Pitt made it interesting at the end but the Panthers ultimately held on for a 24-19 win against Georgia Tech.
As I mentioned earlier this week (and in the picks where I chose Pitt), I thought the Panthers had a good chance to win today. Pitt’s front seven is arguably the strength of the team and with all of the experience those guys have, that’s not a terrible matchup for Pitt despite the quirky offense. Georgia Tech did manage to rattle off some big runs but that’s going to happen against anyone just because of the nature of the offense they run.
For the most part, Pitt (2-1) played against the option pretty well. Georgia Tech (1-2) averaged 429 yards per game coming into the game today and the Panthers held them to more than 100 yards below that (320). Not incredible but far from a disaster considering they’re running most plays.
The story here is that the Panthers couldn’t put Georgia Tech away after racing out to a 21-0 halftime lead. Pitt seemed in control but, as happened against Albany and Penn State, the Panthers’ offense couldn’t do much in the second half. Pitt was shut out by both Albany and Penn State in the second half of those contests and had only three points today.
Eventually they’ll need to get the second half offense going. In these three games, Pitt has a grand total of three second half points and that’s not going to cut it. They might be able to get away with it sometimes but they’re not often going to have three touchdown leads going into halftime, either. The counter argument will be that the Panthers were in ball control mode for at least the last quarter. That’s true but Pitt still should have put more points up than the three they did in the final 30 minutes.
To little surprise, Pitt looked better on both offense and defense this week than they did last weekend against Penn State. Most reasonable people didn’t expect that either of those units were as bad as they showed last week in that final score and Pitt did some nice things today against the Yellow Jackets.
Offensively, Pitt continued to run the ball well. Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall have had somewhat of a back and forth during their career. Each has looked better at times and so far this year, Ollison very much seems like the feature back. He had 91 yards on 17 carries to go along with two touchdowns. Maybe that changes at some point, but he’s the guy right now and has been doing a great job.
Pitt did some things in the passing game, too. Overall, Pickett was 16-23 for 197 yards, so he didn’t have a huge day. He did okay today but Pickett also proved he has room to grow. I’ve tried to temper expectations a little with him because this is still a true sophomore that’s played a total of not even half a season. But a careless interception into double coverage on a trick play and some inaccuracy issues were there, too. I like Pickett’s game for the most part and think he can be very good. But the idea that he’s already there is probably a bit false. He’s got a tendency to try to do too much and will have to get a little smarter.
Speaking of Pickett, it’s going to be worth seeing how he looks next week. He suffered an injury to a knee just before halftime and, while he did return, he clearly looked a bit limited in terms of mobility with a brace on. While Pickett has things to work on, I don’t think the team wants to see if they can win games without him.
I also want to suggest that I’m still not convinced the secondary is okay. Looking at the box score, you might wonder how that could be. The Yellow Jackets had only 66 yards passing and, as expected, did not throw much. But Georgia Tech’s receivers still managed to get open several times and had some really bad drops on plays that would have been big gains. Georgia Tech did not have a field day by any means but I’ve still got big questions about Pitt’s ability to stop the pass against teams that will have more competent passing games.
Really good win for Pitt, though. The team showed up after a brutal game last weekend and is off to a good start in conference. Also worth noting that it’s nice to have this game out of the way. Georgia Tech is always a tough team to beat just because of the option and it’s nice to have this one over with.
Next up for Pitt is a road game next weekend at North Carolina.