PITTSBURGH — It felt like Pitt — against all odds — might actually have had a chance to win after driving 99 yards in under two minutes to draw within five points late in the fourth quarter.
Pitt had all its timeouts left. A quick stop and Pitt could get the ball back with a decent chunk of time left and potentially orchestrate a game-winning drive. And then GT’s Hassan Hall ripped off a 63-yard rush up the sideline and put Pitt away with an 18-yard scamper from Jeff Sims.
It was one of those games. One of those games where Pitt allowed inferior competition to hang around, offered almost nothing offensively for a majority of the game and allowed the ACC’s worst team to pull out a win.
Georgia Tech was the opponent, and it was a Georgia Tech football team that began the season 1-3, had its head coach fired the Sunday before the game was played and ranked among the worst teams in the conference.
Pitt walked off a cold, wet field at Acrisure Stadium Saturday night with a 26-21 loss to that Georgia Tech team.
Pitt’s offense turned the ball over three times in a four-possession stretch to open the second half, allowed Georgia Tech’s anemic offense to build some momentum throughout the half and scored two touchdowns with less than five minutes left in the game.
Slovis completed 26-of-45 passing attempts for 305 yards and three touchdowns (most of which came with less than five minutes in the game), Vincent Davis ran for 80 yards on 15 carries, Jared Wayne hauled in six receptions for 89 yards and Gavin Bartholomew and Jaden Bradley caught touchdown passes.
Pat Narduzzi said he was comfortable if Georgia Tech was going to sit back in coverage and force Pitt to run the football, especially considering GT entered the night with the ACC’s worst rush defense, but that wasn’t the case initially.
Pitt’s offense took the field for the first offensive possession and threw three straight incomplete passes.
The offensive scheme rapidly changed, as the Israel Abanikanda and Vincent Davis duo received its fair share of carries, but Kedon Slovis took most of the first half to really get into sync with the offense. Slovis entered Pitt’s final offensive possession of the first half with a stat line of 2-of-9 for eight yards.
The offensive line wasn’t able to provide a whole lot of time to stand in the pocket at points in the game, but when Slovis had time, he wasn’t able to find his open receivers downfield, and he seemed to be a pace slow in stepping into his throws and making his reads.
It took until the final offensive possession of the half — Pitt’s sixth of the game — for any sort of actual offensive consistency. Slovis found Konata Mumpfield a couple of times — the first completion of the drive drawing a rousing round of mock applause — and Davis converted a 3rd-and-3 with a 7-yard scamper.
A roughing the passer call on GT’s Kenny Bennett tacked 15 yards onto a short completion to Jared Wayne, and Slovis stood tall in a clean pocket and found Gavin Bartholomew in space, who turned it into a 29-yard catch and run touchdown to give Pitt a late first half lead.
Georgia Tech held a lead most of the first half, capitalizing on a 33-yard opening possession field goal and turning a Pitt turnover on downs into another three points after a 42-yard dash from Jeff Sims. It was a half in which Sims, who completed just 3-of-12 first half attempts for 37 yards, was sacked four times by the Pitt defense. Pitt only mustered 127 yards, but GT was 27 yards behind that.
The second half, which kicked off as Abanikanda remained in the locker room, started off with some momentum as Davis and C’Bo Flemister provided the new rushing duo, but a Davis fumble inside Georgia Tech territory, forced by Jaylin King and returned 43 yards by Charlie Thomas, set up Stewart’s third field goal — a 40 yarder — to retake the lead.
Pitt’s answering offensive possessions weren’t exactly inspiring.
Pitt managed to drive to the GT 42-yard line, but Narduzzi elected to take a delay of game penalty and punt the ball away instead of potentially going for it on 4th-and-5. The Pitt defense forced a punt of its own, but an ill-advised Slovis throw on the ensuing possession was picked off by Thomas right at midfield. And after holding GT to another field goal, Davis coughed up his second fumble of the game.
Sims made Pitt pay with more than a field goal the second time around, connecting with E.J. Jenkins for A 21-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone to push the lead to two possessions with just under 11 minutes left in the game.
Pitt once again held at the goal line late in the fourth quarter, forcing an incomplete pass from the 1-yard line and after a pair of false starts moving the ball back to the goal line, Pitt drove 99 yards and capped the drive with a 27-yard touchdown to Jaden Bradley.
Georgia Tech would score again on the 18-yard Sims’ dash, and Pitt would drive for another very late touchdown, again thrown to Bradley. But it was too little, too late.
Pitt drops to 3-2 (0-1 ACC) with the loss. Virginia Tech will be traveling to Acrisure Stadium next Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.