Season-altering loss leaves Panthers speechless, searching

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Nathan Peterman is knocked out of bounds by Adonis Alexander after the quarterback caught an 11-yard pass in the second quarter. — MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

James Conner grabbed his chin, shook his head in disbelief and slowly trailed off, pondering what could have been if the offense didn’t make critical mistakes early in a must-win ACC Coastal Division game that left his head coach “puzzled.”

One of the conference’s top offenses rebounded after a slow start as Pitt grabbed the lead in the third quarter and tied the score again early in the fourth. But No. 25 Virginia Tech scored 10 consecutive points and held on to beat the Panthers, 39-36, Thursday night at Heinz Field.