Pitt defense shuts down Georgia Tech in 24-19 win
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Qadree Ollison and the rest of his Pittsburgh teammates found a unique way to combat the lingering effects of a loss to Penn State that could have defined their season: willful amnesia.
“Forgot about it. Forgot about last week,” Ollison said after rushing for 91 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-19 victory over Georgia Tech on Saturday. “It wasn’t hard. Don’t remember none of it. Don’t remember who we played.”
And then the senior running back laughed. Just a little. There’s nothing the Panthers can do about their nationally televised second-half meltdown against the Nittany Lions . Best to just move on.
“You’ve got to flush it out,” Ollison said. “You’ve got to forget about it and realize that all our goals are still intact. Nobody said you had to be undefeated to go to the ACC championship or national championship. If we win the rest of our games, nobody will remember what happened last week.”
Not exactly, but Pitt (2-1, 1-0 ACC) took a significant step forward by racing to a three-touchdown lead and holding off the Yellow Jackets late.
Ollison scored on runs of 31 and 8 yards, backfield mate Darrin Hall added a 5-yard scoring burst of his own and the Panthers opened conference play by playing the kind of game they’ll need to repeat many times over the next two-plus months if they want to be a factor in the wide-open Coastal Division.
“We know last week, that really wasn’t us,” safety Damar Hamlin said. “We didn’t get to show who we are as a team. So we just tried to get to this game as quick as we can to get off that bad page.”
Quarterback Kenny Pickett left briefly due with a left leg injury at the end of the first half but played the entire second half, completing 16 of 23 passes for a season-high 191 yards and an interception. Pickett wore a brace on the leg over the final two quarters, something he does regularly in practice but never in games. That will change going forward.
“We dodged a bullet really,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “He’s healthy, but he likes to go run, and he wants to feel clean, but that ain’t going to happen. I’ll tape that thing to his leg.”
A week after rolling up 602 yards in a loss to South Florida, the Yellow Jackets managed just 386 against the Panthers, 99 of it coming on a last-gasp drive in the final minutes. The Yellow Jackets (1-2, 0-1) did little in the first half when six of their seven drives lasted five plays or less.
“We came out to start the game offensively and it looked like we had never played the game before,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. “We had a chance to get back in the game. But we never had a chance to get the lead.”
TaQuon Marshall scored on a pair of short touchdown runs in the second half and finished with a team-high 103 yards rushing. He struggled through the air, completing just one pass until Georgia Tech’s final drive. Marshall ended up 6 of 15 for 66 yards and an interception on a heave to the end zone with just under 10 minutes remaining that was easily picked off by Pitt’s Phillipie Motley to end any real threat the Yellow Jackets had of mounting a comeback.
WHAT WAS THAT?
Some unorthodox decision making by Johnson didn’t exactly help things. He called for a fake punt from the Georgia Tech 28 in the first quarter, and Antwan Owens was stuffed for a two-yard loss. Three plays later Hall scored to Pitt up two touchdowns before the game was 10 minutes old.
Georgia Tech faced another fourth down at the Pitt 23 in the second quarter. Rather than attempt a makeable field goal to get on the board, the Yellow Jackets went for it. Needing five yards, Marshall dropped back to pass, which sailed high and out of the reach of Jalen Camp.
“If we can’t throw a pass that is eight yards and catch it, then that’s a bad call,” Johnson said. “That was a bad call. It was on me.”
Pitt responded with a 60-yard completion from Pickett to Taysir Mack off a flea-flicker to set up Ollison’s second score and take firm control.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have to stop beating themselves. The playcalling was odd at times. So were a couple of personal foul penalties on late hits that handed Pitt yardage on drives that turned into touchdowns.
Pitt: Considering the daunting stretch ahead — three of Pitt’s next four are on the road, two against ranked opponents — the Panthers needed a bounce-back performance and they got one.
Georgia Tech: Hosts No. 2 Clemson next Saturday. The Tigers have won five of the last six meetings, including a 24-10 victory last October.
Pitt: The Panthers travel to North Carolina on Saturday. The Panthers are 0-5 against the Tar Heels since joining the ACC in 2013.