Football falls to Pickett’s Panthers

Tech’s Azende Rey looks to the fans during the Oct. 2 loss to Pitt. Tech struggled to handle Pitt’s offense all afternoon, but the team’s 432 yards of offense are a positive. // Photo by Josh Kim Student Publications

Tech took the field against Pittsburgh last Saturday in an electric Bobby Dodd stadium, facing a hot team that came into the weekend averaging 52.5 points per game. Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett started the game with a series of quick passes before being stopped by the Tech defense, helped by pressure from linebacker Charlie Thomas.

The Panthers defense would give Pickett another chance, with a tipped pass from Tech quarterback Jeff Sims turning into an interception. Pittsburgh capitalized on the mistake with a nine-yard touchdown run by running back Israel Abanikanda.

Sims started off his second drive with another interception, this time by John Petrishen, who returned it for a 26-yard Pittsburgh touchdown.

Tech found itself starting the third drive down 14-0. The lead was not set to last as Jeff Sims, looking unfazed, threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Nate McCollum, bringing Tech to a 14-7 deficit.

The Panthers offense struggled to gain yardage the next drive, with Pickett feeling pressure from the Tech defensive line, particularly from Tre Swilling, whose sack helped put a first down out of reach. One drive later, after a punt by Tech, the Panthers offense returned with a 47-yard pass from Pickett to Jordan Addison, before returning to Addison for an 11-yard touchdown pass, which sealed the first quarter with a 21-7 Tech deficit.

After a few back-and-forth drives, the Panthers offense started off at midfield after a miscue from the Tech punting team resulted in an accidental collision with the punt returner. Once again, the offense took advantage of Tech’s mistake, with a 55-yard touchdown pass from Pickett to Taysir Mack building the Panthers lead to 21.

Tech responded the next drive, first with a 34-yard return by Jahmyr Gibbs, followed by a 13-yard pass from Sims to Malachi Carter, and finally a 24-yard run by Sims. Tech found itself in the endzone a few plays later with a 3-yard run by Dontae Smith.

Pittsburgh responded with a drive of their own, culminating with a 6-yard touchdown run by Israel Abanikanda, his second of the day.

After a turnover on downs by Tech, the Panthers responded with a two play, 45-yard touchdown drive, the first being a 29-yard pass, followed by a 16 yard pass, both to receiver Lucas Krull.

Down 14-42, Tech started its next drive with a 71-yard pass from Sims to Jahmyr Gibbs, bringing the offense to the Panthers 4 yard-line. Tech found themselves at third and goal on the one-yard line, where they would fail to score a touchdown after two incomplete passes.

After electing to defer to the second, Tech’s offense came out in a hurry, with multiple passes from Sims to Malachi Carter and Malik Rutherford bringing Tech to the Pittsburgh 7 yard-line. Tech was once again unable to convert, with a holding penalty pushing back what would have been a touchdown, followed a few plays later by a missed field goal.

Pittsburgh, by this point in complete control of the game, found the end zone yet again, this time on a 2-yard pass to Daniel Carter, putting the Panthers up 49-14. Tech responded with a drive of their own, putting together an 11 play, 75-yard drive which ended with a 4-yard pass from Sims to Andonicas Sanders for a touchdown.

The Panthers first drive of the fourth quarter ended with 12 plays and a 46-yard field goal, putting them up a comfortable 52-21 over the Jackets.

Tech ended the game having never figured out how to slow the Pittsburgh offense, while having given up two touchdowns after interceptions. Tech will enter its next few games without the momentum it had hoped to carry as they continues one of the toughest schedules in the ACC. The Jackets travel to Durham for a game against Duke on Oct. 9, hoping for a win to get back on track.