Pittsburgh Panthers wide receiver Devin Street (15) can’t hang onto the intended pass under pressure form Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defensive back Demond Smith (12) in the second half of their NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, in Atlanta. Georgia Tech won 21-10. (AP Photo/David Tulis)
by Charles Odum
AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) – The sacks total continues to climb against Pittsburgh and quarterback Tom Savage.
Pitt, last in the ACC in sacks allowed, again struggled to protect Savage as Georgia Tech turned up the defensive pressure in its 21-10 win over the Panthers on Saturday night.
Jeremiah Attaochu had two of Georgia Tech’s season-high five sacks. Robert Godhigh ran for two touchdowns for the Yellow Jackets.
Pitt (4-4, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) was held without a first down in the first quarter and managed only 55 total yards in the first half. Savage threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Tyler Boyd on the Panthers’ first possession of the second half, cutting Georgia Tech’s lead to 14-10.
Savage completed 25 of 37 passes for 233 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The senior completed each of his four passes on the Panthers’ lone touchdown drive.
An ineffective running game and inability to protect Savage made it difficult for Pitt to maintain the momentum. The Panthers were held to minus-5 yards rushing on 21 carries.
“It’s frustrating losing,” Savage said. “It doesn’t matter if we win 3-0, our offense will be satisfied.
“We’ve just got to find a way to win.”
Pitt trailed 14-3 at halftime.
“Just put it on me,” Savage said. “I’ve got to find a way to put the ball in the end zone and give my receivers a chance.”
Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald had a season-high 11 tackles, one sack and forced two fumbles. He had a career-high six tackles for losses.
Pittsburgh added a freshman starter to an already inexperienced offensive line. Left tackle Dorian Johnson made his first start, becoming Pitt’s first true freshman offensive lineman to start since Joe Thomas in 2006.
Johnson started ahead of redshirt freshman Adam Bisnowaty, who played as a backup.
Pitt coach Paul Chryst said an injury to Bisnowaty forced Dorian Johnson into the lineup for the difficult matchup against Attaochu.
“Dorian was challenged tonight, but he did some good things,” Chryst said. “He did some things where he got beat. I need to do a better job of helping him on some of those things.”
Pitt began the day last in the ACC with its average of 3.43 sacks allowed per game. The Panthers have allowed 29 sacks.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said he was aware Pitt “had a couple of freshmen tackles.” Johnson said he saw an opportunity for Attaochu.
“Jeremiah is a pretty good pass rusher,” Johnson said, adding Attaochu “was kind of caving in” the pocket.
“He’s a handful to block one on one,” Johnson said. “He plays with a big motor. He plays hard and he’s quick off the ball.”
Georgia Tech (6-3, 5-2) overcame two lost fumbles for its third straight win.
Linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days had a sack and three tackles for losses. Defensive tackle Euclid Cummings had 1.5 sacks. Attaochu, who had 10 sacks in 2012, made the biggest impression on Savage.
“He’s a great player,” Savage said. “He’s fast and he did a great job.”
Vad Lee’s 42-yard pass to DeAndre Smelter set up Godhigh’s second touchdown run, from 11 yards, with less than 3 minutes remaining.
David Sims had a touchdown run for Georgia Tech.
Lee completed 5 of 10 passes for 84 yards – with exactly half of the production coming on the late pass to Smelter. Lee had 17 carries for 44 yards.
Savage led Pitt on a final long drive after Godhigh’s second scoring run. Savage’s final pass was intercepted by safety Jemea Thomas at the Georgia Tech 4 with 33 seconds remaining.
Sims had 18 carries for 94 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but lost two fumbles. Godhigh had six carries for 89 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Pitt netted only 1 yard on its first three possessions as Georgia Tech’s defense produced a series of tackles for losses on third downs.
Attaochu’s first sack of Savage ended the Panthers’ first possession on three downs. Hunt-Days tackled running back James Conner for a loss of three yards on Pitt’s second series.
On Pitt’s third series of plays, Attaochu again broke through the line to hit Savage just as the quarterback was trying to unleash a third-and-8 pass. The wobbly short pass was caught by center Artie Rowell. Georgia Tech declined the ineligible receiver penalty.
Chris Blewitt kicked a 44-yard field goal in the second quarter for Pitt.
The teams were playing for the first time since 1976.