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Georgia Tech Upends No. 24 Pitt, 26-21

PITTSBURGH – Led by 157 rushing yards from Hassan Hall, four field goals by Gavin Stewart and more astounding performances by linebackers Ayinde Eley and Charlie Thomas, Georgia Tech stunned No. 24-ranked and defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion Pitt, 26-21, in Brent Key’s debut as the Yellow Jackets’ interim head coach on Saturday evening at Acrisure Stadium.

Highlighted by a fumble recovery and interception by Thomas, Georgia Tech (2-3, 1-1 ACC) forced three turnovers in the span of four Pitt possessions in the second half and scored after all three takeaways (two field goals and a touchdown) to turn a 7-6 halftime deficit into a commanding 19-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Pitt (3-2, 0-1 ACC) made it interesting by following up a goal line stand with a nine-play, 99-yard touchdown drive to cut the Yellow Jackets’ lead to 19-14 with 1:57 to go. On the first play after Tech recovered Pitt’s ensuing onside kick, Hall ripped off a 63-yard run, which set up an 18-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jeff Sims that restored the Jackets’ two-score advantage at 26-14.

However, Pitt wasn’t done, as it drove 68 yards in just one minute to slice Tech’s lead back to five points at 26-21 with 16 seconds remaining. But the Jackets recovered the ensuing onside kick and kneeled out the clock to seal its first road win over a nationally ranked opponent since a 30-20 win at No. 18 Virginia Tech in 2016.

Hall’s 157 rushing yards came on just 20 carries (7.8 yards per rush) and was the second-highest rushing total of his collegiate career (he ran for 162 yards versus Virginia last season while playing for Louisville). Sims totaled 183 yards of offense, including a season-high 81 rushing yards, and accounted for both Georgia Tech touchdowns (one rushing, one passing). E.J. Jenkins hauled in the 21-yard touchdown pass from Sims, and also had a spectacular one-handed catch for a 33-yard gain in the first quarter that set up the first of Stewart’s four field goals. Stewart, who was good on his four attempts from 37, 33, 40 and 30 yards, became the first Georgia Tech kicker to make four field goals in a game since 2018 (Wesley Wells in an overtime win over Virginia) and the first to do it in regulation since current Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker made four in the Yellow Jackets’ 33-18 win over Kentucky in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl.

Eley, who entered the game ranked second in the ACC and tied for 11th nationally with 10.5 tackles per game, led all players with 14 stops on Saturday, marking the fourth time in five games this season that the senior has notched double-digit tackles. He also forced the fumble that led to Tech’s touchdown that made it 19-7 early in the final period.

Thomas, who did not enter the game until the second half due to a targeting penalty last Saturday at UCF, had seven tackles to go along with his fumble recovery (that he returned 43 yards to set up a Georgia Tech field goal) and interception (which set up another field goal). He became only the third Yellow Jacket since 2000 to record a fumble recovery and interception in the same game.

Georgia Tech looks to move to .500 overall and 2-1 in ACC play next Saturday when it hosts Duke (4-1, 1-0 ACC). Kickoff for Tech’s 2022 homecoming game is set for 4 p.m. The ACC Coastal Division tilt will be televised regionally on the ACC’s Regional Sports Network (RSN – in Georgia: Bally Sports South).

Makius Scott (8 – above) and Kyle Kennard (9 – above) record a tackle for loss against Pitt’s Vincent Davis, Jr. Georgia Tech lived in the backfield on Saturday night, recording five tackles for loss, two sacks and 12 quarterback hurries. (photo: Jeffrey Gamza)

 

