Call it the #412 takeover. Pitt came to Bobby Dodd Stadium and left exultant. Geoff Collins went away mad – disgusted with the officials and apparently displeased by Pat Narduzzi, whose hand he brushed, as opposed to shook, when the two met at midfield afterward.

Collins didn’t deign to look Narduzzi in the eye, a slight that impelled the Pitt coach to point at the Georgia Tech coach as he exited steaming. Perhaps Narduzzi was simply trying to help his counterpart find the nearest Waffle House.

This was not a happy night for Collins. His team lost 34-20. The Panthers, who ranked next-to-last among the 15 ACC teams in total offense, stacked 513 yards on Tech. Pitt tailback Vincent Davis, who’d never had a 100-yard rushing game, churned for 247. Seventy-four of those came on the game’s first snap. The final 38 came on the clinching touchdown, which came against such tepid opposition you wondered if the Yellow Jackets had opted to let him score. (They hadn’t. Said Collins: “We mis-fit it.”)

Collins has such a deep voice that it often sounds as if he’s yelling when he isn’t. There was no mystery in these postgame remarks. He WAS yelling. “I’m really proud of those guys in there,” he roared, meaning his players. “They fought their butts off. Three games in 13 days – they just kept battling.”

For the record, Collins also was displeased when his team, owing to COVID-driven postponements, went from Halloween to Nov. 28 without playing. “It’s uncommon to do what they’ve done,” he said Thursday night. “I’m just ridiculously proud of them.”

Also: “There were some things (against Pitt) that were completely outside our control.”

Collins spent much of the second half raging at the fates. A 2-point conversion that would have cut Pitt’s lead to eight was erased by a dubious offensive pass-interference flag. The Panthers’ ensuing drive to a field goal was expedited by three Tech penalties – two for unsportsmanlike conduct, one for pass interference. If the Jackets seemed to have lost focus, that was unsurprising. Collins conceded he’d misplaced his, too.

“I’m not proud of myself,” he said. “I did not control my composure at times.”

Said linebacker Quez Jackson: “He told us to control what we control. The refs can’t get every call right.”

Caption
Georgia Tech's head coach Geoff Collins appeals to referees during the second half. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia Tech's head coach Geoff Collins appeals to referees during the second half. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
Georgia Tech's head coach Geoff Collins appeals to referees during the second half. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Collins declined to comment on the officiating, though his no-comment went on for so long it became a comment in/of itself. He also claimed a fuzzy recall of the postgame handshake. “I was focused on getting to our band (seated behind the end zone) to celebrate,” he said. “Some things got chippy during the game. I wanted to get my guys.”

Then: “I didn’t mean anything by (the brushoff of Narduzzi). It was in the heat of the moment.”

Said senior linebacker David Curry: “I’ve seen (Collins) pretty upset. That tonight might top the charts.”

Also from Curry, regarding the refs: “It kind of seems like Georgia Tech gets the bad end of the bargain on those occasions.”

About the game itself: Pitt, which entered at 5-5, outplayed the home team by some distance but kept kicking field goals. The Jackets led 7-3 before being outscored 20-0. They cut the lead to 26-20 with 6:01 remaining. The Panthers then moved 75 yards, all on rushes, to Davis’ touchdown with two minutes remaining.

By that point, Curry had returned to the game with a cast on his hand, having been injured when he banged his thumb against a teammate’s helmet. Collins said afterward that he could talk all night about the virtues exemplified by Curry, and it would have made a stirring triumph-over-adversity story – at least in the #404 area code – had the Jackets rallied to win. But they didn’t. They fell to 3-7 in Year 2 of the Collins rebuild, Year 1 having ended with them going 3-9.

Said Collins: “I will fight for those dudes – every game, every day, every offseason event.”

Caption
Georgia Tech's head coach Geoff Collins expresses his frustration to referees by throwing his headset. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia Tech's head coach Geoff Collins expresses his frustration to referees by throwing his headset. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
Georgia Tech's head coach Geoff Collins expresses his frustration to referees by throwing his headset. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

These Jackets were picked to finish last in the ACC. They won’t. With the eight-days-in-advance cancellation of their Miami game, they’ll finish 11th. They’ve been a bit better than expected, and they have enough gifted underclassmen to make us believe that brighter tomorrows are possible. This Thursday in the A-T-L brought the cold snap of reality. Of their seven losses, all were by double figures. They’re getting better, but they’re not there yet.

Collins again: “They kept fighting and battling. Those are things that you can build a program around.”

Assuming the ACC returns to divisional play in 2021, Tech will face Pitt next year. Fifteen minutes after this game ended, Collins said he didn’t recall the details of his brief encounter with Narduzzi. The guess is that Narduzzi does, and will.

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