Georgia Tech finally came up with a much-need series of disruptive plays on defense. Three takeaways and a blocked punt. That’s the sort of effort that’s usually good enough to win most games.
But the Georgia Tech offense wouldn’t cooperate. The Yellow Jackets failed to score after two of the turnovers and finished with only 194 total yards in a disappointing 20-10 loss to Pitt on a brisk homecoming afternoon at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The decisive moment came late in the third quarter when Georgia Tech quarterback Lucas Johnson had the ball knocked loose at the 1 while driving in for the tying score. It was recovered by Pitt’s Cam Bright, who returned it 79 yards. That led to a 49-yard field goal from Alex Kessman that gave Pitt a 20-10 lead with 14:54 left.
“Talked all week how the margin of error is small,” coach Geoff Collins said. “Late in the third quarter we were about to tie the game going into the fourth quarter. The margin of error being small, we fumbled the ball, they recover it and run it down to our end of the field. … At the beginning of each week we’re working, trying to increase the margin of error.”
The Georgia Tech offense struggled against the physical Pitt defense. The Yellow Jackets (2-6, 1-4 ACC) ran for just 86 yards, with Jordan Mason getting 56 on 15 carries. James Graham completed 3 of 13 passes for 57 yards and one touchdown, and Johnson completed 5 of 8 for 51 yards. Johnson was injured on the fumble at the goal line and did not return.
The defense certainly did its part. The three turnovers were the most since they got three in the opener against Clemson.
Juanyeh Thomas got the first pickoff when he came over from safety to help and made a nice leaping interception. It was the first interception of the year for the sophomore and the second of his career.
Tariq Carpenter grabbed the second interception. The sophomore was able to snag a ball that bounced off the hands of Pitt receiver Nakia Griffin-Stewart. It was the first interception for Carpenter and the third of his career.
Jordan Domineck recovered a fumble, which led to Tech’s first touchdown. Pitt receiver Maurice Ffrench caught the ball, but had it stripped by junior David Curry. The loose ball was engulfed by Domineck, his first. That led to a Georgia Tech touchdown. It was Curry’s third career forced fumble and the first career recovery for Domineck.
It was the second blocked kick of the year for Howard, one of the team’s running backs.
“Getting turnovers is a big deal,” Collins said. “We did that. But looking back, we have to capitalize on those turnovers.”
Pitt scored first on a 32-yard field goal from Alex Kessman on its first possession.
Pitt survived an interception by Thomas, forced the Yellow Jackets to punt and scored on the first play after getting the ball back. V’Lique Davis broke through the line and ran untouched for a 61-yard score to put Pitt ahead 10-0.
The Yellow Jackets got another interception when Pickett’s pass went off the hands of tight end Nakia Griffin-Stewart and was snagged by Carpenter. But the Panthers forced a field goal attempt and Brenton King was wide right from 34 yards.
Georgia Tech forced another turnover on Pitt’s first possession after the kickoff. Domineck recovered a fumble and the Yellow Jackets struck on the next play when Graham hit Ahmarean Brown for a 51-yard touchdown pass, cutting Pitt’s lead to 10-7.
Pitt answered with an eight-play, 65-yard drive that was capped with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Pickett to Shocky Jacques-Louis. That gave Pitt a 17-7 lead that stood until halftime.
Howard blocked a punt to start the third quarter and the Yellow Jackets got a 30-yard field goal from King to make it 17-10 at 9:46.
Georgia Tech got the ball back three times in the fourth quarter after Pitt took a 20-10 lead, but could do little. The Yellow Jackets had to punt twice and Graham threw an interception.