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Second half thread: Syracuse 10, Pittsburgh 10

The defense led the way for a confusing half

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

A year after combining for the highest scoring output in the modern football era, the first quarter between the Syracuse Orange (2-3) and Pittsburgh Panthers (2-3) resulted in six straight three-and-outs and the Orange up 3-0. In the quarter, neither team produced any offense and both defenses looked stout.

Pittsburgh responded with a touchdown on their opening drive in the second quarter making it 7-3 and maintained control for most of the game. The Orange have 215 yards passing and 23 yards rushing concluding their first drive of the quarter with their fourth three-and-out in five possessions, ending the half converting just once on nine third down attempts and just one for two on fourth.

However, things finally got rolling again when Eric Dungey connected with Devin C. Butler for a touchdown (Butler’s first at SU).

Defensively, Syracuse has held up and been at their best when pressuring Max Browne. The Orange currently have two QB hurries and three tackles for loss. When at their best, Syracuse’s defense is getting after the quarterback and will need to continue to do that in the second half in order to get the win.

In order to win this game Syracuse will need to make two halftime adjustments, the first along the offensive line. The zone blitz has given Syracuse’s front five fits all game long. The Orange offense came out with an emphasis on the vertical passing game but Dungey hasn’t had the time to get the ball down field. The touchdown at the end of the half was a product of timing and synergy between quarterback and receiver. If the offensive line can hold up, Syracuse will have more opportunities to open their offense up.

The second adjustment, pressure defense. When Browne has a chance to throw, he’s looked good. During a second quarter drive he was able to carve up the Orange secondary for 63 yards by reading zone coverages and making the right throw. The drive resulted in a field goal, but if Brian Ward and his defense figure the right mix of pressure and coverage, Syracuse may be able to pull way in the second half.

We’re all tied up at 10-10, the Orange will be kicking off to start the third quarter.