Georgia Tech Begins ACC Play With 35-17 Win Over Pitt
Live Blog From Bobby Dodd Stadium By Don Stone - Georgia Tech Express

 Matchup: Pitt Panthers (1-3, 0-1 ACC) at Georgia Tech (2-1, 1-0 ACC)
 Date: Saturday, September 16. 12:20pm (ET)
 Location: Bobby Dodd Stadium (55,000)
 Georgia Tech Game Notes: Pittsburgh Panthers Game Notes: ACC Football Weekly Notes:
 Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson's Press Conference - Click Here
  Pitt Head Coach Pat Narduzzi Press Conference - Click Here
 TV: ACC Network (Fox Sports South in Atlanta)
 Tom Werme, play-by-play, Dave Archer, analyst, D.J. Shockley, reporter
 RADIO: In Atlanta: 680/93.7 The Fan
 Play-by-Play, Andy Demetra; Analyst, Sean Bedford; Sideline Reporter, Wiley Ballard
Sirius 112 / XM 193

  Both Georgia Tech and Pitt open Atlantic Coast Conference play this Saturday when they face each other at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
  The Yellow Jackets had an extra week of rest when their game at Central Florida was cancelled after Hurricane Irma.
  The 1-2 Panthers have struggled so far, to put it mildly, coming off a pair of losses to open the season against Top 10 opponents Oklahoma State (#6) and in state rival Penn State (#4). 
  A week after dropping their second game 33-14 to the Nittany Lions, the Panthers were destroyed at home by Oklahoma State in the first half. The Cowboys' quarterback Mason Rudolph threw for five touchdowns and 423 yards, all in the first half, and No. 9 Oklahoma State jumped out to a 49-14 lead at the half.
  The results are a quarterback controversy with Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi weighing his options. Southern California grad transfer Max Browne started all three so far but was pulled in the first quarter Saturday after completing 7 of 10 passes for 60 yards, never making it to midfield. Replacing him was redshirt sophomore Ben DiNucci in the second quarter. DiNucci came in after fans had been chanting his name and led the Panthers to their first points of the game on his first drive.
  "It's hard to tell where they are," Narduzzi said Monday. "We'll find out Saturday (against Georgia Tech) where they are. It's hard to read sometimes."
  Whichever one gets behind center will be trying to get the ball to wide receivers Quadree Henderson and Jester Weah along with tailbacks Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall.
 "Defensively, they're replacing a lot of guys," observed Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson in his Tuesday press conference. "They probably get back who I would consider their best player this week in [Jordan] Whitehead, the safety. He was serving a three-game suspensions and comes back." 
  So, how do you analyze the quality of the Panthers when they went up against such top tier competition. Go back to week one and you'll see that they needed overtime to barely beat Youngstown State. But, on second look, the Panthers played a vanilla offense not wanting to show too much to upcoming competition. And the Penguins are a pretty good FCS team, ranked fifth in the nation. After the Pitt OT loss, YSU shutout Robert Morris University 30-0,
outgaining RMU 429-147.
 So, how good or how bad Pittsburgh is still a question that has not been answered.
 One thing we do know is that
Pitt has beaten Georgia Tech in each of the last two meetings (31-28 in 2015 and 37-34 last season) with late field goals making the difference in both.
  No controversy at quarterback for the Jackets. TaQuon Marshall rushed for a record 249 yards and five touchdowns in game one with Tennessee and followed that by throwing for three TD's and rushing for one against Jacksonville State. The junior leads the nation in scoring (18.0 ppg) and ranks second nationally in points responsible for (27.0 ppg).
  Coach Narduzzi talked about the challenge of handling the junior QB. "Marshall can throw it and run it, and he slings it pretty darned good for a guy that used to be one of their A-backs and then transitioned to the quarterback position. He's athletic. He can run. We've got to find the right scout quarterback this week. I'm not sure we've got one yet. We're still working on that. But he's a good football player."
  Georgia Tech enters the game as seven and a half point favorites.
  It was an unseasonably warm day in Atlanta with temps in the mid 80s. But a cloud cover appeared just before kickoff to make it more comfortable.
