For the second time in three weeks, the Pitt Panthers have dropped a game to a rival on the road and absorbed a low blow on their way out of town.
The tremors following Penn State head coach James Franklin’s “Akron” dig had only recently died down among the local sports media in Pittsburgh when Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson took a more pointed shot at Pitt after Saturday’s matchup.
“I think we had four times where we turned the ball over, and I think all four times they went three and out,” Johnson said in his postgame press conference. “We’ve got to clean that up, because against a good team, we won’t be able to survive.”
Johnson’s comments came after Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi accused Georgia Tech players of using illegal chop blocks ahead of the Week 4 matchup.
“They do a lot of high-lowing,” Narduzzi said on his radio show. “It’s dangerous football, I can tell you that. You watch inside, if you watch our nose tackle, there’s times when a center is kind of hitting him up high and there’s a guy coming in from the other side, which is really illegal, but they never call it. I don’t quite understand how that happens.”
When asked about Narduzzi’s comments after the game, Johnson brushed them off as a ploy to get the referees on his side.
“That's just trying to get the officials to call something that ain't there,” he said.
Johnson’s insult hasn’t sparked quite the firestorm that Franklin’s did, as the Pitt-Penn State game was a national spectacle that drew a television audience of over 3.7 million, according to Sports Media Watch, while this matchup was just business as usual. Still, it was a cheap shot that revealed Johnson’s short memory.
After all, Pitt has gotten the best of Georgia Tech in two of the three matchups between the teams under Narduzzi. It’s also worth noting that one of those wins came against a Yellow Jackets team that Johnson coached to a 3-9 record in 2015, and for all its current faults, Pitt hasn’t posted a record that bad since before the turn of the century.
Now that the two teams share the ACC Coastal, Pitt vs. Georgia Tech is an annual matchup. So this won’t be the last time Narduzzi and Johnson cross paths, and Johnson’s comments won’t be forgotten. They’ll just go up on an increasingly cluttered bulletin board for next year.
For now, the two teams will go their separate ways, as Pitt is scheduled to take on Rice at home in Week 5, and Georgia Tech will face a tougher task in North Carolina, a division rival Johnson hasn’t been able to figure out since 2013.