Pitt notebook: Injuries force Chryst to juggle offensive line
ATLANTA — Two Pitt offensive linemen have complained of a sore back in the past two weeks, forcing coach Paul Chryst to restructure his starting lineup before the Panthers' game against Georgia Tech on Saturday night.
The result was that freshman Dorian Johnson made his first start, replacing redshirt freshman Adam Bisnowaty. At left guard, Ryan Schlieper started for the second week in a row in place of Cory King.
Bisnowaty was inserted in the second quarter when Chris Blewitt kicked a 44-yard field goal.
Pitt's line struggled in the first quarter. Johnson allowed Georgia Tech defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu a clear path to quarterback Tom Savage for a sack on the first series. On the second series, no one accounted for middle linebacker Jaban Hunt-Days, who tackled running back James Conner in the backfield on a third-and-1.
Pitt failed to record a first down on each of its first three possessions and trailed Georgia Tech, 7-0 (points) and 131-1 (yards) at the end of the first quarter.
But it wasn't all bad news for the line. Center Artie Rowell made his first career catch when Savage was hit just as he released the football. Georgia Tech's stat crew credited Rowell, a redshirt sophomore, with a reception after the Yellow Jackets declined the ineligible-receiver penalty.
New look on defense
Middle linebacker Shane Gordon (collarbone) also missed his second consecutive game and was replaced by Nicholas Grigsby in the starting lineup and, later, freshman Matt Galambos, who recovered a Georgia Tech fumble in the first quarter.
Darryl Render started at defensive tackle in place of defensive co-captain and senior Tyrone Ezell.
Notre Dame next
Kickoff time for the Notre Dame game next Saturday at Heinz Field will be announced no later than noon Sunday. Notre Dame (7-2) and six others from Pitt's first eight opponents entered Saturday's games with winning records.
Pitt quarterback recruit Wade Freebeck threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score Friday to lead district champion St. Thomas Aquinas (8-1) of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to a 16-6 victory against Plantation.
Freebeck converted a third and 11 with a 23-yard completion to set up his touchdown run on an option-fake play. The scoring pass was a fourth-and-6 screen from the Plantation 30-yard line in which Freebeck let the rush come to him before releasing the football.
For the season, St. Thomas Aquinas, which has played games in NFL stadiums in New Orleans and Miami, has outscored its opponents 367-57.
Before the game, St. Thomas Aquinas was ranked No. 20 in the nation by MaxPreps. Plantation is one of the top teams in the state, with two prospects headed to Florida and Arkansas.
— Jerry DiPaola