Oct 3, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) passes against the North Carolina State Wolfpack during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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Pitt places confidence in Pickett vs. Georgia Tech

When Pitt faces Georgia Tech on Saturday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, the Panthers feel confident they will have the difference-maker.

That would be senior quarterback Kenny Pickett.

Pickett missed two games because of a left ankle injury, then returned last week to lead Pitt (4-4, 3-4 ACC) to a 41-17 blowout win at Florida State, ending the team’s four-game losing streak.

Against the Seminoles, Pickett was 21 of 27 passing for 210 yards despite not being back to full health.

“When Kenny Pickett is in the game, it’s a different ballgame whether he can scramble or not,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. “Again, he wasn’t full go, and I think he came out of that game feeling really good, which is a positive, so he’ll be a week healthier this week as we go, and then maybe there’s some opportunities to run him a little bit more if we have to.”

Despite missing the two games, Pickett has passed for 1,599 yards and eight touchdowns, with three interceptions. He is completing 62.3 percent of his throws.

Georgia Tech (2-5, 2-4), which is coming off a 31-13 loss to Notre Dame on Halloween, has a quarterback to watch, too.

Freshman Jeff Sims has completed 55.9 percent of his throws for 1,346 yards and eight touchdowns with 10 interceptions. He understands he needs to be more consistent, something the Yellow Jackets worked on during their off week.

“We tend to hurt ourselves a lot, and we can’t do that,” Sims said.

Narduzzi recruited Sims out of Jacksonville and likes the upside for the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder.

“I think he’s going to be sharp, and he’s got a nice arm,” Narduzzi said. “He’s smooth. He knows he can read coverages. You see him look off stuff — he’ll go over here and go from one, two, three, so you see him reading the field. He’s not just throwing (run-pass options). But they will throw some RPOs for sure this weekend.”

The Panthers are 4-1 against Georgia Tech under Narduzzi. Last year’s 10-point Pitt win, 20-10, was the largest margin of those five games. In two other meetings, the Panthers had a game-winning field goal.

If Georgia Tech, a young team, can break through this time against Pitt, it could go a long way toward making the team’s rebuilding effort seem more successful, especially coming off a tough loss to a Fighting Irish team that was ranked No. 4 when they played.

“I still have high spirits for this team,” Yellow Jackets safety Juanyeh Thomas said.

It’s the second year in a row Pitt is playing this game on the road, a product of the conference’s revamped schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’ll be a tough game. It was a tough game a year ago when we went down there, and I guess we have to go to Georgia two years in a row,” Narduzzi said. “I don’t know how that plays out with the ACC scheduling in the future, but I hope they have to come to Pittsburgh two years in a row, as well.”

For the Yellow Jackets, receiver Ryan King sustained a season-ending undisclosed injury against Notre Dame, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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