ATLANTA (AP) — Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi says Georgia Tech quarterback Jeff Sims' composure under pressure is impressive for a freshman.
Pitt's fierce pass rush will be a new test for Sims' ability to remain poised in the pocket on Saturday night.
“I think he’s going to be sharp, and he’s got a nice arm,” Narduzzi said of Sims. “He’s smooth. He knows he can read coverages."
Pitt (4-4, 3-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) leads the nation with almost five sacks per game.
Georgia Tech (2-5, 2-4) will try to snap a three-game losing streak, including a 31-13 loss to No. 4 Notre Dame on Oct. 31. Notre Dame had nine tackles behind the line, five sacks and two forced fumbles.
The Yellow Jackets' losing streak began with a 73-7 loss to then-No. 1 Clemson on Oct. 17, when Sims was sacked four times. Of the 15 sacks allowed by Georgia Tech this season, 13 have come in the last three games.
That's a tough stretch for any quarterback, especially a first-year player. Georgia Tech offensive coordinator Dave Pattenaude says Sims is surviving “through the bumps he’s had to live through.”
“He’s going to make some great throws,” Pattenaude said. “He’s going to miss some reads here or there, but I’m going to tell you that in the long run we’re going to be all really excited to watch this dude play quarterback because he can be elite.”
Sims threw eight interceptions with three touchdown passes in his first three games. He has thrown only two interceptions with five TD passes in his last four games.
“The biggest thing for me is in my head I’m thinking either throw it away or take a sack because I’ve got to limit turnovers,” Sims said.
In a scheduling quirk resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, Pitt is playing at Georgia Tech for the second consecutive season. This is only the third time Georgia Tech has played an ACC opponent at home in consecutive years since joining the league in 1983.
The scheduling oddity certainly caught Narduzzi's attention.
“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,” Narduzzi said.
The Panthers' offense that struggled while senior quarterback Kenny Pickett missed two games due to an ankle injury roared to life in his return last week in a 41-17 romp over Florida State. Pickett threw for 210 yards without a pick. He even ran for a touchdown with his ankle still not close to 100%.
Narduzzi believes the presence of Pickett, a three-year starter, provided an emotional lift.
“Well, I think naturally everybody has a little bit more confidence in the guy that’s done it for ... the million reps,” Narduzzi said.
UNDER THE LIGHTS
Georgia Tech rarely plays Saturday night home games. Its recent home record on Saturday nights indicates more games should be scheduled under the lights. The Yellow Jackets have seven straight wins at Bobby Dodd Stadium in games played on Saturday night since a loss to Georgia in 2009.
This will be the Yellow Jackets' first home game on a Saturday night since beating Miami 27-21 on Nov. 10, 2018. Under Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech is 2-0 in home night games, but those wins against North Carolina State in 2018 and Louisville this season were played on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
Sims is the only Power 5 quarterback to have three games with at least 240 yards passing and 60 yards rushing this season. He has rushed for 277 yards with four touchdowns. He has passed for 1,346 yards with eight TDs and 10 interceptions.
IN A RUSH
Pitt is on pace to lead the nation in sacks for a second straight year. The Panthers' average of 4.75 sacks per game is the most of any team which has played at least three games.
Linebacker SirVocea Dennis and defensive linemen Patrick Jones II and Rashad Weaver top the ACC in tackles for loss. Dennis lead the league with 13.
AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.
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