ATLANA (AP) — Vincent Davis knew on the very first play it was going to be a very good night.
Davis rushed for a career-best 247 yards, including a 74-yard scamper on the first offensive snap and a late touchdown that clinched Pittsburgh's 34-20 victory over Georgia Tech on Thursday.
In the makeup of a game that was postponed last month because of COVID-19 issues, the Panthers (6-5, 5-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) finished off a winning regular season and defied their standing as one of the league's worst rushing teams.
Davis, whose previous high was 69 yards in last year's Quick Lane Bowl, eclipsed that on the first snap against Georgia Tech (3-7, 3-6).
The sophomore burst through a huge hole up the middle and took off with no one around, finally getting dragged down at the Georgia Tech 9 to set up the first of four short field goals by Alex Kessman.
“I knew then what type of day it was going to be,” Davis said.
He finished off his dynamic performance with a 38-yard touchdown run with 2 minutes remaining. Davis also had runs of 32 and 21 yards, averaging 9.9 yards on 25 carries.
“Everything was just perfect," he said. “The line came out and was doing its job. Everyone was executing. We just came out and took over.”
The Panthers totaled 317 yards on the ground after coming into the night ranked 13th in the ACC at 104.5 per game.
“We felt very dominant up front,” said center Jimmy Morrissey. “It was a fun game. Anytime you rush for that many yards, it's a good time.”
Kenny Pickett hooked up with DJ Turner on a 60-yard scoring pass and tallied Pittsburgh's other TD on a 1-yard sneak. But the Panthers missed numerous opportunities to blow the game open, getting stopped on a fourth-down play from the 1 and settling for all those field goals — none longer than 30 yards.
Georgia Tech freshman Jeff Sims ran for a 1-yard touchdown and tossed a pair of scoring passes — 21 yards to Jalen Camp and an 18-yarder to Dylan Deveney with 6:01 remaining that gave the Yellow Jackets a glimmer of hope after they fell behind 23-7 early in the second half.
But Davis snuffed out any thoughts of a comeback.
“My guys were battling all the way down to the very end,” Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins said. “I'm proud of the way they continued to fight."
Tempers flared throughout the game, including a scrum near the Pittsburgh sideline that resulted in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on both teams.
Afterward, Collins had a terse meeting at the center of the field with his Panthers counterpart, Pat Narduzzi.
Collins extended his hand for a shake, but quickly snatched it away and left Narduzzi looking befuddled.
“I told him, ‘Hey, you’ve got a great team,'" Narduzzi said. “He said, ”Baloney,' or some other nice words, and walked off. I don't know. I thought it was a good game."
Collins insisted that he didn't intend to get into it with Narduzzi, though but didn't sound too persuasive.
“I was just focused on getting our guys over to the band to celebrate,” Collins said. “I don't even remember what I said, to be honest with you.”
Pittsburgh: The Panthers were dreadful in the red zone, which allowed the Yellow Jackets to get back in the game. Pickett, who was 17 of 34 for 196 yards, needed to be more efficient.
Georgia Tech: Three first-half turnovers really hurt the Yellow Jackets. Sims tossed a pair of interceptions, one when he failed to spot the safety and another when his receiver slipped making a cut. Quez Jackson had an interception for the Yellow Jackets, but he fumbled the ball foolishly trying to lateral. The Panthers recovered and went on to kick a field goal.
The game was delayed about 5 minutes in the second quarter after a campus-wide power surge knocked out a bank of lights.
It was the second game in a row the lights have been an issue at Georgia Tech. A computer program for the stadium’s new light show froze up during a Nov. 28 victory over Duke, leading to a brief stoppage.
Pittsburgh had a full complement of available players, announcing shortly before the kickoff that no one was out because of COVID-related protocols
The teams were initially scheduled to meet Nov. 14, but the game was postponed because of a coronavirus outbreak within the Panthers program.
Pittsburgh: The regular season is over. The Panthers will now await a likely bowl invitation.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have another make-up game next Saturday at No. 9 Miami. The contest was originally scheduled for Nov. 21, but COVID-19 issues led to a postponement. It will now be played the same day as the ACC championship game between No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 4 Clemson.
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