Trying to make sense of another loss, Georgia Tech players seemed at a loss Saturday following their 24-19 defeat to Pittsburgh in both teams’ ACC opener.
“It’s frustrating,” said quarterback TaQuon Marshall, who was 6-for-15 passing for 66 yards and seemed hesitant at times. “I didn’t play well enough to help the guys out a lot (Saturday). It’s frustrating. I don’t really know. It’s tough. So close but yet so far away.”
For the second week in a row, Tech players were hollow with the belief that they could have – perhaps should have – won. Last week, the Jackets led South Florida 38-28 in the fourth quarter before giving up the game’s final 21 points.
Left guard Parker Braun shared Marshall’s frustration. Last season, Braun was a part of a Tech offense that could look unstoppable at times, with four 400-yard rushing games, but sputter at others.
The expectation was that with eight returning starters, production would be more consistent this season, although two of those starters – All-ACC B-back KirVonte Benson and lineman Kenny Cooper, plus veteran lineman Will Bryan – were not in the lineup Saturday. Benson is out for the season with a knee injury, and Cooper is just returning from a foot injury. Bryan was out with a lower-body injury.
“I wish I could tell you that there’s a reason for it, or there’s something we could fix, but the past two years, it’s just been happening,” Braun said.
Players contended that they only a few plays short of a different result.
“Same as last week,” Braun said. “It’s like we’re doing the same thing over and over again. It’s frustrating.”
The confusion and uncertainty was felt on the defense, as well. Pitt took a 21-0 lead in the first half, moving the ball via run and pass and taking advantage of multiple Tech penalties (some of them questionable). Tech players missed tackles and got out of their gaps, sometimes forcibly and other times by misplaying their assignments.
“Me, personally, I feel like we had the energy there, it’s just we didn’t get to rolling the way we needed to,” defensive end Anree Saint-Amour said. “We didn’t like it off like we needed to, like we did in the second half.”
Tech made an error in execution on one of the game’s defining plays. After Tech failed on a fourth-and-5 in the second quarter with Pitt up 14-0, the Panthers answered with a 60-yard pass play by quarterback Kenny Pickett to wide receiver Taysir Mack created by a flea-flicker. It set up a touchdown for a 21-0 lead, one that proved unassailable for Tech.
“I just think it was (players) thinking it’s run, everyone’s going to the ball,” safety Malik Rivera said. “People weren’t covering their man. Just a missed assignment. Little things like that, just like we had numerous times earlier in the game. But we just have to know what our job is an execute it.”
Braun was asked if he could take any positives from the game. He sighed, and considered the answer for several seconds.
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