After a 51-6 bludgeoning at the hands of Penn State over the weekend, Pitt will have to dust itself off and prepare for the start of its ACC schedule against Georgia Tech on Saturday. While that’s a difficult transition, especially against a team that proved too tough an out for the Panthers in 2017, the Yellow Jackets will be missing a key player when they visit Heinz Field.
Georgia Tech running back KirVonte Benson was ruled out for the season on Tuesday after suffering a knee injury in his team’s 49-38 loss to South Florida, according to Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson. Benson ingrained himself in the memories of Pitt fans last year with a 205-yard, two-touchdown performance in the Yellow Jackets’ 35-17 win over the Panthers.
Benson was a key component of Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack, which seemed to stump Pitt’s defense last September. The other key element of the attack was quarterback TaQuon Marshall, who ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns and only threw for 48 yards in last year’s matchup. However, he suffered a toe injury on the same day Benson was injured.
Unlike Benson, Marshall may play, as he’s publicly said he’s on the mend. But he added that he will likely modify his game against the Panthers, according to Ken Sugiura of AJC.com. It’s unclear exactly what he has in mind, but for Pitt, that could be advantageous, as he has only completed 40.5 percent of his career passes and has thrown more picks than scores this year.
It’s also possible that Georgia Tech backup quarterback Tobias Oliver could see playing time against Pitt, as he stood in for Marshall while he was injured. During that time, he ran the ball 18 times for 97 yards and three touchdowns without ever throwing a pass. However, Johnson said on Tuesday that there was not a plan in place to go with Oliver under center.
“If we need Tobias, I’m confident that he can go in and play and run the game plan and do what we do,” he said. “But I’m not going to go into a game plan just to play a guy.”
Regardless of who takes the field for Georgia Tech on Saturday, Benson’s absence and Marshall’s potential limitations figure to impact the team’s ability to run the triple-option that so befuddled Pitt last season, and those factors may well alter Johnson’s entire approach to the game.
Pitt and Georgia Tech are scheduled to kick off from Heinz Field this Saturday at 12:30 p.m.