KirVonte Benson, TaQuon Marshall and the rest of The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets racked up 436 yards on the ground as they steamrolled the Pittsburgh Panthers 35-17 on Saturday in each team’s conference opener. The Ramblin’ Wreck held the ball for 35 minutes, while the Panthers were 1 for 13 on third down conversions as Coach Pat Narduzzi switched quarterbacks again by going back to Max Browne in the fourth quarter after starting Ben DiNucci.
How here are some takeaways and observations form Saturday’s game.
Well, the quarterback controversy still has not been solved as Narduzzi benched his starting quarterback for the second consecutive week. The decision to start DiNucci looked good on the opening drive as the Panthers went on a five play, 78 yard drive that ended in a Qadree Ollison’s 28 yard touchdown reception to take the early 7-0 lead. However, the Panthers’ offense could not take advantage of four fumbles by Tech that left the Panthers in excellent field position.
Fumble #1: Drive started at GT 34: four plays, one yard. Result: missed field goal.
Fumble #2: Drive Started at Pitt 46: three plays, four yards. Result: punt.
Fumble #3: Drive Started at Pitt 47: three plays, -15 yards. Result: punt.
Fumble #4: Drive started at the Pitt 6: three plays, four yards. Result: punt.
These opportunities were wasted because they had no presence of a running game, with Pitt running for 37 yards on 20 carries for a 1.9 yards per rush. That’s including a 30 yard run on a sweep by Jordan Whitehead on the first drive of the game. Browne went 10 for 15 for 88 yards, which were mostly short throws, as the Yellow Jackets were playing prevent defense in the fourth quarter. Narduzzi pretty much echoed the same approach as last week after the game with regards the quarterback controversy. Narduzzi said that he will take on the “status quo” approach on his quarterbacks “and find out who has the best week of practice and who gives us the best chance to win a football game.”
The defense struggled with the Triple Option Offense all day long and the only way that they were able to stop Tech is when they fumbled the ball. Benson ran for 196 yards and two touchdowns and Marshall ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns. The main play that gave the young Panthers defense fits was when Georgia Tech used the fullback dive with Benson. This allowed the home team to control the clock.
Narduzzi knew that they needed more offensive production to help out his young defense. The defense, though, needed to be fundamentally sound and disciplined to have a chance because of Georgia Tech’s style of play.
”It’s a little bit of everything, guys missing tackles,” said Coach Narduzzi. ”They can run the ball, especially if you give them 10 more minutes.”
The best phase of the Panthers on Saturday by far was their special teams. Quadree Henderson ran back a 88 yard punt return and Alex Kessman made a 55 yard field goal to end the half. The big special teams play, as well as the fumbles by Georgia Tech were reasons why this game was as competitive for as long as it was.
Pitt will return to Heinz Field on Saturday to take on the Rice Owls in their final non-conference game of the season.