ATLANTA -- It may have been the most important reception of the season for Georgia Tech.
On third-and-17 midway in the fourth period, with momentum trending the wrong way, quarterback Vad Lee dropped back and heaved a prayer downfield. Somehow DeAndre Smelter, the baseball player-turned-football player, managed to climb over two defenders to snare the 42-yard completion at the 12 yard line.
Two plays later little Robert Godhigh motored in from the 11 for a touchdown. It gave the Yellow Jackets a 21-10 win over Pitt and ensure that the Yellow Jackets will be eligible to play in a bowl game for the 17th straight season.
"In the huddle coach (Paul) Johnson called a post corner," Smelter said. "I saw how the corner was playing me, so I wanted to give him a little bit to the post and keep an eye on the corner. When I saw that we had a little bit of room and Vad threw it, I knew I had to go up and make a good play on it."
The victory, the 700th for the proud program, was the third straight for Tech and improved its record to 6-3. The win was the highlight of the weekend's homecoming celebration.
"It means everything, because that's what you play college football for," Lee said. "Obviously you want to go to the big bowls and we realize that's still alive for us."
Much of the credit should go to Ted Roof's defense. Their defensive pressure, which included five sacks and 10 tackles behind the line, helped overcome a pair of turnovers. Pitt finished with minus-5 yards rushing, the eighth-best performance since 1960.
The Yellow Jackets ended any Pitt threat when Jemea Thomas came away with an interception with 33 seconds left.
"I think it was a team effort," defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu said. "Defensively as a unit we kept ourselves up and just played. Nothing really different."
Lee completed 5 of 10 passes for 84 yards. Three of those catches went to Smelter for 64 yards. David Sims rushed 18 times for 94 yards and one touchdown and Godhigh carried six times for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
Georgia Tech wasted no time taking the lead. After forcing Pitt to go three-and-out, thanks to a third-down sack by Jeremiah Attaochu, The Yellow Jackets covered 64 yards in seven plays, with David Sims scoring on a 12-yard run, his ninth rushing touchdown of the season.
Tech was moving toward a second score when the drive was stopped by a fumble. Quarterback Vad Lee was running left and made a high pitch to David Sims, who fumbled. Pitt's Matt Galambos recovered at the 22.
Pitt didn't get a first down in the first quarter, when Tech outgained the Panthers 131-1.
But the momentum seemed to shift early in the second quarter when Tech failed to convert a fourth-and-5 at the Pitt 36. The Panthers, aided by a roughing the pass penalty, moved into Tech territory for the first time and reached the 26 before stalling. The Panthers were forced to settle for a 44-yard field goal from Chris Blewitt, which cut Tech's lead to 7-3 with 9:48.
Tech responded with a touchdown, thanks to a nervy fourth-down call. Stuck at midfield and facing fourth-and-5, Sean Poole lined up in punt formation, but instead raced around the left side for a 12-yard gain and a first down. Two plays later A-back Robert Godhigh took a pitch and raced around the left side, slipped through the arms of Pitt's Ray Vinopal and wound up with a 35-yard touchdown. It put ahead 14-3 with 5:58 left in the half.
Tech took the second-half kick and couldn't move the ball. This time Poole actually punted, but struck it poorly and it went for only 28 yards. Savage connected with a series of precision passes to get the Panthers moving and hit freshman Tyler Boyd for 12-yard touchdown with 10:04 left.
Tech committed its second turnover midway in the third period. At the 39, Sims took the ball up the middle and fumbled where it was recovered by Darryl Render. But the Tech defense held firm and forced the Panthers to punt.
Although he was harassed non-stop, Pitt quarterback Tom Savage completed 25 of 37 passes for 233 yards. But his longest gain was for 17 yards. Boyd lived up to his billing with 11 receptions for 118 yards.
Another Pitt player who lived up to expectations was defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The 285-pound senior had 11 solo tackles, one sack, six tackles for loss and forced two fumbles.