The Syracuse Orange fell in a hole early and couldn’t dig out in a 27-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers. There was a lot to digest, ranging from continued O-line struggles to Tommy DeVito getting knocked out of the game (or maybe benched). Here are the three biggest takeaways:
We now know what’s behind DeVito
Tommy DeVito came into the game already banged up. First, he was wearing extra rib pads when he played. When playing, he didn’t look like himself because his deep balls were way off target and some of the intermediate throws lacked the oomph they usually carry. Then, DeVito went down and we got to see what Syracuse’s other options are.
Clayton Welch came in and immediately blew fans away with a 94-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline to Taj Harris. After that, he was pretty much what one would expect from a JUCO transfer who came in as a walk on. His completion rate of 8-of-20 proved pretty uninspiring and his 176 passing yards were mainly buoyed by that touchdown and a 40-yard completion to Trishton Jackson. It’s a positive sign that he picked up two touchdowns in the clutch, but the Orange need more in tight contests.
Tackling has to improve
Pitt had multiple big plays throughout the game, particularly on their final touchdown drive before halftime when A.J. Davis and Maurice Ffrench both wrangled out of arm tackles for big pickups. This was also evident on the plays that don’t necessarily catch the naked eye. Many of the 10ish yard gains were a result of tacklers taking bad angles and not being able to keep the ball carrier in their grasp. The inability to wrap up showed late too as Syracuse simply couldn’t wrestle down Davis to force Pitt to punt one more time up just a touchdown.
To give SU some benefit of the doubt, Ffrench, Davis and Taysir Mack are all very shifty options so it’s not the easiest task. But on the whole, the defense has to do a better job than they did.
The defensive lines, as expected, reigned supreme
Pitt entered the Dome tied for second in the country in team sacks, while Syracuse has the most depth at that position group. Unsurprisingly, both units performed very well. Aside from that stretch of Panthers dominance late in the first half, Kenny Pickett was always under pressure even though he was only sacked three times. As for Pitt, they continued running up the numbers by dropping Welch and DeVito a combined nine times, and getting at least a dozen more hits on the passers throughout the evening.
While Syracuse’s pressure was very effective early, it never resulted in the same sort of heavy pressure and sacks that Pitt’s did. Pitt’s line also seemed to adjust to the pressure, to some extent, as the Orange line wilted under the constant onslaught from the Panthers’ front.
The obvious takeaway is that SU’s offensive line is in dire straits. But you know that from watching, so we focus on the other side of that equation here (with notes for the Orange’s own efforts rushing the passer to balance things out a bit).
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