The Pitt Panthers have won six of their past seven games and are still in the race for the ACC Coastal Division title.

To stay in the hunt, the Panthers will have to continue their winning ways against an improved Virginia Tech team today in Blacksburg, all while facing a quarterback who has yet to lose at start.

Dual-threat quarterback Hendon Hooker has provided a jolt for Virginia Tech’s offense since the Hokies began the season 2-2, with both losses coming to ACC opponents. Hooker took over the position from senior Ryan Willis following an embarrassing 35-point loss to Duke in which Willis completed just seven of 28 passes.

Since the sophomore quarterback took over, the Hokies are 5-1 with their lone loss occurring by one point at Notre Dame Stadium — a game Hooker sat out with a knee injury. Thanks to their improved play, the Hokies snuck into the AP Poll at No. 25 this week but remained unranked in the College Football Playoff rankings.

Pat Narduzzi said there’s no question Hooker has led to Virginia Tech’s turnaround.

“Their quarterback, the Hooker kid, who we recruited out of high school — we offered him — has been really sound,” the Pitt coach said. “He’s thrown eight touchdowns, no interceptions. He gives them a chance to be in every football game because he’s taking care of the football.”

While Pitt’s top-10 defense will try to hand Hooker his first loss as a starter, the Pitt offense will face a Bud Foster-coached defense for the final time.

Virginia Tech’s longtime defensive coordinator announced 2019 would be his last season over the summer. Foster has been on the coaching staff at Virginia Tech since 1987 and held his current position since 1995. His famed “lunch pail” defense has found much success — Virginia Tech has finished 11 seasons with a top-10 defense during Foster’s tenure.

“Number one is his continuity,” Narduzzi said when asked why Foster has been so successful. “He’s been there for so long. He knows the kids; he knows the area. I mean, he obviously understands the game of football. He’s a great Xs and Os guy, and he’s a great motivator, gets those guys going.

“That’s why Bud Foster is a legend, and he’s only got a couple games left.”

Pitt’s offense is looking to build on its best performance in 2019 after struggling to find consistency this season.

Against North Carolina, the offense posted 498 yards versus the Tar Heels. Quarterback Kenny Pickett had one of the best showings of his college career, completing 61% of his passes for 359 yards and a score. He added 53 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, including a 3-yard score in overtime that wound up being the game-winner.

Narduzzi hesitated to call Pickett’s performance against North Carolina the best of his career but said there’s no doubt the junior has improved over the course of the season.

“He’s played a lot of good games; that’s one of them,” Narduzzi said. “I’d say it’s one of the top five or six of them that he was just on fire. He didn’t miss much. When you watch the tape, he ran well. He threw it away when he wanted — when he should have. That’s what we expect out of him. Again, I think he just gets more and more comfortable.

“Put the tape on and put the Virginia tape on at the beginning of the year, it’s a different dude.”

The final two weeks of the season will decide which team will face Clemson in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte on Dec. 7. Currently, Virginia is in first place with a 5-2 conference record, while Pitt and Virginia Tech each hold 4-2 ACC records. For Pitt to repeat as division champions, the Panthers must win out and they’ll need Virginia Tech to beat Virginia on Nov. 29.

Amanda Filipcic-Godsey is a freelance writer in Pittsburgh. She covers Pitt football and basketball for CNHI Pa. newspapers. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaFGodsey.

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