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November 2, 2013

Pitt falls in Atlanta

ATLANTA - Pitt and Georgia Tech both needed Saturday night's game at Bobby Dodd Stadium. But after both teams had plodded through 60 minutes of football, the Yellow Jackets came out on top with a 21-10 victory.

Pitt's offensive struggles of the last four games didn't improve against Georgia Tech (6-3 overall, 5-2 ACC) Saturday night. The Panthers (4-4 overall, 2-3 ACC) took the ball to open the game after the home team won the coin toss and deferred, but Pitt was unable to seize any momentum, as quarterback Tom Savage scrambled on first down and was sacked on third down.

That series set the tone for Pitt's first half, 30 minutes of football that saw the Panthers gain a total of 55 yard of offense as Savage took four sacks and running backs James Conner and Isaac Bennett combined for minus-one yard on five carries.

Savage looked uncomfortable in the face of Georgia Tech's pass rush throughout the first two quarters, and the Panthers' only first-half points came on a 36-yard drive aided by a 15-yard roughing penalty. That drive culminated with a 44-yard field goal by Chris Blewitt.

Meanwhile, Georgia Tech had to be kicking itself at halftime. The Yellow Jackets had a 227-55 advantage in total yardage but just a 14-3 lead. The home team's offense fumbled away one first-quarter possession and failed on a pair of fourth-down conversions in the half, although Tech did successfully execute a fake punt on its second touchdown drive.

But the defense kept the game close as it waited for the offense to catch up, and that extended to the third quarter, as Pitt opened the second half by forcing Georgia Tech into a three-and-out. And finally, the offense did its part, driving 58 yards as Savage faced the Yellow Jackets' pressure and connected with Tyler Boyd on a 12-yard pass to score the Panthers' first touchdown of the game.

The defense kept up its strong work, forcing another fumble on the first drive after the touchdown and a three-and-out on the drive after that. At some point, though, Pitt's offense would need to find the end zone again.

As the clock ticked into the fourth quarter, the Panthers had several opportunities, twice reaching Georgia Tech territory in the game's final frame. And it looked like the offense would have another shot to mount a go-ahead drive when the defense forced Tech into a third-and-16 from its own 47.

Instead, Vad Lee lofted a pass 40 yards downfield and DeAndre Smelter jumped over Ray Vinopal and Lafayette Pitts for the play of the game. Two plays later, Robert Godhigh ran in from 12 yards out to put the Yellow Jackets up by 11.

And while Pitt's offense mounted a valiant effort in driving 46 yards in the final two minutes, Savage was intercepted near the goal line to formally end Pitt's chances.

Savage finished with 233 yards, one touchdown and one interception on 25-of-37 passing, while the Pitt running game gained a net total of minus-5 yards in the loss.





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