Georgia Tech hosted Pittsburgh for a Thursday night showdown at Bobby Dodd Stadium. This was no ordinary night, as 22 graduating seniors were celebrated from the Jackets for senior night. This pregame celebration had the limited capacity of 11,000 fans on their feet, wishing them all the best in their future endeavors.
With the Panthers favored by 11 points, the Jackets looked to outperform Pitt’s top-ranked defense. After a Jackets kickoff, Pitt came out of the gates flying with a 74-yard run up the middle on their first play, deep in Tech territory. Tech’s red zone defense managed to hold them to just a field goal.
On Tech’s first play, freshman quarterback Jeff Sims threw an interception, giving Pitt the ball at mid-field. A promising drive for Pitt left them scoreless, as Tech’s defense forced a turnover on downs at their own two-yard-line. Tech made sure Pitt paid for their missed opportunity, marching out of their endzone and down the field, with Sims’ 46-yard dime to senior receiver Jalen Camp putting them in scoring position. Pitt’s defensive efforts on their one-yard-line fell short, as a persistent Sims managed to break the plane for the score on fourth down.
The next drives by each team resulted in their respective three-and-outs, ending the first quarter with Pitt at mid-field down by four points. A wild first play of the second quarter saw a Tech interception shortly followed by a fumble, allowing the Panthers to recover the football for a 17-yard net gain. Tech’s defense held Pitt to just a field goal in the red zone, retaining their dwindling lead.
Tech’s quick three-and-out led to a 58-yard punt by senior Presley Harvin III, who averaged 51 yards on 5 punts throughout the game. On Pitt’s drive, two passes for huge gains gave Pitt a touchdown and their first lead of the game. After another Jackets punt, the Panthers quickly made their way downfield with a couple big plays, but fell short as the Jackets red zone defense held them to another field goal. Tech’s next drive resulted in another Panther interception at mid-field, but the Jackets defense sacked Pitt twice for huge losses to end the first half down 16-7.
Turnovers continued to haunt Sims and the offensive line in the first half, limiting opportunities to score while wearing down the defensive unit. The defense handled pressure well, forcing three field goals and one turnover deep in their own territory. This trend, however, would not continue in the second half.
After a short-lived second half opening drive for Tech, Pitt’s offense carried the ball down the field, resulting in quarterback Kenny Pickett and company finding the endzone for a touchdown to make it 23-7. Pitt’s 20 unanswered points by the midway point of the third quarter removed all traces of Tech’s early lead.
Punts on both sides followed, leaving the Jackets starting their attack at mid-field. Tech broke through the Panthers defense for the aerial score brought in by Camp, adding a touchdown to his 97-yard night. The 2-point conversion was called back for a questionable pass interference call, with an unsuccessful follow-up attempt. Rising tensions between the teams warranted a slew of flags, mostly against Tech. The Jackets had eight penalties on the night for 86 yards. This loss of focus and discipline led to a Pitt field goal, eating away the rest of the quarter and nearly seven minutes of the fourth quarter.
Down but not out, the Jackets offense stormed down the field with a 7 play, 75-yard drive capped by a Sims touchdown pass. With Tech only down by one score, Pitt’s 75-yard ground attack added to the tally, finding the endzone and a 2-point conversion.
With two minutes to play, the Jackets responded, as Sims’ passing plays put them deep in Pitt territory. Sims was taken out after taking a couple big hits on this drive, putting freshman Jordan Yates at the reigns with 42 seconds to play. Despite their best efforts, Tech’s offense failed to reach the endzone on fourth-and-goal, marking the end of the game with a final score of 34-20.
The Jackets’ frustrations were not only resonating with the players, as head coach Geoff Collins made a quick exit, barely acknowledging Pitt’s head coach Pat Narduzzi as he and the team headed to the tunnel. Collins’ obvious displeasure with the officials left him heated, but Tech had more than just bad calls to blame for their loss. Sims’ 237-yard performance was not enough to break through Pitt’s defense, paired with Tech’s lack of rushing yards and penalties hindering their advancements downfield. On the other side, Pitt’s nearly last-ranked struggling offense dominated Tech’s defense, with running back Vincent Davis racking up a staggering 247 of Pitt’s 513 total yards. Moreover, a 3-1 turnover deficit left them with a disheartening seventh loss of the season.
Next Saturday’s game scheduled against 9th-ranked Miami has been cancelled due to various injuries and COVID-related protocols. The Jackets finished their second season under Collins with a 3-7 record ranked 11th in the ACC. Although better than their projected last-place finish, the team has work to do in the offseason, but has a promising outlook with gifted underclassmen ready for their starting roles