Updated 3 hours ago
ATLANTA — There might have been a new quarterback on the field, but the results were unchanged for the Pitt Panthers.
Sophomore Ben DiNucci got the start and failed to move the offense Saturday, which left the defense on the field far too long and resulted in a 35-17 loss to Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The loss leaves Pitt at 1-3, the first time the team has lost three consecutive under coach Pat Narduzzi. It’s the first 1-3 start for the Panthers since 2005.
“I’m not worried about the winning streaks or losing streaks,” Narduzzi said. “I’m worried about those kids in the locker room who are fighting their tails off. We need to find out what the problems are, pinpoint them and fix them. That’s what our job is.”
DiNucci was named the starting quarterback for the Panthers’ ACC opener earlier this week. The decision looked good on the first possession, when he took the team down the field on a 78-yard drive, finding Qadree Ollison for a 28-yard score.
The first sign of offensive trouble came on the next possession, when Pitt forced a turnover and took over at the Georgia Tech 33. But two incompletions and a 1-yard run forced Alex Kessman to try a 50-yard field goal that sailed just wide.
“The first drive was good,” DiNucci said. “Then the defense gets a turnover, and we can’t capitalize. That would have been nice to get points there.”
But the offense managed little the rest of the afternoon. They produced 37 rushing yards on 20 attempts, a 1.9 average. DiNucci completed 12 of 19 passes for 110 yards and was relieved by senior Max Browne midway through the fourth quarter.
“We couldn’t run the ball,” Narduzzi said. “Give them credit, obviously. We continue to not be able to get moving up front with our offensive line and we can point our fingers at the quarterback. But if you’re not running the ball, there’s not many quarterbacks who can sit back in that pocket and throw it all day.”
The leading rusher was safety Jordan Whitehead, who carried twice for 35 yards. Ollison gained 11 yards on seven carries but added five catches for 44 yards and a 28-yard touchdown.
“We’ve got to do something with the football,” Narduzzi said. “You can’t win if you don’t score points. At halftime, we had 24 plays and they had about 50. That’s not good … because they’re going to continue to run it and run it and run it.”
The Pitt defense provided plenty of opportunities. They forced five fumbles and recovered four of them. But none of the turnovers resulted in points for the Panthers.
As a result, Georgia Tech (2-1, 1-0) was able to pound the ball on the ground and take time off the clock. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 436 yards, with KirVonte Benson carrying 29 times for a career-high 196 yards and quarterback TaQuon Marshall running 18 times for 112 yards. Georgia Tech won the time of possession battle 35 minutes, 2 seconds to 24:58.
“We don’t sustain drives,” Narduzzi said. “We probably had seven three-and-outs. When the defense gets four turnovers, you should win the game. We got out there and didn’t take the momentum. That’s probably the most disappoint thing.”
Stan Awtrey is a freelance writer.
AP Photo/Jon Barash
Georgia Tech running back Quaide Weimerskirch (21) falls into the end zone for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Pittsburgh, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Atlanta.
Georgia Tech defensive end Antonio Simmons sacks Pitt quarterback Ben Dinucci in the second half Sept. 23, 2017 in Atlanta.
Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall reaches for the end zone in the first half against Pitt on Sept. 23, 2017 in Atlanta.
Georgia Tech defensive end Anree Saint-Amour pursues a fumble by Pitt’s Qadree Ollison during the second half Sept. 23, 2017 in Atlanta.