Georgia Tech struggles to run — and stop the run — in loss to Pitt

Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) gets off a pass to Pittsburgh running back Vincent Davis (22) during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Thursday, December 10, 2020. Pittsburgh won 34-20 over the Georgia Tech. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

caption arrowCaption
Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) gets off a pass to Pittsburgh running back Vincent Davis (22) during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Thursday, December 10, 2020. Pittsburgh won 34-20 over the Georgia Tech. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

In its previous two games, Georgia Tech’s offense had its two best rushing outputs of the season and the defense had its two best games stopping the run. The script flipped Thursday night in a 34-20 loss to Pittsburgh at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

After their best rushing game of the season two weeks ago against Duke (377 total yards) and their third-best game against N.C. State on Saturday (261), while allowing only 68 rushing yards to the Blue Devils and 88 to the Wolfpack, the Yellow Jackets gave up 317 rushing yards Thursday. Tech’s offense gained only 98.

The rushing attack couldn’t solve Pitt’s run defense, which ranks fifth in the nation and gives up an average of 93.1 rushing yards per game. The Jackets topped that mark, but just barely. It wasn’t until midway through the fourth quarter that Tech earned an explosive play in the run game, on a 35-yard run by sophomore running back Jamious Griffin — the Jackets’ longest rush of the night. For the vast majority of the game, Tech struggled to get anything going on the ground.

“First of all, it starts with they’ve got really, really, really good players,” Tech coach Geoff Collins said. “They’ve got one of the top front fours in college football. They do a nice job. They play aggressive. They’re long and physical, so hats off to them for what they’ve been able to build and develop over time with their roster and with their scheme.”

ExploreMark Bradley: Tech loses a game. Jackets' coach loses his composure

While the Jackets struggled to run the ball, the Panthers had their best rushing game in almost two years. Pitt hadn’t rushed for more than 200 yards as a team since gaining 208 yards on the ground against Stanford on Dec. 31, 2018. On Thursday, running back Vincent Davis gained 247 yards by himself.

On the first play from scrimmage, Davis broke off a 74-yard run that would’ve been a touchdown if not for cornerback Zamari Walton sprinting across the field to bring him down. It set the tone for Davis’ performance throughout the game.

“He’s a good player,” Collins said. “There’s some things that we mis-fit. There was one, the first play of the game, we had a kid slip right at the point of attack. Those kind of things, obviously, are unfortunate.”

“I don’t think he was necessarily doing anything that made it hard to stop him,” junior linebacker Quez Jackson said. “We’ve just got to make plays when it’s time to make plays.”

ExplorePhotos from Georgia Tech's loss to Pitt

Just as Davis started the game with a bang, he delivered the final blow in Tech’s chances for a comeback. The Panthers got the ball back with six minutes left after a Jackets touchdown made it a one-score game. After a nearly four-minute long drive, Davis earned one final explosive play on a 38-yard touchdown run to seal Tech’s fate.

“At the end, we mis-fit,” Collins said. “We were max blitz, max pressure in a four-minute situation. We get that stop, it’s fourth-and-2, fourth-and-3, down one score. We mis-fit it, overload pressure, which was the right thing to do, but some of those times you’re either gonna create a tackle for loss, create a turnover or if one guy mi-sfits, you run the risk of an explosive play. That happened to us, and he’s a really good player.

“Those kind of things, we’ll continue to learn from and grow from. Understanding the situation, understanding situational football, I thought our guys did that. They just kept battling.”

About the Author

Editors' Picks