Georgia Tech adds to Pitt’s frustration in first year in ACC

ATLANTA — The ACC isn’t exactly eating its young,

but it is making life rough on its newest members.

Or

more to the point, Georgia Tech is making life rough on the conference

rookies.

On the third play of the game, Jeremiah

Attaochu swept around the outside of Pitt freshman left tackle Dorian

Johnson, took four steps and nailed Tom Savage square in his chest,

dropping him for a 10-yard loss.

That sack, the first

of five by Yellow Jackets, set the tone. They overwhelmed the Panthers

21-10, giving them a dominant win to add to the 56-0 rout of the ACC’s

other new face, Syracuse, on Oct. 19.

Georgia Tech

allowed minus-5 rushing yards and a run game that helped the Jackets

pull away to move to 6-3 and 5-2 in the ACC.

“I’ve

said all along, if you can run the ball and you can stop the ball, you

usually have a good chance of winning,” said Georgia Tech coach Paul

Johnson.

As key as the win was for Georgia Tech,

getting it bowl eligible for the 17th straight season, it only

compounded things for the Panthers.

This has been,

without question, a trying year for them and the ACC’s other

newcomer.

Both are 4-4 overall, with the Panthers 2-3

in the league and Syracuse at 2-2 on the heels of its 13-0 win over

Wake Forest. But Pitt’s season has included more of a taste of the best

the league has to offer, and the results have been frustrating from the

start.

The Panthers opened by hosting Jameis

Winston’s coming out party as the redshirt freshman dominated in Florida

State’s 41-13 win. While they rebounded by beating Duke — giving up 55

points in the process — and Virginia (now 2-7), they looked anemic in

falling to Virginia Tech 19-9.

But if there was one

thing play to Pitt’s advantage when it entered Bobby Dodd Stadium, it

was that it already had some familiarity with the spread-option offense.

The Panthers had just seen it the week before in

facing Paul Johnson’s former team, Navy, and allowed 220 yards on the

ground in a 24-21 loss.

But that extra week of

preparation didn’t matter much as the Jackets ran for 277 yards,

including 196 by halftime. That yardage included all three of Georgia

Tech’s touchdowns as David Sims ran it in from 12 yards out, while

Robert Godhigh had TDs of 35 and an 11-yarder in the fourth

quarter.

“We saw some of the tendencies they used

against Navy and as an offensive line, for example, we saw how some of

their linebackers were running,” said Jackets redshirt senior guard Will

Jackson. “We knew we could base some of our calls based on how they

played against Navy. … it helped us out.”

Said Pitt

coach Paul Chryst: “That’s a good offense. They got some things on us. I

thought our defense was well prepared and guys played hard and played

well in a lot of areas.”

There were moments, like the

third quarter in which the Panthers, held the Jackets to 39 rushing

yards in the third quarter and made it 14-10 with Savage’s 12-yard TD

pass to Tyler Boyd.

And of course, Aaron Donald, who

has been among the few bright spots for the Panthers all season. On

consecutive plays, the defensive tackle showed why he’s been garnering

All-America buzz.

With the Jackets on Pitt’s 34-yard

line in the second quarter, he broke through untouched to hit Zach

Laskey for a 2-yard loss on third down and when Georgia Tech opted to go

for it, Donald sacked Vad Lee.

He finished with 11

tackles, including six for loss and two forced fumbles.

“He’s a heckuva player,” Johnson said. “He created a

lot of havoc and created a lot of negative plays for

us.”

But there weren’t enough of them and now the

Panthers find themselves in a tough spot.

While they

need just two wins to reach bowl eligibility, they face No. 25 Notre

Dame next weekend and close with No. 7 Miami.

Any

chance of reaching the postseason basically lies with the games

sandwiched in between the Fighting Irish and Hurricanes, which includes a

date with the Orange on Nov. 23 at the Carrier

Dome.

With Syracuse facing Maryland (5-3), the

Seminoles and Boston College (4-4), there remains the possibility, that

getting to a bowl in Year 1 in the ACC would mean needing to be the

other first-year team.

Given that Pitt and Syracuse

are a combined 2-6 vs. conference teams with winning records, there

would seem no more perfect ending.