Georgia Tech Takeaways | Panthers are seeing history repeat itself


Hannah Wilson | Senior Staff Photographer

A Georgia Tech player, left, and Pitt senior defensive back A.J. Woods (25) reach for the ball during Saturday’s game.

By Frankie Richetti, Senior Staff Writer

The gloomy skies and constant drizzle that hung over Acrisure Stadium prior to kickoff on Saturday gave Panther fans a miserable look into the future of their 2022 team. 

Following the No. 24 Panthers’ stunning 26-21 loss against Georgia Tech, players walked off the field with their heads down in disbelief. But under Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi’s watch, losses like Saturday’s aren’t much of a surprise anymore — they’re almost expected. 

Here are my takeaways.  

Time to temper expectations

Before the Panthers opened ACC play against Georgia Tech on Saturday night, many expected them to cruise to another Coastal Division crown. 

Prior to the season, Miami was supposed to be the main challenger to Pitt’s ACC Coastal Division title defense, but they lost by two possessions to Middle Tennessee State last weekend. Pitt entered the weekend as the only team from the division to be ranked in the top 25

North Carolina has an explosive offense but an extremely bad defense. Duke is out to a 4-1 start, but Pitt is still heavily favored despite the Blue Devil’s hot start. Maybe they’d slip up somewhere, but the consensus was still that Pitt would make another run to Charlotte for the ACC Championship. 

Well, it’s time to temper those expectations. Until they prove otherwise, we can’t look at this team in the same light as last year. 

After Georgia Tech fired their head coach just six days prior to Saturday’s game, it seemed like the Panthers would fare well against the reeling, 1-3 Yellow Jackets. 

Instead, Pitt fell back into old habits, losing to a team they had no business losing to. Georgia Tech’s win over Pitt was the largest ACC upset in five years. The Yellow Jackets entered the game with nine straight losses to FBS opponents, losing by a combined score of 210-20.

This wasn’t just any slip-up —  it was an embarrassment. 

Throughout camp, players said that they would use last season’s loss against Western Michigan as motivation heading into this season and that they wouldn’t underestimate any of their opponents.

Pitt senior safety Brandon Hill said that bad losses are meaningless without the lessons learned from them. 

“[The losses] don’t mean nothing if you don’t learn from them, if you don’t correct them,” Hill said. “We don’t want to take any team lightly.”

But they weren’t corrected. In fact, letdowns against inferior opponents have been all too common throughout Narduzzi’s tenure.

History repeats itself

After last season’s loss to Western Michigan, Narduzzi said the team still had time to achieve their goals for the season. He wasn’t lying — they did. And to their credit, they put the loss behind them and went on to win the conference. 

But at some point the message grows stale.

After the loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday, Narduzzi stepped to the podium and delivered the same message.

“All of our goals are still ahead of us,” Narduzzi said. “This will make them a little hungrier.”

But that’s the thing —  it shouldn’t take a pitiful loss at home to make your team hungrier. Many of the guys on Pitt’s roster got to feel what it’s like to win a championship last season. If they weren’t a part of the roster, they’ve been hearing about that winning feeling all summer.

If getting the chance to experience that again — or for the first time — isn’t enough, then what is? 

Upsets happen — It’s part of the sport. But for them to happen at this rate is a major issue.

This game also wasn’t anywhere close to what the final score indicated. After all, Tech was up by 12 points late in the fourth quarter and probably should’ve been up more after failing to convert a few plays from the goal line. 

I’m not sure what the fix is. This is just who Pitt is under Narduzzi. And there is eight years of evidence to back that up. 

Next week will prove if this loss was just an anomaly.

Like the loss to Western Michigan last season, the taste of this loss won’t go away.

Even if Pitt goes on to finish 10-2 and goes to the ACC title game, this loss will tarnish whatever they go on to accomplish in the eyes of the national media.

But Pitt’s players can’t think that way. Nobody wants to hear it right now, but this is still a really talented roster. They have the ability to put this behind them and string some wins together.

But will they? That’s a different story.

Next week’s game against Virginia Tech suddenly became a much bigger game than originally anticipated. If Pitt comes out flat, it will show that they probably just aren’t all that good. If they can beat the Hokies convincingly, it won’t change how humiliating the loss was, but it’ll at least show that they’ve turned the page.

It’s going to be tough — Pitt has a lot of problems right now. Senior quarterback Kedon Slovis was not good on Saturday night. He held onto the ball far too long and couldn’t get into any sort of a rhythm until the Yellow Jackets started playing prevent defense with two minutes remaining. 

The offensive line has underwhelmed and the team has a bunch of injury problems, with junior running back Izzy Abanikanda being the most recent Panther to fall victim to the injury bug. The wide receivers haven’t done much to help out Slovis, either. 

Regardless, Pitt has to find a way to win — there are no more excuses. We’ll see if they follow through on Narduzzi’s words and are truly hungrier following their loss to Georgia Tech.

Doomed from the start

In a baffling sequence of events, Pitt opted to open the game by throwing the ball three straight times.

Pitt didn’t gain a single yard and went three-and-out.

Abanikanda — the ACC’s leading rusher — saw just two touches in the first quarter. Georgia Tech entered the game giving up the 11th most rushing yards in the country. It’s hard to understand why Pitt didn’t lean on Abanikanda more, especially with the poor conditions.

Slovis started the game 2-9 and passed for just eight yards. The Panthers’ strategy to come out throwing put them behind the eight ball throughout the first half, with the average distance to go on third downs being 6.9 yards. The Panthers went 1-7 on third downs in the first half and were only able to muster up seven points. 

Pitt finished the night just 2-12 on third downs. 

All things considered, it would have been a lot easier for the Pitt offense to establish the run and play off that, rather than trying to use their passing game to set up the run in the pouring rain. 

The Panthers’ poor play-calling to open the game set the tone for a very forgettable rest of the night.