Tech opens ACC play by beat­ing Pitt

Calhoun Times - - SPORTS WEDNESDAY - By Paul Newberry

— KirVonte Ben­son is tak­ing ad­van­tage of his un­ex­pected op­por­tu­nity to lead Ge­or­gia Tech’s run­ning game.

Ben­son ran for a ca­reer-high 196 yards with two touch­downs, TaQuon Mar­shall added 112 yards rush­ing with two scor­ing runs, and Ge­or­gia Tech beat Pitts­burgh 35-17 on Satur­day in the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence opener for each team.

Ben­son, a third-year sopho­more, was in line to be a backup be­fore Dedrick Mills, the team’s lead­ing re­turn­ing rusher, was dis­missed from the team three weeks be­fore the sea­son. Ben­son flour­ished on his 29 car­ries.

“I like the amount of times I got the ball,” Ben­son said. “I’m just glad I could per­form when I had the ball in my hands.”

Ge­or­gia Tech (2-1, 1-0) ran for 436 yards with five touch­downs.

“We ex­pect to run for at least 300 yards ev­ery game,” Ben­son said. “That’s our goal.”

Pitts­burgh couldn’t find a way to stop Ben­son on Ge­or­gia Tech’s full­back dive, a sta­ple of coach Paul John­son’s spread-op­tion of­fense.

“It’s a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing, guys miss­ing tack­les,” said Pitts­burgh coach Pat Nar­duzzi.

“... They can run the ball, es­pe­cially if you give them 10 more min­utes.”

Ge­or­gia Tech con­trolled the clock, hold­ing the ball 35 min­utes. The Pan­thers were suc­cess­ful on only 1 of 13 third-down plays.

“When you don’t move the ball against Ge­or­gia Tech, the way they hold the ball, you’re in deep, deep trou­ble,” Nar­duzzi said.

With the game tied at 7 in the sec­ond quar­ter, Mar­shall used a spin move to dodge Pitts­burgh safety Da­mar Ham­lin on an 18-yard run to the 1. Mar­shall scored on a keeper the next play. He had a 32-yard scor­ing run down the Ge­or­gia Tech side­line in the first quar­ter.

The Yel­low Jack­ets over­came four lost fum­bles, in­clud­ing two by Ben­son. Ge­or­gia Tech’s de­fense al­lowed no points on the four turnovers.

“If it weren’t for the de­fense, we wouldn’t have won this game,” Mar­shall said.

Ben­son lost his sec­ond fum­ble in­side the Pitts­burgh 5 mid­way through the fourth quar­ter. He had a 47-yard scor­ing run about two min­utes later.

Pitts­burgh (1-3, 0-1) made a change at quar­ter­back, start­ing Ben DiNucci over se­nior Max Browne.

Seven Pitts­burgh rush­ers net­ted only 37 yards on 20 car­ries.

The Pan­thers stayed close in the first half with a few big plays, in­clud­ing an 80-yard punt re­turn for a touch­down by Quadree Hen­der­son for a 14-14 tie. A dev­as­tat­ing block by Da­mar Ham­lin on Parker Braun helped Hen­der­son find an open field.

Alex Kess­man made a 55-yard field goal for Pitts­burgh to end the first half.

Ge­or­gia Tech’s Quaide Weimer­skirch scored on a 19-yard run in the third quar­ter — the long­est run and first touch­down for the sopho­more.

THE TAKEWAY

Pitts­burgh: DiNucci showed prom­ise on his first drive but for the most part looked like a first-time starter. The Pan­thers couldn’t gen­er­ate a run­ning at­tack to help the sopho­more. Pitts­burgh’s young de­fense was con­sis­tently frus­trated by Ge­or­gia Tech’s op­tion runs. Most of Ben­son’s yards came on power runs straight at the line.

“Our de­fense was just on the field too long to­day,” Nar­duzzi said.

Ge­or­gia Tech: The Yel­low Jack­ets’ topranked run­ning game showed its depth and big-play abil­ity. Per­haps most en­cour­ag­ing for Ge­or­gia Tech’s ACC out­look was the play of its de­fense. The Yel­low Jack­ets al­lowed no points on four lost fum­bles.

“I thought that our de­fense played re­ally, re­ally well to­day, es­pe­cially in sud­den-change sit­u­a­tions,” John­son said.

TWO-WAY PLAYER

White­head, Pitts­burgh’s strong safety, re­turned from a three­game sus­pen­sion for a vi­o­la­tion of team rules. His 30-yard gain on an end-around run to set up DiNucci’s 28-yard touch­down pass to Quadree Ol­li­son.

UP NEXT

Ge­or­gia Tech: The Yel­low Jack­ets will have an­other home ACC game against North Carolina on Satur­day at noon.

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