Notes from Georgia Tech’s 20-10 loss to Pittsburgh Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
1. Freshman wide receiver Ahmarean Brown joined select company with his fourth touchdown reception of the season, a 51-yard pass play from quarterback James Graham in the second quarter. No freshman has had four touchdown receptions since Demaryius Thomas as a redshirt freshman in 2007. No first-year freshman has had four since 2004 when Calvin Johnson (who was in attendance Saturday) had seven.
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The 51-yard play was the longest catch of Brown’s career and the longest pass of Graham’s.
“It was a great play by Ahmarean,” Graham said. “I actually got outside the pocket and just gave him a shot at the ball and he went and got it.”
2. Safety Juanyeh Thomas had a career game Saturday, pulling down his first interception of the season and logging a career-high eight tackles. All the stops were solo and two were behind the line of scrimmage, the first tackles for loss of his career. Thomas had not played to expectations to this point — he came into the game averaging 4.4 tackles per game.
“I’ve just been hesitant,” Thomas said. “So (Saturday), I talked to (safety and close friend Tariq Carpenter). I was just like, bro, just tell me what I’ve got to do. He just said, ‘Go.’ So I was like, all right, then I’m going to go. And there it was (Saturday).”
His interception of quarterback Kenny Pickett was a highlight-worthy play. On a deep ball near the sideline to receiver Maurice Ffrench, Thomas raced over from his spot in the middle of the field to step into the ball’s trajectory and make a leaping, one-handed catch.
“Honestly, I was looking at the quarterback and he shifted his shoulders,” Thomas said. “So that was basically my cue to just go. So then I went and he threw it and then — bam — there it goes.”
3. At the end of the first half, Pitt faced a third-and-11 and was stopped short with about 44 seconds to play in the half. With Pitt now at fourth-and-5 on its 45, Tech could have called timeout to require the Panthers to punt. Given that Tech had had recent success with kick blocks – and indeed would block a punt in the second half – and Collins’ emphasis on special teams in general, it might have seemed a good spot for a timeout. Collins chose against it, and the clock was allowed to expire before Pitt had to play fourth down.
“We knew we were getting the ball back (to start the second half), so we just wanted to get into the halftime,” Collins said.
4. Collins confirmed an AJC report that linebacker Bruce Jordan-Swilling could be out for the remainder of the season after a foot injury suffered in the Miami game, going further and saying that he is indeed out for the season.
The loss was particularly felt Saturday, as Charlie Thomas, the other “willie” linebacker, was limited after suffering an apparent upper-body injury against Miami in overtime. Collins said that Jordan-Swilling and Thomas had played “99 percent” of the snaps at that position this season. Quez Jackson, normally a “mike” linebacker, was moved over and played most of the game there.
“Obviously, if it’s a new position, there’s going to be some things that we’re going to want to have back, but he’s going to get better,” Collins said of Jackson. “He’s a really good player and just really proud of him, how he handled those things.”
5. The announced attendance of 41,219 was beneath the attendance for last year’s homecoming game, an Oct.13 loss to Duke, when attendance was 41,709. That figure was the lowest for a homecoming game since 1994, when homecoming was celebrated on the second-to-last game of a season in which coach Bill Lewis was fired the previous week.
6. Asked about two substitution infractions that occurred in the same drive in the first half, Collins’ response had the sound of a veiled critique of the officiating of those plays. He pointed out that the rules call for, in the case of an offense making a substitution, the referee to stand over the ball and not let the offense snap in order for the defense to have time to adjust its own personnel. He made clear that he was speaking generally about the rule, and not specifically about Saturday’s game.
“We know the rules of the game, we abide by the rules of the game, we execute at a high level the rules of the game,” Collins said. “What we do, we do a really good job. Our coaching staff does a really good job understanding the mechanics and exercising those mechanics in games. I can’t speak specifically what happened out there tonight, obviously, and will not do that.”
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi was more direct in offering feedback on the officiating. He questioned a roughing-the-passer calling on the Panthers, the fumble forced by linebacker David Curry and said that the public address speakers were playing during game action for two plays, but that officials only gave Tech a warning.
“The music, they just kept playing,” Narduzzi said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “They claimed that (Georgia Tech) pressed the button, and the button didn’t work. OK.” Narduzzi said the Yellow Jackets were issued a warning. “There should be no warning. It should be called immediately.”
7. Pitt wide receiver Maurice Ffrench’s 11 catches were the most against a Tech defense since Pitt’s Tyler Boyd also had 11, in 2013 in a 21-10 Tech win. The last time an opponent had more was Virginia’s Darius Jennings in 2013, a week prior to Boyd’s 11-catch game, a 35-25 Tech win.
While Ffrench gained 71 yards, five of the catches went for first downs. Ffrench came into the game with 64 receptions, second most in FBS.
“All week we knew how good No. 2 was and obviously he showed that (Saturday),” Collins said.
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