ATLANTA — Pittsburgh let Georgia Tech hang around all night in a game it mostly dominated. The Panthers scored six points on 19 trips into the red zone, and left the door open for a comeback.
Vincent Davis slammed it shut.
Pitt allowed Georgia Tech to trim a 23-7 lead down to 26-20 with just over six minutes left, but the sophomore running back didn’t let the Yellow Jackets get the ball back down a score.
Davis rushed for 69 yards on seven carries during the pivotal drive of the game, capping it off with a 38-yard touchdown that put the issue away and took his personal total for the game to 247 yards.
It was the highest rushing total for a Pitt back since Darrin Hall went for 254 yards against Duke in 2017, and it was the final score of a 34-20 win for the Panthers at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The two themes of the night for Pitt’s offense — big plays from Davis and red zone efficiency — both showed up right from the start.
Davis took the opening play from scrimmage 74 yards up the middle to set up first-and-goal, but Pitt could only turn the explosive start into a 27-yard field goal from Alex Kessman.
Georgia Tech’s one effective offensive drive of the first half spanned almost the entire length of the field after a Pitt red zone trip stalled out on fourth-and-goal. A dozen plays later the Yellow Jackets had a fourth-and-goal of their own, but the shifty Jeff Sims finessed around two Pitt tacklers to break the plane and put the hosts on top 7-3.
Davis was the dominant force of the force of the night, but Pickett put together one quick scoring drive in the second quarter. He covered 93 yards of ground with just two throws, first hitting Jared Wayne for a gain of 33 and then uncorking a deep ball to DJ Turner for a 60-yard TD that put the Panthers on top for good.
Pitt added yet another red zone field goal before halftime and had a chance for even more points after Jason Pinnock intercepted Sims with just over a minute left in the first half, but back-to-back sacks killed the drive and kept the Yellow Jackets in striking distance going into the intermission.
The fifth time proved to be the charm for the Panthers on the opening possession of the second half, as Pickett took it himself from a yard out to make it 23-7 Pitt, but even that wasn’t enough to completely put the Yellow Jackets away. Georgia Tech’s offense answered back with a drive that featured three third down conversions and a 21-yard touchdown pass from Sims to Jalen Camp.
The ensuing two-point conversion attempt initially drew the Yellow Jackets to within a score, but an offensive pass interference call wiped the points off the board and preserved a two-possession lead.
The Panthers had a golden opportunity to throw an early knockout punch when they were given a reprieve on a dubious late hit call early in the fourth quarter, but the goal-to-go situation just turned into another field goal that made it 26-13 and kept the lead at two scores.
That was the last in a series of frustrating red zone opportunities, and it almost came back to bite Pitt.
The closest Georgia Tech came all night was off the back of that goal line stand with a 75-yard touchdown drive that took just over two minutes. Jeff Sims found Dylan Deveneyto make it 26-20, forcing the Panthers to come up with one more answer.
Davis had it, and in delivering it he brought Pitt’s team rushing total to 317 yards, the high-water mark since a 492 yard explosion against Virginia Tech in 2018.