Pitt edges Georgia Tech: 5 things to know

It took an late-game, under-thrown and tipped 30-yard floating touchdown reception, a fourth-down defensive denial and a game-clinching field goal that ricocheted off the upright as time expired, but Pitt alas overcame the stubborn Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 37-34 Saturday at Heinz Field.

Heinz Field—

Jet sweeps are here to stay

After an inside rushing approach against Marshall, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi and offensive coordinator Matt Canada utilized outside rushes and sweeps frequently Saturday against conference foe Georgia Tech. At halftime, Pitt rushed the ball 7 times for 71 yards via the outside rush, including an end around touchdown by Quadree Henderson and an unorthodox lateral to tackle Brian O'Neill for a 24-yard touchdown in the first half.

“I didn’t expect it to be that wide-open,” said O’Neill. “I saw it and I thought, ‘Don’t fumble. Don’t fumble please.’”

Pitt ended the contest with 16 rushes and 117 yards when using sweeps. Six players carried the football at least once, four had at least 20 yards rushing and Qadree Ollison found the end zone for his first time this season.

“That’s part of our offense, if you’re not getting the ball then you’re doing a great fake,” said Ollison. “You have to be unselfish to play in this offense.”

The secondary continues to struggle

Naturally, the Yellow Jackets are going to run the football almost exclusively, unless an opportunity for one-on-one coverage presents itself. That’s exactly what Tech quarterback Justin Thomas exploited in Pitt’s secondary. Thomas completed 7 of 10 passes for 130 yards and threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Jeune over the top of Ryan Lewis. He had more passing yards than his season average of 108.8 yards per game, which is 126th in the nation.

Georgia Tech’s two wide receivers were also able to perform better than their season average, with Jeune catching 3 passes for 55 yards (24.2 yards per game) and Brad Stewart catching 3 passes for 46 yards (15.6 yards per game).

But the biggest blow that was dealt to Pitt’s secondary was the loss of Avonte Maddox, who left the game midway through the second quarter with an unknown injury. Maddox did not return during the second half and was replaced by redshirt freshman and Quaker Valley product Dane Jackson. Narduzzi refused to comment on the status of Maddox's injury after the game.

The passing game can be trusted in crucial situations

Despite an untimely fumble early in the fourth quarter, Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman played a near-flawless afternoon of football; throwing 14 for 20 with 192 passing yards and a miraculous 74-yard passing touchdown to Scott Orndoff off of a deflection.

After the game, coach Narduzzi lauded Peterman’s abilities as a game manager. “Nathan has the opportunity to call a player’s number based on how they look,” Peterman said. “I think he’s doing a good job of checking it at the line of scrimmage and getting it into the hands of our running backs.”

That wasn’t the only area he excelled.

Four of Pitt’s six third down conversions occurred because of Peterman and the wide receivers, including a 17-yard catch in the second quarter by Jester Weah and Orndoff’s touchdown to tie the game at 34 with 3:50 left in the game.

Price isn’t the only defensive playmaker

Although defensive end Ejuan Price had a very good ballgame (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss and 1 quarterback hurry), several other defensive players stood out in the postgame stat sheet.

Senior defensive tackle Shakir Soto had 8 tackles, including 2 for a loss; and linebacker Bam Bradley had 5 tackles with 1 for a loss.

But the most important defensive play was made by Tyrique Jarrett and Matt Galambos as they stopped Dedrick Mills on fourth-and-one to force a turnover on downs with just 1:47 left to go in the game. This play set up the game winner by Chris Blewitt.

“It was all him on that play,” said Galambos about Jarrett. “He held him up and I just came to finish him… Our D-line had a hell of a game.”

Blewitt has a place in Pitt history

With his three field goals today, Blewitt became the new record holder for the most Pitt field goals made in a career (52). He surpassed Connor Lee, who made 50 field goals in three seasons as a Panther from 2006 to 2008.

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