Tyrique Jarrett saves Pitt in fourth quarter against Georgia Tech


Tyrique Jarrett’s (6) remarkable play in the fourth quarter against Georgia Tech secured Pitt it’s final field goal opportunity of Saturday’s game. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt tradition wasn’t limited to the reappearance of the royal blue and mustard yellow retro uniforms at Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech.

For the fifth week in a row, the Panthers honored what’s become another game day ritual: fighting their way through a game-deciding fourth quarter. This time, the quarter ended with kicker Chris Blewitt sending a kick straight into the right goal post, and the ball falling just enough to the left to make it over the crossbar to give Pitt a 37-34 win.

With Pitt’s defense taking most of the blame for the team’s second half of play in recent weeks, Tyrique Jarrett helped the defensive line emerge from this week’s game as overall helpful — as opposed to a consistent hindrance — for the team.

Georgia Tech faced a fourth-and-1 with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter, and the Pitt defense –– which allowed 241 yards rushing to slip past them in the game –– had a chance to make a play and give the offense a chance to win.

The Panthers hadn’t stopped the Yellow Jackets’ run game yet, so Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson made a gutsy call for the end of a fourth quarter and went for a fourth down at his own 34-yard line. The call was to run it straight up the middle –– right at Pitt’s 335-pound nose tackle Jarrett.

Jarrett –– who teammates call “Big Freak” –– wrapped Georgia Tech running back Dedrick Mills up and senior middle linebacker Matt Galambos came in to finish him off, giving the ball back to the Panthers in field goal range.

“I was just reading my guy, and I see Tyrique just smother him,” Pitt first-year cornerback Dane Jackson said. “It was a great feeling.”

The fourth quarter hasn’t always played out in Pitt’s favor in its last five games.

In the Panthers’ rivalry game against Penn State on Sept. 10, they stormed out to a 28-7 lead only to see the Nittany Lions claw their way back into the game in the second half. Only Ryan Lewis’ interception in the end zone saved a 42-39 victory for Pitt.

Against Oklahoma State the next week, Pitt came back from 14 points down and sat through a two-hour lightning delay only to give up the game-winning touchdown with under two minutes left in a 45-38 loss.

In the team’s first ACC game against reigning Coastal Division champion North Carolina on Sept. 24, the Panthers had a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter but lost, 37-36, in the last two seconds of the game.

And last week against Marshall, Pitt dominated the first half with a 27-0 lead. The Thundering Herd eventually made it a three-point game late in the fourth quarter, but two late touchdowns by the Panthers sealed a 43-27 victory.

This week’s final 15 minutes started with Pitt leading 24-20 thanks to Blewitt’s 34-yard field goal with less than three minutes left in the third quarter. He made another field goal from 41 yards out to start the final quarter, extending the Panthers’ lead to seven.

On their returning drive, the Yellow Jackets tossed the ball to running back Clinton Lynch, who raced down the sideline to secure a 45-yard touchdown for Georgia Tech.

The game was tied, and Pitt was in a familiar position of giving up a game it had the advantage in all along.

The heat surrounding the Panthers’ defense only escalated when the Yellow Jackets found Pitt’s end zone once again, this time on a 10-yard touchdown run with just over five minutes left. For the first time since those last two seconds against UNC, the Panthers were not in the lead.

But the team had a chance to come back, and it did. Quarterback Nathan Peterman fired a pass off a defender’s fingertips right to tight end Scott Orndoff, who caught it and took it 74 yards to the end zone for a game-tying touchdown.

“I think it’s just about believing and never getting down on yourself or on your team,” Orndoff said about the Panthers’ resilience after giving up the lead. “Just hanging in there.”

The defense still had four minutes on the clock to get redemption. And with the game on the line, Pitt’s biggest defensive player came up huge.

Jarrett and the rest of the defensive line set up Blewitt for the final field goal the Panthers needed to win the game. If Pitt’s defense continues to make the important plays at the moments it needs to, it might finally prove the doubters wrong.

“It means a lot to me,” Jarrett said about helping his team get the win. “This is something that I probably will never forget in the long life that I will live.”

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