PITTSBURGH - In a game that coach Paul Johnson deemed really important and one that his team needed to win, Georgia Tech gave itself little chance in a 24-19 loss to Pittsburgh Saturday at Heinz Field.
The Yellow Jackets missed tackles and were blocked up on defense, could not keep the Panthers out of the backfield on offense and saw a couple fourth-down decisions backfire. After losing to South Florida by giving up a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter last Saturday, Tech didn’t have to worry about protecting a lead against the Panthers.
Tech never led against a team that itself was drilled 51-6 last Saturday by Penn State.
Tech (1-2 overall, 0-1 ACC) dropped just the third ACC conference opener in coach Paul Johnson’s 11-year tenure and will play its game next Saturday against No. 2 Clemson at Bobby Dodd Stadium with no momentum.
Even before the game, Tech was down two key players: B-back KirVonte Benson, out for the year with a knee injury, and right guard Will Bryan, who did not play due to a lower-body injury.
The game’s start was not much better.
Pitt (2-1, 1-0) drove 63 yards for a 7-0 lead on its second drive of the game, scoring on a 31-yard run up the middle by running back Qadree Ollison in which he broke three tackles on the way to the end zone. On Tech’s next possession, the Jackets tried a fake punt on fourth-and-7 from their own 28-yard line. The 265-pound Owens was tackled for a loss, giving Pitt the ball on the Tech 26.
Pitt needed only three plays to get in the end zone for a 14-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the game.
Tech had difficulty creating push at the line of scrimmage. None of the Jackets’ first four drives lasted longer than five plays.
Even still, Tech was in position to score points in the first half and go into halftime with 10 points to Pitt’s 21, if not more.
With about 5:15 to play in the second quarter and the score 14-0 in Pitt’s favor, Tech went for it on fourth-and-5 from the Pitt 23 rather than try a 37-yard field goal. Wide receiver Jalen Camp was open, but quarterback TaQuon Marshall’s quick throw was high and the Jackets turned the ball over on downs.
Pitt tried a flea-flicker on its first play from scrimmage, creating a 60-yard pass from quarterback Kenny Pickett to wide receiver Taysir Mack, setting up the Panthers’ third touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
On the following drive, B-back Jerry Howard opened the drive with a 42-yard run for a first-and-10 at the Pitt 33. On first down, Marshall had wide receiver Brad Stewart open angling to the goal line and protection was solid. An on-target throw could have gone for a touchdown, but his throw was long and Stewart could not bring in the pass. The drive ended with Marshall getting sacked, a play that pushed Tech out of field-goal range.
On Tech’s final drive, kicker Brenton King was short on a try from 52 yards to end the half.
Tech’s mistakes continued in the second half. With the score 24-6 in the third quarter, Johnson called for a deep downfield pass to Camp out of a tight formation. Camp was wide open near midfield for a potential 25-yard gain, but the ball was slightly overthrown and Camp dropped the ball. Marshall threw incomplete under pressure on second down and then A-back Clinton Lynch fumbled on a run to the sideline, giving the ball back to Pitt.
Another attempt to Camp proved costly. With Tech down 24-12 and a little under 10 minutes remaining, Marshall threw deep for Camp on a third-and-6 from the Pitt 31, but Camp had pulled up near the first-down marker. Pitt cornerback Phillipie Motley ran down the pass for an interception, a play that helped close the door on the Jackets.
Tech closed to 24-19 with 37 seconds remaining, with A-back Clinton Lynch scoring from three yards out to finish a 99-yard drive. However, Shawn Davis’ onside kick hopped up high, but went out of bounds. Pitt ran out the clock to end the game.
This article was written by Ken Sugiura with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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