  Pitt started things off at their 22 with DiNucci at QB. A pass to Matt Flanagan got a first down at the 39. Then, some big yardage with a handoff to Jordan Whitehead taking it all the way to the GT31. A wide open Qadree Ollison waited in the end zone to give the Panthers the first points, 7-0. The drive took just 5 plays going 78 yards in 2:32.
  Nathan Cottrell took the kickoff out to the 28 as the Jackets tried to match the score. Taquon Marshall was quickly hurried to the sideline for a short gain. A toss right to JJ Green gained six for a third and three at the 34. On a third and nine, the defense held forcing a 50 yard field goal attempt that went wide right. Tech dodged a bullet.
  They began their second drive at their 32. Benson got a quick first down with a rush up the middle to the 43. Benson carried two more times for a third and one at the PP48. But Qua Searcy was stopped short. Johnson went for it on fourth and two and got the first and more with a toss left to Clinton Lynch who carried it for 16 to the 33. A false start moved it back five. Marshall kept it and strode down the home sideline to tie the score at 7.
  Pittsburgh took over after the punt at their 27. AJ Gray tripped up DiNucci in the backfield for a third and 12. A booming punt was fair caught at the GT20.
  On a broken play, Marshall dove forward to pick up the first at the 33. The BE kept it again for another first at midfield. Green took the toss and got to the 39. LT Nathaniel Lee was hurt on the play and had to be walked off the field. Benson got it to the 30 for a third and one then converted at the 25. The game moved into the second quarter.
  Marshall recovered his own fumble, scooped it up and gained 5. On the next play, he shook a defender and got it 18 yards closer to the one, then dove in to give Tech its first lead 14-0.
  A nice return by Flanagan got it out to the 32. Jester Wean picked up 8 on a catch to the 40. A short run got the first down at the 42. DiNucci dropped back to pass but  was forced to keep it making it third and five at the 47. The drive stalled there A 52 yard punt was a touchback giving the Yellow Jackets the ball at their 20.
  After a deep bomb just missed, Green took a toss and took it to the 37. Nothing more as Narduzzi took his first time out. Pressley Harvin III punted to the 20 and had it run all the way back by Henderson for a game tying TD, 14-14. It was the first time Tech had given up a kickoff return for a score since September 25, 2010 against NC State.
  Tech started at their 25 with Benson carrying it for 8. Marshall got the first down with a carry to the 39. A badly thrown deep ball was picked off but negated by a roughing the passer call. That moved the ball into Pitt territory at the 46. On the next play, the great field position was lost on another Benson fumble, recovered by the Panthers at their 43.
  The defense got the stop they needed and, after a touchback put the ball at their 20.
  Still 5:06 left in the half. Marshall scrambled then hit Lynch at the last second for a first down at the 34. Benson bulled his way up the middle for 11 more. Just before he was hit, Marshall found Benson who struggled forward for 9. Of course, Johnson would go for it on fourth and one at the PP46. The defense got it for him, though, jumping off sides for a new set of downs at the 40 with 2:27 left. Another tough run by Benson and the Jackets were at the 27. Benson again  for 7 with Marshall getting another first at the 16 as Narduzzi took his second time out at 1:07. After Benson carried it to the 12, Johnson took his second time out. After stumbling, Marshall managed 7 as he ran out of bounds at the 5 yard line. Benson got the rest for a 21-14 lead leaving just 51 seconds on the clock for Pittsburgh.
  But that would be enough for a few points. Maurice French caught one for five with Flanagan bringing one down at the GT48. DiNucci downed the ball at the 48 with 14 ticks on the clock. Andree Saint-Amour sacked the QB at the 48 with 8 seconds to go. DiNucci found French again for 11 at the 33. Alex Kessman came in and this time was successful, connecting on a 55 yard field goal for a 21-17 halftime score. Stats had GT up 277-135 in total yards, ahead 257-52 on the ground. The Jackets had doubled their time of possession 19:48 to 10:12. What still made it close was the kickoff return. But, so far, it had been an entertaining game. Tech just needed to clean up the mistakes and a win looked attainable. Even with the close score, about half the stadium had gone by the second half kickoff, probably beause of the heat sitting in the direct sunlight.
