MMQB: Pitt Loss to Georgia Tech

To be honest, it’s more fun being the underdog.” (quote from Stephen Karam).

You can bet the house that is how the Georgia Tech football team felt at the end of the game on Saturday night after the oddsmakers had Pitt winning with a 21.5 point margin of victory. The final score, at 26-21 in GT’s favor, was not all that surprising if you had truly looked closely at how Pitt had played it’s previous four games and then entering the GT game at 3-1.

We had homefield advantage, even on a crappy weather night and we came out of the gate looking like Carnegie Mellon could beat us. GT was more fired up and had much more concentration on each play than we were.

A case in point was the difference in both penalties and turnovers. Pitt had 12, count them 12, penalties for 75 yards along with three turnovers which hammered the nails into the coffin lid. GT answered that with only four flags for 43 yards and zero turnovers.

Again, hyped up players, composure on the field and on the sidelines and better coaching from the booth combined to beat us. Forget about what some were saying about disarray due the the HC being fired the week before – it energized the GT guys.

Even in the games with our two lesser FCS opponents there were worrisome signs – against Western Michigan we went into the fourth quarter leading by only seven points at 20-13. Against an even easier team, Rhode Island, we were ahead by 10 points at 24-14 having given up a 63 yard run for the first TD and a completed 45 yard pass to set up their second TD.

Yes, we won both games by a pretty big margin of success in terms of points and that 3-1 record kept us in the Top 25 (falling from pre-season ranking of #13).

But some Pitt fans looked at those big plays, and the fact that we were out passed by RI’s QB, and started to wonder just what sort of team this 2022 squad is. At this point it may be some time before we get back up to that Top 25.

Especially since the GT loss put us below even the “Others receiving votes” listing. Don’t read this next sentence if you are faint of heart… Penn State is ranked #10 with a 5-0 record.

Back to the game: In GT’s opening possession we had them bottled up then on a 2nd & 11 snap they completed a 33 pass to not only get the 1st down but to jump to our 22 yard line then grab a 3-0 lead on a FG. With there was a real sense that this match wasn’t going to be the runaway win Pitt and fans had hoped for. GT held that lead and added another FG then kept that lead until there was only 1:05 left in the half where we scored a TD to go up by one.

In other words GT was tied or held the lead for 28:55 of the first half. The second half mucked onward with GT regaining the lead and holding it the last 23:24 of the game – doing the math we were tied or on the lesser end of the score for 52+ minutes of the game.

Why did that happen? For a beginning reason we sucked at the run game and then, even worse, sucked at stopping their run game. In numbers they had 232 yards (5.3 avg) and one TD while we went into the locker room with 106 rushing yards (3.4 avg) and zero TDs. BTW – as far as big ground plays go they had runs of 63 and 42 while our longest were 12 and 11 yards.

Where was this great defense Pitt fans talk about? Going into this game GT was 106th in the nation in rushing with 123 YPG and they grabbed 232 yards from us.

Sorry die hard Pitt fans but that level of play makes projecting out the rest of the season pretty hard to figure out. Had we won this game, even by one point, we’d all feel better about the rest of our ACC games. Now we look at our first five games and see that of those three FBS teams we have played we lost two of them with one being this huge upset.

We’ll watch closely for a turnaround against Virginia Tech next week as they now sit at 2-3 losing big in their FBS matches and losing the opener against FCS Old Dominion. VT has a horrid offense so far but a bright spot for them is their rushing defense which has held opponents to 100.8 YPG (24th in nation).

If our OL plays as it did this last game, bad pass protection (GT had 12 QB hurries with Slovis) and sluggish pulling on run plays, we could be in for another surprise at Acrisure Stadium.