In a game with very little defense on either side, the Pittsburgh Panthers made the big plays down the stretch to knock off the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Saturday afternoon.
Tech took its first lead of the game fairly deep in the fourth quarter when the offense capitalized on an unforced turnover from the Pitt offense. The Jackets got the ball in Panthers territory with the score tied at 27-apiece. On a key third-and-10 from the 39-yard line, Justin Thomas threw a fade down the sideline that Brad Stewart made a spectacular catch on, setting Tech up at the 12-yard line. Three plays later, J.J. Green took a toss 10 yards into the end zone to give the Jackets a 34-27 lead with 5:22 remaining in the game.
On the ensuing drive, Tech defensive tackle Pat Gamble made a huge take for loss on second down, setting Pitt up with a third-and-nine from its own 26-yard line with just more than four minutes on the clock. Nathan Peterman stepped up and threw a rocket up the middle, but Corey Griffin lunged out and barely got a few fingers on the ball to deflect it in the air. The ball floated in the air and perfectly dropped in the hands of Peterman’s intended receiver, tight end Scott Orndoff, and he rolled into the end zone untouched for a game-tying 74-yard touchdown with 3:50 left.
With the chance to produce the game-winning drive, the Jackets offense failed to move the ball on the first two plays. On third-and-11, Thomas found Stewart again, but this time for just 10 yards, leaving Johnson with a decision to make on fourth-and-one from their own 34-yard line with under two minutes on the clock. Tech had converted two fourth downs already, both on rocket tosses, but he elected to run a dive to Dedrick Mills this time. Mills was immediately stood up, and after the measurement, was about an inch short of gaining the first down.
Pittsburgh got the ball back and safely ran the ball deep into Tech territory for the game-winning field goal. Chris Blewitt’s 31-yard field goal attempt was pushed, but it deflected off the goalpost and went through to give the Panthers the 37-34 win. Even if the deflection had bounced and missed, The Jackets were called for a running into the kicker penalty that would’ve given Pitt another chance.
The Panthers began the game with what has become the norm for the Tech defense — a long and effortless touchdown drive to put the Jackets in an early hole. The Jackets countered with a 14-play drive, but it stalled in the red zone, and Harrison Butker connected on 37-yard field goal.
With a 14-play drive of its own, Pitt finished off its second touchdown drive with a 4-yard score from Qadree Ollison. The Jackets offense didn’t need to touch the field to answer ... J.J. Green took the kickoff return 96 yards to cut the lead back to four points at 14-10.
Quadree Henderson capped off the Panthers third consecutive touchdown drive with a 10-yard to score. Georgia Tech once again cut the lead to four points with a 10-play touchdown drive. Thomas found Jeune, who made a beautiful leaping catch, in the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown pass.
The Jackets finally forced the first punt from Pitt with 48 seconds left in the half. Starting the drive from their own 33-yard line with 35 seconds remaining and two timeouts, Thomas completed all three of his passes for 48 yards to move Tech into field goal range. Butker nailed the 41-yarder to make it a 21-20 lead for the Panthers at the half.
The scoring slowed down in the third quarter, with only a field goal from Blewitt putting points on the board. He added another field goal early in the fourth to put Pitt up by a touchdown with 12:19 left in the game.
Clinton Lynch found the end zone on an impressive 45-yard touchdown run down the left sideline to tie the game at 27-27 with 10:01 left.
Notes and Opinions
- This one is quite clearly on the defense. Once again, the opposing offense was able to willingly move the ball down the field. Other than a punt with less than a minute left in the first half, Pittsburgh didn’t need the punt unit for the rest of the game. One unforced fumble from the Panthers was the one play the defense made and gave the offense a chance to capitalize, which it did. The edge has been very bad against the run, and the secondary was completely manhandled again. With the current personnel, the scheme Ted Roof is using simply won’t get it done.
- I wouldn’t mind seeing more basic pass calls from Paul Johnson. Thomas was 7-10 for 130 yards today, and all of his throws were basically right on target. Some simple dropbacks and throws from Thomas in non-obvious passing situations is something that I think would benefit the offense a lot. A lot of opponents this season are fairly weak in the secondary, and it’d be a shame if Thomas didn’t get to take advantage of that more often. Also, the A-backs should absolutely be more involved in catching the ball in space as much as possible. Qua Searcy has been fairly absent after being great as a receiver early on.
- Tech simply didn’t make a couple key plays. The obvious one is the failed fourth down. I would’ve liked to see another rocket toss. Another one is the dropped pass from Mikell Lands-Davis that could’ve easily led to a touchdown. Thomas delivered it right in the numbers after evading a sack. The last one is the incredible opportunity for a pick-six for Lance Austin on the far-sideline on a pass he jumped and was in perfect position for. As long as Tech keeps missing on these plays and the opposing team keeps making them, this team isn’t good enough to overcome them and have a productive season.