Georgia Tech stuns No. 24 Pitt 26-21 in Key’s coaching debut

Georgia Tech interim  head coach Brent Key talks to the team along the sideline during the...
Georgia Tech interim head coach Brent Key talks to the team along the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Pittsburgh, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)(Keith Srakocic | AP)
Published: Oct. 2, 2022 at 12:27 AM EDT
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(AP) -Jeff Sims passed for a touchdown and ran for another, Hassan Hall piled up 157 yards rushing and Georgia Tech made interim head coach Brent Key a winner in his debut, stunning No. 24 Pittsburgh 26-21 on Saturday night.

Five days after Key was promoted to replace Geoff Collins — fired four games into his fourth season with the Yellow Jackets — Georgia Tech took advantage of some sloppy play by the defending ACC champions to beat an FBS opponent for the first time in nearly a year.

Linebacker Charlie Thomas recovered a fumble and picked off Pitt quarterback Kedon Slovis to set up two of Gavin Edwards’ five field goals as the inspired Yellow Jackets (2-3, 1-1 ACC) converted three Pitt turnovers into 13 points, including a 21-yard touchdown pass from Sims to E.J. Jenkins with 10:30 to play that gave Georgia Tech a 19-7 lead.

The Panthers (3-2, 0-1) drew within five on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Slovis to Jaden Bradley with 1:57 to go but Hall raced 63 yards on the first play of Georgia Tech’s ensuring possession and Sims darted in from 18 yards out with 1:25 remaining to seal it.

The victory snapped a nine-game losing streak to FBS opponents by the Yellow Jackets, the last five by a combined score of 210-20, including a 27-10 setback to UCF last weekend that ultimately cost Collins and athletic director Todd Stansbury their jobs.

Tasked with trying to make something of his alma mater’s season, Key promised the Yellow Jackets would “play the best brand of football we possibly can.”

At soggy and cold Acrisure Statdium, that meant relying heavily on a defense that never let Slovis or the Panthers get comfortable until they were too far behind.

The USC transfer completed a deceiving 26 of 45 passes for 305 yards with three touchdowns — two in the final 2 minutes — and an interception as Pitt’s offense sputtered in the second half without junior running back Israel Abanikanda. The ACC’s leading rusher exited late in the first half with an undisclosed injury and his replacement, Vincent Davis, fumbled twice in Pitt territory to set up Georgia Tech scores.

THE TAKEAWAY

Georgia Tech: Key, the first Yellow Jackets alum to lead the program since Bill Curry’s tenure in the 1980s, made a pretty compelling opening statement that he should be considered for the full-time gig to replace Collins, whose rebuilding project failed to get off the ground. What Georgia Tech lacked in aesthetics it made up for in grit while largely shutting down an offense that came in averaging 36 points a game.

Pitt: The Panthers began the season talking about repeating as the ACC champs and maybe mounting an insurgent run at the CFP. An overtime loss to Tennessee last month derailed the CFP dream and now they’re playing catchup in the Coastal Division just one game into conference play.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Considering the carnage just above them in the polls, the Panthers appeared to have a chance to vault back into the top 20. Instead, they will drop out of the rankings for the first time since early November of last year after losing at home as a 22-point favorite.

UP NEXT

Georgia Tech: Returns home next Saturday to face Duke. The Yellow Jackets beat the Blue Devils last October, their last victory over an FBS opponent before Saturday night.

Pitt: Finish a home-heavy start to the 2022 season when Virginia Tech visits Acrisure Stadium next Saturday. The Panthers have won each of the last two meetings, including a 28-7 victory in Blacksburg last October.