcome breakthrough.

Tino Sunseri passed for 283 yards and three touchdowns and freshman running back Rushel Shell added 157 yards as Pitt ended the nation’s longest road winning streak. The Panthers raced to a quick 21-0 lead, forced four turnovers and took advantage of uncharacteristically sloppy play by Virginia Tech.

“I thought (Pitt was) hitting on all cylinders, and I thought it was their day,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “We’ve got to play a lot better. (But) Pitt deserves a lot of credit. They played hard, and they played well. And they got the win today.”

The Hokies had won 13 straight true road games but were stunned by the Panthers in the game’s first 20 minutes and never really threatened. Logan Thomas completed just 14 of 31 passes for 265 yards and one touchdown against three interceptions against a defense that managed just one sack and no turnovers through the season’s first two weeks.

All that changed on a day Pitt held the Hokies to just 59 yards rushing and stopped a pair of fourth-down attempts in the second half to snuff out any hope Virginia Tech had of rallying.

“Their first two games, they just didn’t play as hard as they did today,” Thomas said. “They’re a good defense. They’re strong, and they’re physical. They’re fast, and they make you make mistakes. They did that today, and that’s what won them the game. They played real hard.”

Pitt is jumping to the ACC next year along with Syracuse and will face Hokies on a yearly basis as part of the league’s Coastal Division, reigniting a spirited rivalry that ended in 2004 when Virginia Tech and Miami abruptly left the Big East with Boston College officially joining them a year later.

The Panthers sent off an emphatic opening salvo.

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