Syracuse and Pittsburgh is the least rivalrious rivalry in all of college football. (No, that's not a word, but you understand it, don't you?).
For a rivalry that dates back to 1916, has been a yearly deal since 1955 and is so evenly matched (Pitt leads 32-30-3), you'd think everyone would have their calendars circled for this one every season. And yet...it's a game that doesn't even register on the national landscape. Hell, it barely registers on the local one. There is no trophy to play for. There is no deep-seated hatred. Certainly we want to beat them and they want to beat us but for some reason or another, this game just doesn't go to the next level.
Still, you can't play each other for so long without collecting a few gems along the way. There is gold in them hills if you're willing to dig for it. And so I give you the ten best Syracuse-Pittsburgh games from the near-century old rivalry.
I cribbed a lot of this from the rivalry chapter of How To Grow An Orange. I'm sure the author won't mind...
1916 - And so it begins. Pittsburgh kicks off the rivalry by handing the Orangemen a 30-0 schmissing. After the game, Pitt coach Walter Camp said of his Panthers "This team's play is perfect. They are a most wonderful team. Pitt is a marvelous combination. The greatest eleven in America." Geez, full of ourselves much, Walt?
1923 - The Orangemen and Panthers met in Yankee Stadium this year, the first college football game ever to be played there. Syracuse held on in front of 30,000 for a 3-0 victory. Shutouts were kinda SU's thing that year. They pitched seven of them en route to an 8-1 record.
1960 - Defending National Champion Syracuse came into the game ranked No. 1 in the nation. They would leave on the wrong side of a 10-0 defeat to Pitt. The loss snapped Syracuse's 22-game winning streak. Ernie Davis had one of his worst games of the season against a strong Panthers defensive front.
1965 - The rivalry returned to New York City, this time Shea Stadium. This time there would be no shutout. Instead, Syracuse put a Queens beat-down on the Panthers thanks to a backfield consisting of Floyd Little, Larry Csonka and Tom Coughlin. Little’s 95-yard touchdown run sealed a 51-13 romp.
1983 - Pat Viancourt. It’s a name that not many folks in Pittsburgh knew before this game, let alone Syracuse fans. He wasn’t even listed in the program that day. But it will be a name that they both remember for a long time. With eleven seconds on the clock and the game tied 10-10, the Panthers needs a prayer. Their starting kicker was injured and his back-up had missed two field goals earlier in the day. So, the freshman walk-on went in and all he did was kick a 43-yard field goal to win the game 13-10.
1990 - Syracuse followed up their tie with Michigan State a week earlier by tying Pitt the following week, the last time a game between the two teams would end in a stalemate. SU had the game in the bag when they scored a late touchdown. On the extra-point kick, Pitt's Mark Gunn blocked the attempt and Doug Hetzler returned the ball 90 yards to give the Panthers two points, making it 20-12. Then Alex Van Pelt hit Olanda Truitt on a 25-yard touchdown pass play with 1:30 left. The two-point conversation was good and the Orangemen were unable to break the tie before time expired.
1991 - According to the reports, SU players referred to this as "the most gut-wrenching game they had played all season." Considering the Orangemen had four fumbles, two interceptions and were down ten points at one juncture, they certainly didn't make it easy for themselves. RB David Walker decided that no matter what, he wasn't going to let SU lose. Walker scored four touchdowns, including the game-winner with nine seconds left on he clock to give Syracuse a 31-27 victory, one of the most hard-fought they've ever earned.
2000 - Pittsburgh jumped out to an early 9-0 lead before Syracuse kicked a field goal and Troy Nunes hit David Tyree on a 65-yard TD pass to make it 10-9 at the half. The Orangemen extended their lead to 17-9 and seemed in position to win until Pitt’s R.J. English scored from eight-yards out. He also converted the two-point conversion and the game went to OT. Both teams missed field goal tries in the first extra frame but Nunes found Tyree again in the end zone to give SU a 24-17 lead. Pitt couldn’t covert and Syracuse held on.
2004 - The Orange were trying to keep hopes alive for their first bowl game in three years, Pitt was trying to maintain their place among the Big East leaders. SU led 21-13 at the half but Pitt stormed back ahead for a 24-21 lead late. Collin Barber kicked a 27-yard field goal with 71 seconds left in regulation to send the game into OT.
In the first overtime, Tyler Palko hit Joe DelSardo with a 9-yard scoring pass for Pitt, but Perry Patterson tied it for Syracuse on a 3-yard run. With starter Walter Reyes out, Damien Rhodes ran the ball six times in seven plays and set up the Orange TD. On Pitt's possession, linebacker Kellen Pruitt and safety Diamond Ferri stopped RB Raymond Kirkley for no gain on fourth down to preserve the win.
2008 - Syracuse was in the midst of the wretched Greg Robinson Era where quality wins were few and far between. It seems though that the Orange were finally going to pull through in this one as they led 24-13 in the third quarter. However the Panthers rallied late and ended up tying the game in the fourth quarter. The Orange now had the ball and a chance to win.
With the offense sputtering, SU needed a spark. Starting running back and workhouse Curtis Brinkley was the obvious selection but instead, Robinson decided this would be the perfect time to give untested freshman Antwon Bailey his first carry of the season. Bailey was subsequently stuffed, the SU offense collapsed and Pitt scored on the next drive to steal a 20-17 win. Robinson claims that he sent in Bailey because Brinkley was out of breathe and unable to play, something that Brinkley flatly denied after the game. Greg Robinson, ladies and gentlemen.
Alright, now it's your turn to point out all the great games I missed...