Coming off of a close loss to Clemson last week, it looked like the Syracuse Orange could’ve been a very winnable game against the Pittsburgh Panthers away from being ranked. Instead, SU drops its second straight game — a 44-37 overtime defeat.
The loss drops Syracuse to 4-2 on the year and 1-2 in conference play. Of course, it didn’t have to be this way.
SU started out hot, up 14-0 within minutes using a quick passing game and a timely fumble recovery. Eric Dungey looked crisp and accurate. The Orange looked to pick up right where they left off a couple Saturdays ago against UConn. But then Pitt got rolling on the ground, and never really looked back.
A 69-yard Qadree Ollison score was followed up with a scoop and score off a Dungey fumble. It was 14-14, then 17-14 and finally 20-14 in the second quarter before the Orange managed to add an Andre Szmyt field goal to cut the deficit to three before the break.
Pitt would score another easy touchdown in the opening seconds of the third quarter to make it 27-17 before a weather delay stopped play for over an hour. For what it’s worth, Syracuse did use that time to regroup a bit, making timely stops on defense throughout the third quarter and finding themselves on offense a bit. After struggling for over a quarter throwing the ball, Dungey seemed to find his rhythm again as the third progressed, helping set up a few scores and sport a 31-27 lead heading into the final quarter.
Poor run defense and settling for field goals would be the story of the remainder of the game, though. Szmyt stretched the lead to seven early on at 34-27, but Pitt matched soon after on the ground. Syracuse was able to gain a three-point advantage by way of a booming 51-yard kick from Szmyt. However, Pitt’s Alex Kessman tied it at 37-all just before time expired.
Overtime went predictably for a team that was struggling to stop the run and is not necessarily great at punching it into the end zone from close. Pitt ran the ball right into the end zone, then Dungey — who had one of his worst games in awhile — lofted a pass up to Nykeim Johnson in double coverage. The end zone try was picked and SU lost, following the needless risk.
You probably don’t want to talk much about this disaster, and we don’t have to. Syracuse allowed 265 rushing yards (5.6 yards per carry) and Pitt was happy to take the easy chunks they were giving up in the second half. SU’s offense looked sort of balanced with 177 rushing yards and 195 through the air, but most of those gains were from big plays. Otherwise, it was a woefully poor effort on both ends for the Orange. Offensively play-calling was lacking throughout and the defense couldn’t stop Pitt’s run even when they knew it was coming.
The bye week couldn’t come at a better time as this team has some issues to figure out all around now (save special teams, which continued to be an asset). Try to breathe and regroup with the week off. Hopefully Syracuse does the same after a demoralizing loss that certainly makes the pipedreams of top-25 rankings and nine-win seasons look a bit foolish in hindsight.