  With his first carry, Benson went over 100 yards for the day. Another fourth and one, another Johnson attempt at the 34. Then he took hist first time out to see what the defense had planned. A false start derailed his plans after they got enough. With a fourth and six, the punt team came in. After the 56 yard Harvin punt, Pitt started their drive back at their 17.
  The Panthers could only manage 3 and had to punt. Brad Stewart took the punt to the GT43 for good field position.
  Marshall carried it for 7 to midfield for a third and 2. Benson took the pile to the PP43 for a first down also putting Marshall over 100 yards. Benson got another first on a carry to the 31. Fresh legs as Quaide Weimerskirch got another first at the 20. Weimerskirch made up the difference refusing to go down for a 19 yard rushing TD, GT had a bit of separation 28-17. 
  A near sack by Step Durham caused Narduzzi to take his first time out facing a third and 11. The play only got half of what they needed. The Ryan Winslow punt was fair caught at the 14.
  Benson started off with another nice run for 16 to the 25. But an illegal procedure call made it first and 15. Ricky Jeune caught his first ball at midfield for a new set of downs.  But another Tech mistake as Weimerskirch turned the ball over at the PP 47.
  Whatever the offense did, the fumble gave their tired defense a few minutes of extra rest. They didn't get much rest with another three and out finished with an Antonio Simmons sacked for a 15 yard loss and Tech had the ball back on their 21 to start the final quarter.
  .The offense could get nothing going and had to put to the 25.
  Whitehead carried the ball to the 34 for a third and one. Then it was the Panthers turn to make a mistake as they put it on the ground with Saint-Amour falling on it at the 32.
  Green carried the ball to the 25 for a third and 3. Just before being tackled, Marshall tossed it back to Searcy for a 10 yard gain at the 15. In the red zone once again, A Marshall keeper made it third and one at the 6. Another opportunity was squandered when Benson fumbled for the third time at the 4.
  The Jacket defense again stopped them in their tracks. Stewart took the punt in Pitt territory at their 47. Another shot to put the game away with 5:46 left in the game. With an 11 point lead, Tech only needed to burn up clock.
  Benson atoned for his errors by taking the first snap the distance for icing on the cake and a 35-17 advantage.
  The Panthers took their turn at the 29 as their exhausted defense prayed for a few conversions. With Browne in at QB, they got one with a completion at their 49. Then another with a Matthews catch at the GT32. But Simmons sacked the quarterback for a four yard loss at the 35. They had to go for it on fourth and 13 with just over 3 minutes left. No dice as Chris Clark came up short with a catch turning it over on downs at the 27.
  Redshirt freshman Jay Jones got mop up duty at quarterback. and showed a flash with a 6 yard scramble to the 30. OLB Jalen Williams was injured on the play. Matthew Jordan came in and picked up a few. Narducci received a chorus of boos as he took another time out with 2:35 to go on a fourth and one. The punt was downed at the PP19.
  With Browne still in at QB, a 4th down was converted with a 14 yard pass and a five yard completion. The clock stopped at 33 seconds to take care of an injured Clark. Lacking an 18 point play, the offense labored on and the game finally came to an end with Tech picking up their first ACC win 35-17. Final stats had Tech with 435 yards of offense to Pitt's 235. Rushing yards was an amazing 436 to just 37.
  "I'm not worried about rushing yards. I'm worried about wins and losses," said coach Narduzzi. "If you're getting the ball for 10 more minutes with that offense, you're going to be in trouble."
  The main area of concern was the number of turnovers by the Jackets.
  "We work on it all the time. You've got to be focused enough to care enough not to do it," said coach Johnson. "He didn't go out there and fumble on purpose, but you have to learn to push through some times when you get tired, you can't get sloppy with your fundamentals, you have to continue to push through. And we need to help him. We probably don't need him to play so much. I don't know how many times he carried the ball - 29 times - that's probably a lot for him. Once Jerry [Howard] went in and fumbled, we didn't put him back in, and Qua [Searcy] went in and had a couple nice runs - we got three guys, we just need to play them more."
  Next up, Georgia Tech stays home to continue ACC play as North Carolina comes to town for another noon kickoff.

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