Postgame Notes

Team Notes

  • Georgia Tech moved to 2-3 overall and evened its Atlantic Coast Conference record at 1-1. No. 24-ranked and defending ACC champion Pitt fell to 3-2 overall and 0-1 in conference play.
  • The win was Georgia Tech’s first win over a nationally ranked opponent since a 45-22 victory over No. 21/20 North Carolina on Sept. 25, 2021, snapping a streak of four-straight losses to ranked teams.
  • The win was Georgia Tech’s first road win over a nationally ranked opponent since a 30-20 win at No. 18 Virginia Tech on Nov. 12, 2016, snapping a streak of six-straight road losses to ranked teams.
  • The win snapped Georgia Tech’s nine-game losing streak against NCAA Division I FBS opponents, dating back to a 31-27 victory at Duke on Oct. 9, 2021.
  • Georgia Tech forced three turnovers in the span of four Pitt possessions in the second half, and converted all three to points (two FG and one TD – 13 total points).
  • Georgia Tech’s three takeaways were its most against an FBS opponent since it had three at Miami (Fla.) on Nov. 6 of last season.
  • Georgia Tech’s four field goals made were its most in a game since it made four in a 30-27 overtime win over Virginia on Nov. 17, 2018 and its most in regulation since it made four in a 33-18 win over Kentucky in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl (Dec. 31, 2016).
  • Georgia Tech’s eight passes defended (seven breakups, one interception) doubled its previous season high (four at UCF – last Saturday). Prior to last Saturday’s game, Georgia Tech had a total of five passes defended through the first three games of this season.
  • Georgia Tech’s defense recorded 12 quarterback hurries. Coming into the game, Georgia Tech had been credited with two quarterback hurries this season.
  • Georgia Tech rushed for 232 yards, its second-highest rushing output of the season (243 vs. Western Carolina – Sept. 10) and its most against an NCAA Division I FBS opponent since it ran for 270 yards last season at Virginia (Oct. 23, 2021).
  • Georgia Tech’s 232 rushing yards were 133 more than Pitt was allowing on average this season coming into Saturday’s game (98.5 rushing yards per game) and the most surrendered by Pitt since Boston College ran for 264 yards against the Panthers on Nov. 30, 2019.

Individual Notes

  • So. PK Gavin Stewart made a career-high four field goals from 37, 33, 40 and 30 yards (prev.: 2 at NC State – Dec. 5, 2020). Prior to Saturday night, his two FGM at NC State in 2020 were the only FGM of his career.
  • Sr. LB Charlie Thomas, who did not play until the second half due to a targeting penalty last Saturday at UCF, became only the third Georgia Tech player since 2000 with a fumble recovery and an interception in the same game (prev.: Quayshawn Nealy vs. Syracuse – 2013 and vs. NC State – 2014; and Bruce Jordan-Swilling vs. Virginia – 2017).
  • r-Sr. LB Ayinde Eley registered 14 tackles, marking the fourth time in five games this season that he has recorded double-digit tackles.
  • r-Jr. DB Jaylon King’s forced fumble in the third quarter, which was recovered by Thomas and returned 43 yards to set up Georgia Tech’s field goal that gave it a 9-7 lead, was the first forced fumble of his career.
  • r-Sr. RB Hassan Hall rushed for 157 yards on 20 carries (7.8 yards per carry). The 157 rushing yards surpassed his season total coming into Saturday’s game (103 yards over four games) and was the second-highest total of his five-year collegiate career (behind only his 162 yards last season vs. Virginia while playing for Louisville).
  • r-Sr. WR E.J. Jenkins’ 54 receiving yards were a career high at the NCAA Division IFBS level (prev.: 34 vs. Clemson – Sept. 5).
  • Jenkins’ one-handed 33-yard reception, which helped lead to a field goal on Georgia Tech’s opening possession, was his longest catch in two seasons at the NCAA Division I FBS level (2021 at South Carolina, 2022 at Georgia Tech). His previous long FBS reception was a 30-yarder for South Carolina vs. Clemson on Nov. 27, 2021. His previous long at Georgia Tech was a 16-yard touchdown vs. Clemson on Sept. 5 of this season.
  • Jenkins’ 21-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter was his second of the season (prev.: vs. Clemson – Sept. 5) and his third at the FBS level (he had a 16-yard touchdown vs. Troy while playing for South Carolina on Oct. 2, 2020).
  • So. QB Jeff Sims’ 81 rushing yards were a season high (prev.: 48 vs. Western Carolina – Sept. 10).
  • Interim head coach Brent Key became the second coach in Georgia Tech history to ever defeat a ranked opponent in his first game as the Yellow Jackets’ head coach. Tech head coaches were previously 1-4 when facing nationally ranked teams in their GT debuts (Bill Fulcher – L, 34-3 vs. No. 15 Tennessee – 1972; Pepper Rodgers – L, 31-7 vs. No. 2 Notre Dame – 1974; Bill Curry – L, 26-3 vs. No. 2 Alabama – 1980; Mac McWhorter – W, 24-14 vs. No. 11 Stanford – 2001 Seattle Bowl; Geoff Collins – L, 52-14 vs. No. 1 Clemson – 2019).
Running back Hassan Hall (3 – above) and quarterback Jeff Sims (10 – above) controlled the running game on Saturday night. Hall took 20 carries for 157 yards, while Sims amassed 81 yards and a rushing touchdown. (photo: Jeffrey Gamza)

 

Multimedia

Coach Key Postgame Press Conference (Video)

Coach Key Postgame Press Conference (Audio)

Student-Athletes Postgame Press Conference (Gavin Stewart, Jeff Sims, Charlie Thomas, Ayinde Eley)

Game Highlights (ACC Digital Network)

Condensed Game (ACC Digital Network)

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