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Pitt finishes regular season with 34-20 win over Georgia Tech

North Carolina State v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Pitt concluded its regular season with a road game against Georgia Tech Thursday night. The Panthers played a mostly solid game in a 34-20 victory.

The star of the night, of course, was running back Vincent Davis. Davis had the best game of his career, carrying the ball 25 times for an incredible 247 yards and a touchdown. All told, the Panthers amassed 317 yards on the ground and for a team that has struggled to run the ball so much, you wondered where this has been all year.

The offensive line played very well, no doubt about it. There were huge holes all night. But here’s the thing — even when there weren’t Davis still managed to pick up some big gains. Towards the end of the game with Pitt trying run the clock out, Davis was running straight into the line and then still carrying defenders with him. Also, A.J. Davis’ poor performance (25 yards on ten carries) is a good indicator that it wasn’t all about the offensive line.

Vincent’s disappearance this year was surprising. He seemed to emerge as the best back by the end of last year but largely struggled this year. That he couldn’t even grab hold of the job with the Panthers’ other backs struggling, too, wasn’t ideal.

One game doesn’t make a season and when the story of Davis is told this year it will be a disappointing one. But the kid had a heck of a night and just refused to be denied. And he’s quietly put together some of his best football these last few weeks. He’s scored a touchdown in each of the last four games, had the big game tonight, and against Virginia Tech, had nearly 100 total yards while rushing or 5.9 yards per carry and catching five passes.

The passing game was a bit lackluster. Quarterback Kenny Pickett wasn’t bad but he definitely wasn’t perfect. Throw out the interception (a deflection off of a drop by Jordan Addison), which wasn’t his fault. He still failed to throw for 200 yards (196) and only completed 17 of 34 balls, routinely missing receivers. One really uncharacteristic pass sailed several feet over a receiver’s head on a simple screen. I don’t know. He just didn’t play as well as we’ve seen him.

Defensively, it was a pretty good game for Pitt. The Panthers are down several players at this point in the season with several star players having opted out. But the unit still had a good night, forcing two interceptions from Jeff Sims and, most importantly, keeping him in check in the running game. All told, Georgia Tech finished with only 98 rushing yards.

And as usual, special teams played a part. Kicker Alex Kessman made all four of his field goals and that was a factor with the Panthers not reaching the end zone as much as they should have.

One of the somewhat interesting storylines in the aftermath was about Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins who mostly dismissed Pat Narduzzi’s handshake afterward. Collins was asked about it post-game and made some illogical statements about wanting to get his players to the band to celebrate (?).

I think anyone that saw the handshake knows that was pretty much bunk. Collins was clearly frustrated and, for what it’s worth, said he didn’t mean anything by it. But that was certainly not about trying to get players to the band. He barely acknowledged Narduzzi, even after the Pitt coach grabbed his hand in an effort to pull him back.

What was the reason? Eh, likely just a long, frustrating night in a game he thought his team could win. Collins was also angry at the refs all night and it sort of culminated at the end when a last-second throw to the end zone late in the game was errant. Collins wanted pass interference called while the referee (probably incorrectly) deemed it as uncatchable. Collins threw his headset in disgust and wasn’t happy. That was only one of many incidents of him complaining (sometimes justifiably, others not) to the officials.

Eh, I don’t blame him much. Senior night. It was a chippy game with both teams getting into spats repeatedly. Trash talk. Physical. Whatever. It was 100% a poor way to react and he should have said that but, still hard to make too much of a deal out of that.

So the regular season’s over. On some level, I’m kind of glad. It was a frustrating year as a Pitt fan, to be honest. The rush is going to be to declare this season a bust. At 6-5, it was at the very least, a bit disappointing. At the same time, Pitt was down several key players, particularly these last few weeks with other guys opting out. And they finished on a strong note, winning three of their last four games with the lone loss to Clemson.

The games we’ll remember were those agonizing one-point losses to NC State and Boston College, of course. Get those and you’re suddenly 8-3 with a better bowl, and probably ranked, as NC State is right now. But at 6-5, the result isn’t as appealing. 6-5 was really sort of a bare minimum that you’d expect this year and, well, I’m not sure how many people are thrilled to finish just over .500. It’s a shame but that’s the way it goes.

But I give this team credit, fighting through a bit of adversity to finish strong when the wheels very easy could have come off the track.

Next up, we’ll sit and see what the Panthers’ postseason fate will be. That’s (almost) all, folks

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