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Final score: Syracuse 27, Pittsburgh 24

It was scary for a bit, but the Orange pulled it off.

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

In the week leading up to Saturday’s game between the Syracuse Orange and Pittsburgh Panthers, Dino Babers said he wanted to start fast. SU did, earning a 3-0 lead on the first drive. But after that, it was a lot of stops and starts en route to a 27-24 victory over Pitt.

Syracuse scored a late second quarter touchdown to tie it at 10 going into halftime, but it was largely the defense that kept the Orange hanging around until the offense warmed up. Pitt started the game 0-for-10 on third down conversions, in large part aided by SU’s stingy front seven.

As we’ve come to expect, Syracuse’s offense started warming up in the third quarter, turning a 10-10 tie into a 20-17 advantage at the end of that stanza. Eric Dungey threw for over 350 yards and two touchdowns (plus another on the ground). Four different SU receivers hauled in five or more passes on the day. Ervin Philips led the Orange again with eight catches (for just 55 yards, however).

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Ishmael was heavily covered all game, but still grabbed five passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. Devin C. Butler caught the other TD for SU; his first as a member of the Orange. Ravian Pierce also had a breakout performance, catching nine passes and trucking defenders as he felt necessary.

Though the run game was wildly inconsistent, there were some bright spots there as well. Dontae Strickland ran for a season-high 80 yards and actually made some key conversions for the Orange.

Pitt got the game within three points at about the seven-minute mark, but the Orange managed to eat some clock from there to keep the score at 27-24. But it was not THAT easy. Syracuse failed to convert on fourth and one at the Pitt 5, which turned it over to the Panthers with under a minute to play. However, the Panthers couldn’t get into field goal range after Ryan Guthrie made a huge sack on first down.

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

The Orange defense has been conservative on the sack front all season and were again today. However, they still got ample pressure on Pitt throughout, which eventually led to an injury for Panthers QB Max Browne. That brought in Ben Dinucci, who’s a bit more mobile and threw the Orange for a loop during the third and fourth quarters.

Syracuse finished with over 500 yards and 26 first downs on the game, plus zero turnovers. They were also 3-for-4 on fourth down. Though it wasn’t the prettiest game, it was a win. And SU is now 3-3 overall and 1-1 in the ACC. Pitt falls to 2-4 and 0-2 in the conference.

The Orange’s bowl chances are still very much alive, thankfully. More recap posts to come.