PITTSBURGH -- Imagine a team's quarterback throwing for a career-best 406 yards, and yet the star of the game is the kicker.
That's what happened Thursday night when No. 25 Virginia Tech had trouble punching the ball into the end zone.
Junior Joey Slye tied an ACC and Virginia Tech record by kicking six field goals and set a Hokies record by accounting for 20 points, and Isaiah Ford provided the winning margin with a 16-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter as the Hokies downed Pittsburgh 39-36 at Heinz Field.
"The ball came off my foot really, really well," said Slye, who called the often swirling wins at the stadium "crazy" but came away thrilled to get so many chances to kick at Heinz Field, which the Panthers share with the NFL Steelers.
"It's an honor to me because I've been a Steelers fan my whole life," he said. "So coming onto this field is one of my favorite things to do."
Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans was 24 of 40 to reach that 406-yard mark with two scoring passes as the Hokies (6-2, 4-1) pulled even with North Carolina (6-2, 4-1) atop the ACC Coastal Division.
Evans said the Pitt defensive scheme helped.
"To me it's great to be honest, to have one-on-one matchups, not having double coverage as a quarterback when you have three elite wide receivers, you can't ask for more," Evans said. "It's a great feeling when you can do what you love doing and that's throw the ball up and down the field against a pretty good defense. One-on-one coverage. You can't ask for anything better than one-on-one coverage."
Bucky Hodges had a career-high 145 yards receiving, Ford recorded 143 and Cam Phillips added 109 for Virginia Tech.
"We had guys in position to make plays. We didn't make them," Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi said. "There's not a whole lot of different ways to do it."
James Conner ran for 141 yards and three touchdowns for Pitt (5-3, 2-2), increasing his career total of 100-yard rushing games to 14. Quarterback Nate Peterman was 13 of 22 for 267 yards and a touchdown with an interception.
The Panthers won six of the teams' previous seven meetings and were 4-0 at Heinz Field against the Hokies.
Virginia Tech led 16-14 at halftime, but Conner quickly gave Pitt its first lead 21-16 with his third touchdown run, a 1-yarder to cap a 75-yard opening drive in the third quarter. Conner's 37-yard run to the Virginia Tech 5 was the longest gain of the drive.
The Hokies pulled to within 21-19 on Slye's 26-yard field goal with seven minutes remaining in the third.
Evans left just before that field goal when he got hurt on a sack, but missed only one series while he got his right ankle taped.
Brenden Motley, Evans' replacement, led Virginia Tech on a 50-yard field-goal drive, with Slye hitting his fifth to put the Hokies back on top 22-21 at 2:44 of the third.
Evans returned, leading the Hokies on a 68-yard drive that ended with Marshawn Williams' 2-yard scoring run for a 29-21 lead.
"I started getting feeling back in my ankle so just kept it moving, kept the blood flowing," Evans said. "(Coach Justin Fuente) makes the final call. I told him I was ready."
Pitt tied it 29-29 on a trick play with lineman Brian O'Neill scoring on an end-around from 5 yards, and Conner's run for a two-point conversion at 13:25 of the fourth.
Slye gave Virginia Tech the lead with a 22-yarder, making 32-29 at 9:39 of the fourth.
Ford's touchdown pushed it to 39-29 at 7:20 of the fourth. That became important when Pitt moved 90 yards in 1:32 closed to within 39-36 on Peterman's 7-yard touchdown pass to Jester Weah with 2:31 remaining.
The Hokies marched down field from their 10 on the opening drive, with Evans completing passes of 27 and 24 yards to Ford, but stalled at the 18. Slye hit a 31-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Pitt turned the ball over on the ensuing kickoff when returner Quadree Henderson fumbled. Virginia Tech got the ball at the Panthers 19 but again couldn't punch it into to the end zone. Slye hit a 21-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead at 8:05 of the first.
"It was pretty tight coverage all night, tough sledding on the inside, no matter if you were in the red zone or in the open field," Fuente said. "We just kept plugging away, trying to find a way to get in (the end zone)."
Pitt's first stab at offense didn't last long as Peterman was intercepted by Mook Reynolds on the third play. Its only other offensive series of the first quarter ended with a punt.
Slye's third field goal, a 22-yarder at 13:08 of the second, pushed the Hokies' lead to 9-0.
The Panthers' offense finally came alive on an 84-yard drive keyed by Peterman's 37-yard pass to Henderson and culminating with Conner's 6-yard touchdown run untouched to make it 9-7 at 4:14 of the second.
The Hokies got something other than a field goal in a first half they dominated when Evans' 11-yard touchdown pass to Chris Cunningham came at the end of a 76-yard drive to make it 16-7 with two minutes left in the second.
Pitt wasn't done, however. Aided by a 71-yard completion from Peterman to Scott Orndoff and a defensive pass interference penalty, the Panthers put together an 81-yard drive in the final two minutes of the half. Conner scored from 1 yard this time, and Pitt closed to within 16-14.
NOTES: Pitt QB Nate Peterman's first-quarter interception was his first since Sept. 17, breaking a streak of 83 consecutive passes without a pick. ... Panthers RB James Conner's two first-half TD run gave him 45 in his career, moving him to third all-time in the ACC. ... An apparent interception of QB Jerod Evans' pass by Pitt LB Quintin Wirginis in the first quarter was wiped out by a defensive false start penalty. ... Virginia Tech DT Nigel Williams, a starter, missed the game because of an ankle injury. ... Pitt LB Mike Caprara returned and started after missing most of the previous four games because of a lower-body injury. DE Ejuan Price (lower body), S Terrish Webb (upper body), CB Avonte Maddox (arm) all dressed. OLB Bam Bradley (upper body) did not dress. ... Virginia Tech next plays Nov. 5 at Duke; Pitt is at Miami on Nov. 5.