- Associated Press - Saturday, October 25, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson challenged his defense to get more aggressive after the Yellow Jackets gave up 579 yards in a loss to North Carolina a week ago.

Get after the ball, Johnson said. Attack instead of react.

Done and done. Over and over and over.

Georgia Tech overwhelmed mistake-prone Pittsburgh 56-28 on Saturday, recovering five fumbles in the first quarter alone and turning four of them into touchdowns to snap a two-game losing streak to get back in the race in the preposterously wide-open ACC Coastal Division, where six of the seven teams have at least two losses.

“We had lost two very tough games that we should’ve won, so we wanted to come up here and establish a tone,” linebacker Quayshawn Nealy said. “And I think we did that with all the turnovers. Coach talked about finishing, and we were able to do that with the victory.”

The Yellow Jackets (6-2, 3-2 ACC) recovered six fumbles in all, or five more than they recovered all season coming in. Pitt gave it away five times in its first 13 snaps.

“I was just thinking in my head, ‘Wow, did this just happen again?’” Nealy said. “But, at the same time, I wanted to keep doing it over and over again to get our offense back out on the field.”

Georgia Tech’s triple-option did the rest. The Yellow Jackets rolled up 615 total yards on the nation’s fourth-ranked defense. Their 56 points were the most ever by an opponent at Heinz Field.

Junior reserve running back Broderick Snoddy ran for 82 yards and three touchdowns. Converted quarterback Synjyn Days rushed for 110 yards and quarterback Justin Thomas passed for 147 yards and a score and added 92 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

James Conner rushed for 119 yards and three scores for Pitt but the Panthers never drew closer than 14 after spotting the Yellow Jackets a four-touchdown advantage. Pitt had 518 yards of total offense but was never really in it on a day the school broke out its old script logo on the helmets, hoping to provide a boost.

It didn’t happen. Not even close.

“We didn’t stop’em,” coach Paul Chryst said. “A couple times I thought we had a chance to get back in it and they made a play and we didn’t.”

A comical opening 10 minutes ended any hope Pitt had of building on a victory over Virginia Tech a week earlier. The Panthers fumbled four times in their first six plays, finding increasingly elaborate ways to give the Yellow Jackets the ball.

Pitt quarterback Chad Voytik fumbled on the game’s second snap when he was popped by Georgia Tech’s Isaiah Johnson on a read-option. Conner was inches away from a 75-yard touchdown run only to have D.J. White punch it out of Conner’s hands and out of bounds in the end zone for a touchback. Isaac Bennett was in the middle of getting pushed back for a loss only to have the ball come loose before getting to the ground. Tyler Boyd made an impressive spin to get out of a tackle following a short grab, only to have the ball knocked out while stretching for extra yardage.

The Yellow Jackets wasted little time turning each miscue into a touchdown, including a 79-yard catch-and-run by Charles Perkins and a pair of scoring sprints by Snoddy.

“We all said, like, ‘Seriously, this is happening again?’” Days said. “I’ve never seen anything like this. None of the guys did, but we were just excited that our defense was making plays out there and we were capitalizing on Pitt’s mistakes.”

There were plenty to go around.

At one point the Pitt student section chanted “Hold That Ball” out of exasperation. It didn’t work. Voytik botched a snap on the Panthers’ fifth possession and the Yellow Jackets fell on it once again, giving them five fumble recoveries in the first quarter, or four more than they had the entire season coming in.

The Panthers regrouped to draw within 28-14 at the half. Conner left briefly with a right knee injury but returned to score a pair of short touchdowns. The Panthers had a chance to draw closer late in the second quarter but Pitt chose to punt on fourth-and-3 from the Georgia Tech 43.

The Yellow Jackets missed a field goal to end the half but momentum had shifted. Georgia Tech opened the second half with a 75-yard touchdown drive, the final 28 coming on Snoddy’s third score. The junior came in with 61 yards on the season but surpassed that as a speedy outside alternative to the inside running of Thomas and Days, who was filling in for injured Zach Laskey.

“We wanted to come in and ruin their homecoming,” Days said. “We have ours next week (against Virginia), so I hope the same thing doesn’t happen to us.”

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