There wasn’t any finger-pointing in the Pitt locker room, according to Pat Narduzzi.
A crushing 26-21 loss to Georgia Tech, perhaps the worst loss of the eight-year Narduzzi era at Pitt, starts with him. And he admitted it. But while the loss rests on his shoulders, he shouldn’t be forced to bear the weight of the loss solely. A lot of factors led to the loss.
“We didn’t win,” Narduzzi said late Saturday night. “We lost together. We win together, and we lose together. We didn’t make enough plays. Defensively, I thought we played a solid game. We held them to four field goals to begin with. Then they scored two late touchdowns. Put it in position. I don’t know what the time of possession was, but it probably wasn’t very good. It looks like they add up to 31 minutes. But, hey, got to regroup and start over again. It just wasn’t good enough.”
Pitt’s offense racked up 411 yards of offense, but 167 of those yards came on the final two possessions against a lax Georgia Tech defense. The offensive play-calling was head-scratching, Kedon Slovis was poor throughout much of the night, the offensive line wasn’t particularly good in either phase and the wide receivers continue to be out of sync. And that’s just on offense.
The Pitt defense was stellar in the first half, holding Georgia Tech to just six points and 106 yards. And there were moments of greatness on the defensive line, but it wasn’t good enough. There were five instances of a Pitt defender letting a catchable interception bounce off his hands — including three alone for Erick Hallett. The run defense wore down, allowing 237 yards on the ground.
Pitt racked up 12 penalties for 75 yards, converted just two third down attempts in 12 tries and turned the football over three times to allow 13 points off turnovers.
It was a bad game, against a bad Georgia Tech team that entered the matchup as the ACC’s worst offense and one of the worst defenses. It was a Georgia Tech team that fired its head coach less than a week prior.
“Tough loss,” Narduzzi said. “One thing about our kids is they never quit. One of the big keys to victory was being plus in the turnover margin, and we weren’t. We were minus-3. Disappointing we had three turnovers in a row in the second half. Pretty much gave ’em the game with that.
“Got to give Georgia Tech credit. They came out and played hard. I knew we’d have a brand-new team out there. Those guys played with energy. Give them credit.”
Narduzzi pointed to Sims’ performance as a plus for Georgia Tech. Sims was poor throughout the game through the air, two chunk plays inflating his meager passing yards, but he was able to give Pitt fits with his legs.
Sims completed just 11-of-26 pass attempts for 102 yards and a touchdown, but despite four sacks and some tackles for loss, he still compiled 81 yards and a touchdown on the ground — which aided Hassan Hall’s 157 yards on the ground.
“They’re a good-looking football team,” Narduzzi said. “They got players too. They got guys on scholarship. And certainly, the quarterback is a big athletic guy. We bounced off some tackles, there’s no question. Especially on that last one.”
Georgia Tech was 1-3 entering Saturday’s game. The only win came against Western Carolina. By all metrics, not including a fired head coach, Georgia Tech is not a good football team. It was an inspired effort for interim head coach Brent Key, but Pitt allowed GT to look like a good football team with its own poor play.
Pitt somehow still had a chance with just under two minutes to go, following a 99-yard drive capped by a Jaden Bradley 27-yard touchdown reception. Pitt had all three timeouts left and elected to kick the football deep instead of going for an onside kick. Pitt’s defense needed to force a three and out to get the ball back with a decent amount of time on the clock.
Instead, Hall ran 63 yards on the first play of the drive, and Sims capped a three-play, 72-yard drive with an 18-yard touchdown.
“We debated whether to kick an onside kick or not,” Narduzzi said. “And we trusted our defense. And we were going to kick it and get them pinned down there and get good field position and go down and score. We probably would have. But we didn’t.
“So, hindsight, geez, 1:57 with three timeouts. Three timeouts, three runs and get them to punt the ball and feel like we would win the game. But obviously a bad call by me.”
It wasn’t necessarily the right or wrong call. It was just one of those nights for Pitt. Narduzzi said that all of Pitt’s goals are still within reach, and that the loss may make the team even hungrier. But Saturday’s loss showed that this is a team that doesn’t have any margin for error.
Pitt is 0-1 in ACC play, and there’s a climb ahead.