PITTSBURGH, PA– In the 1999 movie Any Given Sunday, Actor Al Pacino’s character (Head Coach) Tony D’Amato told his football team, “On any given Sunday, your either gonna win or lose. The point is: can you win or lose like a man?”
And for the #24th ranked Pitt Panthers, it was Any Given Saturday that they could either beat the underdog 1-3 Georgia Tech Yellowjackets or suffer a huge upset as they welcomed them to Acrisure Stadium on a rainy Prime-Time matchup. Unfortunately, it was the latter as the Yellowjackets delivered a 26-21 knockout to the defending ACC Champions. There is no doubt that the Panthers handled the loss as men, but the principle is that they lost to a team that they were expected to beat.
“Tough loss. One thing about our kids is they never quit. One of the big keys to victory was being plus in the turnover margin and we weren’t,” said Pitt Head Coach Pat Narduzzi. “We were minus 3. Disappointing we had three turnovers in a row in the second half. Pretty much gave ’em the game with that. Got to give Georgia Tech credit. They came out and played hard. I knew we’d have a brand-new team out there. Those guys played with energy. Give them credit.”
RB Hassan Hall led all running backs with 157 yards on 21 carries, and fellow QB Jeff Sims added 81 yards and a TD as the Yellowjackets capitalized off 3 Pitt turnovers to pull off the upset. Sims also passed for 102 yards (15/26) and a TD as they improved to 2-3 (1-1 ACC) and dropping the Panthers to 3-2 (0-1 ACC)
“There’s no finger-pointing. We didn’t win. We lost together,” Narduzzi said. “We win together, and we lose together. We didn’t make enough plays. Defensively, I thought we played a solid game. We held them to four field goals to begin with. Then they scored two late TDs. Put it in position. I don’t know what the time of possession was, but it probably wasn’t very good. It looks like they add up to 31 minutes. But, hey, got to regroup and start over again. It just wasn’t good enough.”
After a slow start in which they trailed 6-0, the Panthers closed out the first half when QB Kedon Slovis (26/45, 305 Yards, 3 TDs, Int) found TD Gavin Bartholomew for a 29-yard TD pass and a 14-13 lead, the Yellowjackets stormed back as K Gavin Stewart kicked 2 FGs to take a 19-14 lead. The Panthers certainly had their chances, but unfortunately, it did not work out for them as they were plagued by three turnovers: two by RB Vincent Davis (15 carries, 80 yards) and a Slovis Interception. What also hurt the Panthers was an apparent injury by starting RB Israel Abanikanda (10 Carries, 31 yards).
When asked about the slow offensive start, Narduzzi replied, “I’ll have to go back and watch the tape to see exactly. We just didn’t play good enough, period. We didn’t get in a rhythm in the first half. It was three and out, three and out, and just couldn’t get in a rhythm. It’s hard to call a game when you’re going three and out. You can’t set a play off a play. Just not a very good performance.”
The bright spots for the Pitt offense were the production of the wide receivers: Jared Wayne finished with 6 receptions for 89 yards, Konata Mumfield finished with 7 receptions for 75 yards, and TE Bartholomew with 3 catches, 55 yards and a TD.
Slovis was able to keep the Panthers close with two late TDs to WR Jaden Bradley (2 Rec, 44 yards), but it was not enough to stop a Yellowjackets running attack that continued to wear out a Pitt defense that gave up a season-high 232 yards.
“Decision making at the end was really good. Early, he needs some help. We’ll look at the tape,” said Narduzzi. “But it’s how we finished. Probably the way he finished; he threw some nice balls. Did we protect him a little bit better maybe in the last couple drives than we did earlier in the game? I don’t know.”
With this loss, the Panthers should expect to fall out of the Associated Press and the Coaches’ Top 25 Poll, but this season is far from over. The Panthers must learn from this, regroup, and prepare for their 2nd Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) game vs. Virginia Tech for their Homecoming Game at Acrisure Stadium.
“But all our goals are still ahead of us. I think it will make them a little hungrier. We have to take it. We have to take what we got, what we paid for, and it just wasn’t good enough,” Narduzzi commented. “And we didn’t start fast like we needed to, and we left them in the game too long and, again, the offense really didn’t get started until the last two series of the game. If we would have done that the whole game, we would have had a chance. But again, it starts with me. There’s no finger-pointing in our locker room. It starts with me. Number one, obviously, I didn’t do a good enough job getting them ready. We’ll go back to work tomorrow at 2 o’clock with our kids and go back to get on to Virginia Tech.”
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