Charles Leclair – USA TODAY Sports
by WILL GRAVES
AP . sports writer
Pittsburgh (AFP) Brent Key grabbed the ball given to him by his new boss and pointed to the gold “GT” logo on it, a symbol that was a former Georgia technical coach turned interim head coach tasked with holding his struggling college program together. A quarter of a century and counting.
“It means everything to me,” Key said, tapping the engraved letters for effect.
It certainly seemed like that, for both Key and the group, he’s now suddenly in charge of driving.
Five days after Jeff Collins was sent off for four games in his fourth season, the Yellow Jackets responded with a stunning 26-21 win over Pittsburgh No. 24 on Saturday night that was certain because it was unlikely.
The defense harassed the defending champion in three turns. Quarterback Jeff Sims threw down and ran for another. Hall smashed Hassan Panthers for a speeding 157 yards.
Kee – who admitted he didn’t know what to do during the pre-game after being promoted from offensive line coach to take over as Collins – was comfortable in the middle of it all, creating aplomb in his group that seemed non-existent during the 1-3 start that cost Collins and athletic director Todd Stansbury their jobs.
“After our week, we were able to block out all the noise, eliminate all the distractions and… focus on moving forward,” Key said. ”Very happy for these kids.” We believed in them. We knew it was in them.”
Georgia Tech (2-3, 1-1 ACC) ended a nine-game losing streak for FBS opponents – the last five with a 210-20 aggregate – by frustrating the Panthers (3-2, 0-1) for long runs and making plays that were important in the late time.
Midfielder Charlie Thomas reclaimed a confusion and snatched away house midfielder Kidon Sloves to net two of Gavin Edwards’ four goals on the field. The inspiring Yellow Jackets turned Pete’s three turnovers into 13 points, including a 21-yard pass from Sims to EJ Jenkins with 10:30 to play giving Georgia Tech a 19-7 lead.
The Panthers (3-2, 0-1) in the course of five tied a 26-yard pass from Slovis to Jaden Bradley with 1:57 from the finish but Hall raced 63 yards into Georgia Tech’s first game to secure possession and Sims later arrowed from 18 yards with remaining 1:25 to shut it down effectively.
“I think the head coach, he just came in, and he knew that coach Collins’ dismissal was a devastating time for us,” Sims said. “He came and kept our confidence.”
Tasked with trying to make something out of his college season, Key promised the Yellow Vests would play the best possible brand of soccer.
In the wet and cold Acrisure Statdium, that meant relying too heavily on a defense that didn’t allow the Slovis or the Panthers to rest until they were too late.
He completed a USC 26 transfer of 45 trick passes for 305 yards with three touchdowns – two in the last two minutes – and an interception when Pete’s attack broke out in the second half without freshmen Israel Abanikanda running. The ACC’s lead rider was knocked out late in the first half with an undisclosed injury, and his replacement, Vincent Davis, stumbled twice in the Pitt area to score for Georgia Tech.
“The attack didn’t really start until the last two series of the game,” Pete coach Pat Nardozy said. “If we had done it (at any rhythm) throughout the match, we would have had a chance… I obviously didn’t do a good enough job to prepare them,” he added.
Georgia Tech: Coming 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.
Pete: Get off to a strong start to the 2022 season when you visit Virginia Tech next Saturday. The Panthers have won each of their last two meetings, including a 28-7 win at Blacksburg last October.