Syracuse entered the Dome coming off a tough loss, playing behind a banged up quarterback, desperately trying to move back above .500. And 60 minutes of football later, an already dinged Tommy DeVito got knocked out of the game and backup Clayton Welch couldn’t do enough as SU fell to Pitt 27-20.
“We’re hurting in (the locker room),” head coach Dino Babers said. “We need to regroup and we need to go back and we really need to check ourselves.”
It was a back and forth game at the outset.
After a streak of consecutive 10 to 15-yard completions, Pitt quickly found itself with 1st and 10 at SU’s 33. After a 3-yard run from Kenny Pickett, the Orange defensive line brought intense pressure to force a pair of incompletions. However, Panthers kicker Alex Kessman delivered from 47 yards out to put Pittsburgh ahead 3-0.
The next drive, SU was forced to punt from their own 20 after three, but Pitt return man Maurice Ffrench bobbled the fair catch and Cameron Jordan recovered to give the Orange the ball back at the Panthers 46. Syracuse’s offense made it into the red zone, but stalled there as Andre Szmyt tied the game at 3 with a 28-yard field goal.
The Panthers responded with another strong start to a drive that put them in plus territory in just three plays. Then, on second down, Kenny Pickett pitched the ball away, got it back and and launched it downfield for a wide open Aaron Matthews beyond the secondary for a 43-yard touchdown that put Pittsburgh back out in front 10-3.
At the start of the second quarter, Syracuse came out firing and quickly moved into the red zone. But SU again failed to punch it in, calling on Andre Szmyt to split the uprights and cut the deficit to four.
Pittsburgh began running away with it near the end of the first half. AJ Davis finished a long drive with a 5-yard touchdown run, which was followed by a 14-yard touchdown pass from Pickett to Ffrench that gave the Panthers a 24-6 edge heading into the locker room.
Early in the third quarter, Syracuse got pinned back at their own five on a punt followed by a block in the back. On the second play of that drive, DeVito scrambled up the middle and took a hard hit that knocked him out of the game. The very next play, Clayton Welch was unexpectedly thrown in at QB.
“I felt hurt,” Welch said. “1-3 is my brother and will always be my brother and I went out there for the team.”
He had made his way onto the field for a few sporadic plays in the first half. On the first play he was thrust back into action, he launched a deep ball down the left sideline that Taj Harris grabbed and scampered for a 94-yard touchdown that sliced Pitt’s lead to 24-13.
The Panthers broke a long scoreless stretch when Alex Kessman nailed a 34-yard field goal in the 4th quarter. Then, after converting on a crucial fourth down in the red zone, Welch tossed a quick hit pass to Aaron Hackett before the tight end dolphin dove into the end zone to make it a one score game.
However, the SU defense couldn’t keep Pitt from moving past the sticks and the Panthers ran out the clock.
With the Orange now 3-4 on the season, 2019 has not gone according to plan. Nevertheless, Babers said the goals don’t change.
“We really do want to win for the family for the community and administration,” Babers added. “We really do we really want to do well but just really wanting something is not enough.”