Georgia Tech runs all over mistake-prone Pitt
College football historians will marvel at Pitt's ball-handling debacle during Saturday's 56-28 loss to Georgia Tech.
And well they should.
But that's not to forgive the defense. Georgia Tech's point total was the most allowed by Pitt at Heinz Field and the most against the Panthers since a 60-6 loss at Notre Dame in 1996. That game marked the next-to-last game of the second Johnny Majors era, perhaps the low point in recent Pitt history.
Perhaps Pitt hasn't fallen that far in the third year of coach Paul Chryst's tenure, but it wasn't a pretty sight. With Majors in attendance celebrating the return of the Pitt script logo that did little but raise false hope, fans departed early and disillusioned, leaving the stadium almost empty for most of the fourth quarter.
Pitt (4-4, 2-2 ACC) tied a 32-year-old FBS record by losing five fumbles in the first quarter, four on each of its first four possessions over just six snaps. By the end, Pitt fumbled seven times, losing six.
The Ramblin' Wreck (6-2, 3-2) scored with quick, effective jabs. Six of their drives lasted three or fewer plays.
Chryst admitted such a turn of events can sap energy from a team, but he wasn't of a mind to excuse it. After eight games, he still is waiting for his team to grow up.
“Those are the things you have to learn how to respond to,” he said. “Yeah, it takes a little bit out of you, but that's where you have to grow.”
Georgia Tech built a 28-0 lead only 5 minutes, 16 seconds into the game. Other than two Pitt touchdowns by running back James Conner that trimmed the lead to 28-14 at halftime, Pitt barely threatened.
But that only tells part of the story of a loss that prevented Pitt from moving into first place in the ACC Coastal Division.
Pitt, which entered the game with a No. 4 national ranking in overall defense, allowed Georgia Tech to rush for 465 yards, 27 first downs and seven touchdowns. Overall, Georgia Tech totaled 612 yards.
Chryst said he thought Georgia Tech's running game wore down his team. Senior safety Ray Vinopal indicated he didn't recognize the defense that he was a part of only a few days ago.
“Guys were not in the spots they were in all week in practice,” he said. “That's how you get beat, and we got beat bad.”
The game spiraled out of Pitt's control when quarterback Chad Voytik, Conner, running back Isaac Bennett and wide receiver Tyler Boyd lost fumbles on the Panthers' first six snaps.
The most stunning occurred when Conner had the ball stripped by cornerback D.J. White just before he crossed the goal line after a 74-yard run. A touchdown would have tied the score at 7-7 early in the first quarter. The football went out of bounds, and Georgia Tech was awarded possession on the touchback.
“I didn't see him,” Conner said. “I though I had it. Next time, I will take it to the back of the end zone. Lesson learned.”
Georgia Tech running back Broderick Snoddy, playing for injured starter Zach Laskey, scored on 4-, 34- and 28-yard runs — his first touchdowns of the season. He bounced off poor tackling attempts several times.
Quarterback Justin Thomas also had a 14-yard scoring run and a 79-yard touchdown pass to Charles Perkins, who was wide open not far from the line of scrimmage and outraced the Pitt defense into the end zone. Synjyn Days led Georgia Tech with 110 yards rushing. Thomas added 92 and Snoddy 82.