ATLANTA -- It might have been the most important reception of the season for Georgia Tech.
On third-and-17 midway in the fourth quarter, with momentum trending the wrong way, quarterback Vad Lee dropped back and heaved a prayer downfield. Somehow DeAndre Smelter, the baseball player-turned-football player and former Tattnall Square standout, managed to climb over two defenders to snare the 42-yard completion at the 12-yard line.
Two plays later, Robert Godhigh motored in from the 11 for a touchdown. It gave the Yellow Jackets a 21-10 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday and ensured that the Yellow Jackets will be eligible to play in a bowl game for the 17th straight season.
In the huddle (head coach Paul) Johnson called a post corner, Smelter said. I saw how the corner was playing me, so I wanted to give him a little bit to the post and keep an eye on the corner. When I saw that we had a little bit of room and Vad threw it, I knew I had to go up and make a good play on it.
The victory, the 700th for the proud program, was the third straight for Georgia Tech and improved its record to 6-3.
It means everything, because thats what you play college football for, Lee said. Obviously you want to go to the big bowls and we realize thats still alive for us.
Much of the credit should go to Ted Roofs defense. That groups pressure, which included five sacks and 10 tackles behind the line, helped overcome a pair of turnovers. Pittsburgh finished with minus-5 yards rushing. The Yellow Jackets ended any Pittsburgh threat when Jemea Thomas came away with an interception with 33 seconds left.
I think it was a team effort, defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu said. Defensively as a unit we kept ourselves up and just played. Nothing really different.
Lee completed 5-of-10 passes for 84 yards. Three of those completions went to Smelter for 64 yards. David Sims rushed 18 times for 94 yards and one touchdown, and Godhigh carried six times for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
Georgia Tech wasted no time taking the lead. After forcing Pittsburgh to go three-and-out, thanks to a third-down sack by Attaochu, The Yellow Jackets covered 64 yards in seven plays, with Sims scoring on a 12-yard run, his ninth rushing touchdown of the season.
Georgia Tech was moving toward a second score when the drive was stopped by a fumble. Lee was running left and made a high pitch to Sims, who fumbled. Pittsburghs Matt Galambos recovered at the 22.
Pittsburgh didnt get a first down in the first quarter as Georgia Tech outgained the Panthers 131-1.
But the momentum seemed to shift early in the second quarter when Georgia Tech failed to convert a fourth-and-5 at the Pittsburgh 36. The Panthers, aided by a roughing the passer penalty, moved into Georgia Tech territory for the first time and reached the 26 before stalling. The Panthers were forced to settle for a 44-yard field goal from Chris Blewitt, which cut Georgia Techs lead to 7-3 with 9:48.
Georgia Tech responded with a touchdown, thanks to a nervy fourth-down call. Stuck at midfield and facing fourth-and-5, Sean Poole lined up in punt formation but instead raced around the left side for a 12-yard gain and a first down. Two plays later Godhigh took a pitch and raced around the left side, slipped through the arms of Pittsburghs Ray Vinopal and wound up with a 35-yard touchdown. It put Georgia Tech ahead 14-3 with 5:58 left in the half.