It was another close game for the Pitt Panthers, another fourth-quarter lead blown, another opportunity potentially squandered.
But thanks to a last-second 31-yard field goal from kicker Chris Blewitt, the Panthers held on to beat the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, 37-34, and gave Pitt faithful something to celebrate on homecoming weekend.
Pitt started strong on its first drive, torching Georgia Tech. Wide receiver Quadree Henderson tagged the defense for 20 yards on two carries, and the yardage was all very positive (seven-yard gain, eight-yard gain, four-yard gain, 16-yard gain).
Then the Panthers hit the Yellow Jackets with the okie doke, faking a rollout right before screening back to the left side. Starting right tackle Brian O’Neill — a converted tight end — who was lined up on the left end of the line and was registered an eligible receiver, faked a block and slipped loose to the left before hauling in the throwback pass. He then followed a convoy of Panthers 24 yards to the house. Linemen need love, too!
Georgia Tech responded with a field goal drive before the Panthers’ offense struck again early in the second quarter.
Pitt rode upstart freshman running back Chawntez Moss for 26 yards, and quarterback Nate Peterman was able to convert several third downs in the air. Pitt punched it into the end zone on a four-yard run from Qadree Ollison, last year’s ACC Freshman of the Year, in a kind of “look who we have here in our pile of offensive toys.”
But on the following kickoff, Georgia Tech return man J.J. Green swerved his way 96 yards to the house to make it 14-10, Pitt.
The Panthers responded strongly once again. Running backs James Conner and Moss pounded it out on the ground, and wideout Jester Weah had a pair of catches on the way to Ollison’s 10-yard touchdown scamper.
And the first-half fireworks weren’t over.
Georgia Tech eeked out a fourth down conversion in Pitt territory before going up top from Justin Thomas to Ricky Jeune for a 31-yard touchdown.
The Yellow Jackets were able to add on, conducting a successful hurry-up drill. They marched 43 yards through the air in five plays to convert a 41-yard Harrison Butker field goal, which cut the Pitt lead to 21-20 at the half.
On the first drive of the second half, Georgia Tech looked poised to take the lead. But this time, when the Yellow Jackets gambled on a fourth down conversion (4th and 4 from the 36), they failed to convert.
Blewitt knocked a couple of field goals through the uprights to stretch Pitt’s lead back out to 27-20, but the Yellow Jackets refused to go away. Georgia Tech running back Clinton Lynch quickly tied the game up at 27 apiece when he took a 45-yard toss sweep on third down to the house.
Disaster struck for Pitt on the next series when a botched handoff between Peterman and receiver Henderson resulted in the first turnover of the game. As a result, Georgia Tech took over in Pitt territory and cashed in with another score, giving the Yellow Jackets the lead for the first time, 34-27.
But, as was to be expected in this kind of topsy-turvy affair, Pitt snapped back. Tight end Scott Orndoff busted loose down the seam, getting behind the defense and hauling in a tipped pass to cruise 74 yards for the tying score with just 3 minutes and 50 seconds remaining in regulation.
Pitt needed its defense to finally make a stand.
And it did.
Facing 4th and 1 at their own 34 yard line, Georgia Tech’s offense was stuffed.
Taking over on downs, Pitt used Conner twice and ran a couple of quick jet sweeps to Ollison to get further downfield for the winning field goal attempt.
So, with five seconds left, it was all up to Blewitt.
Of course, even that wasn’t without excitement as the kick hit the right upright, but the football went through to give the Panthers the hard-fought win.
Image credit: Pittsburgh Panthers