The Syracuse Orange (4-8, 2-6 in ACC) dropped its season finale on Saturday, losing to the Pittsburgh Panthers (8-4, 5-3 in ACC) by a basketball-like final score of 76-61, the highest-scoring game in FBS history.
Here are three things we learned by Syracuse’s season finale.
Babers Will Do Babers
Typically when you’re forced to play your backup quarterback because your starter goes down with an injury, you try to lean on your run game and not ask too much of your backup.
Well, Dino Babers likes to do things differently at Syracuse. Playing from behind for most of the game, the Orange head coach decided to have backup Zack Mahony throw it 61 – yes, SIXTY-ONE – times in Syracuse’s loss.
The 61 pass attempts by Mahoney vastly exceeded his previous career-high of 36 and were just five short of tying former Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib’s school record of 66. Not even starter Eric Dungey attempted as many passes this season. His career high is 53, a mark he set in Syracuse’s upset win over Virginia Tech earlier this season.
While game flow most likely was a large factor in Babers’ decision to air it out, the incredible number of pass attempts also shows that Babers will stick to his offensive philosophy no matter who is in the game.
After poor performances by Mahoney against Clemson, NC State and Florida State, there was little faith the former walk-on would be able to lead the Orange to an upset win in Syracuse’s season finale. While Mahoney – who was recently seen sporting a MAGNIFICENT mustache – fell far short of accomplishing that feat, he did have his best performance of his Syracuse career.
Mahoney finished the afternoon 43-of-61 passing for 440 yards, five touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for 49 yards and two more scores.
Mahoney, who never completed more than 50 percent of his passes in any of his previous six starts, completed 70 percent of his passes against Pitt. While Mahoney missed on a couple of deep throws – including one in the first half to Amba Etta-Tawo that could have resulted in a long touchdown – he showed enough poise with his short and medium throws to keep the Syracuse offense afloat.
While Mahoney will never make a legitimate argument to start for the Orange, Saturday’s outing at least showed he could be a serviceable backup behind Eric Dungey (and potentially Tommy DeVito, depending on if the highly-touted recruit lives up to the hype, as well) next season.
Saturday was a record-setting game for Syracuse – and not in a good way.
If the final score wasn’t a clear enough indication, Syracuse’s defense was gashed by Pitt on Saturday, giving up 69 points and 644 total yards (Pitt’s defense scored on a pick-six).
Both the 76 points Syracuse gave up on Saturday and the 463 points the Orange allowed over the course of the entire season set new infamous Syracuse records.
Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman finished the game with 251 passing yards and four touchdowns, and James Conner and Quadree Henderson combined for 218 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
After three years under former coach Scott Shafer, Syracuse switched to a Tampa-2 scheme under Babers. The first-year Syracuse coach has repeatedly said it has been a difficult adjustment for his team. After previously showing progress in recent weeks, Syracuse’s defense looked completely lost on Saturday – which is, obviously, not the way you want to close your season.
What else did you learn from Syracuse’s season finale loss to Pitt? Leave a comment below and let us know.