They say that history repeats itself, and for the Syracuse Orange (3-4, 0-3) they seem to relive the same game repeatedly. Coming off of a loss against the N.C. State Wolfpack in which they were had to resort to a second half comeback to make the game close, the theme of falling behind in games against P5 competition occurred again Friday night in their loss at the hands of the Pittsburgh Panthers (5-2, 2-1).
Here, we look at some of the key plays in GIF form:
1. (12:19 - 1st) 1st & 10 at Syracuse’s 23-yard line: One of the many questions for the Syracuse offense was how would they counter the aggressive Panthers defense? It looked like they had planned for the rush as out of the gate as Tommy Devito found Trishton Jackson with a quick pass over the middle. Jackson may have been thinking end zone as he dropped what could have been a touchdown or at worst a very long gain to set up the Orange offense.
2. (9:47 - 1st) 3rd & 1 at Pittsburgh’s 34-yard line: Coming out of high school, Chris Elmore had been recruited by other schools as a defensive lineman. While he’s played tight end for the majority of his time at Syracuse, injuries on the defensive side of the ball provided him with the chance to go back to his roots. On a third and short from their own 34, Pittsburgh tried to execute the same play for a third consecutive time. “Rhino” as Elmore is called, bulldozed his way into the backfield where he stopped Vincent Davis for a four yard loss.
3. (8:16 - 1st) 3rd & 9 at Pittsburgh’s 46-yard line: The offensive line’s blocking woes have been well documented throughout the season. They were highlighted coming into Friday’s game as Pittsburgh is one of the most disruptive units in terms of finding their way into the backfield. This play on third and long was of the more troubling variety for the offensive line as a four man front was able to find their way past seven Orange blockers to bring Devito down for their second sack of the night.
4. (5:54 - 1st) 3rd & 7 at Syracuse’s 29-yard line: It took Pitt three drives, but they’d finally cross the Orange side of the field. Kendall Coleman’s pressure off of the edge forced Kenny Pickett to get rid of it much sooner than he wanted. By not taking the sack, the Panthers were able to remain in field goal range of which they used to take the early lead.
5. (5:28 - 1st) 4th & 15 at Syracuse’s 20-yard line: The pursuit of Abdul Adams and Cameron Jordan on the punt team proves to be beneficial for the Orange once more as Maurice Ffrench coughed up the ball due to the pressure the duo provided.
6. (5:13 - 1st) 2nd & 15 at Syracuse’s 49-yard line: Among the problems on the offensive side of the ball that have resulted in their efficiency dropping is communication among the receiving corps. While Devito’s pass was retrieved by Nykeim Johnson, Sean Riley was also in the vicinity and deflected the ball. The Orange would put themselves on the scoreboard with a 28 yard field goal.
7. (1:32 - 1st) 1st & 10 at Syracuse’s 43-yard line: In scouting the Orange defense, Pat Narduzzi saw something in the N.C. State game that he could exploit as his team came prepared with a bag of tricks. Much like the Wolf Pack did last Thursday, the Panthers offense caught the Syracuse defense asleep at the wheel as Pickett, off of a reception himself, found Aaron Mathews behind the SU secondary to go into the end zone untouched.
8. (15:00 - 2nd) 3rd & 6 at Syracuse’s 42-yard line: An appearance by Clayton Welch wasn’t expected by anyone much less the Pittsburgh defense. Hoping to add some versatility to the Orange offense, Dino Babers put the senior under center and let him put his legs to work. Calling a zone read, Welch took the fake handoff from Riley and ran it up the gut for a 23 yard gain to the Pitt 35.
9. (13:22 - 2nd) 1st & Goal at Pittsburgh’s 4-yard line: Looking to tie the game, Syracuse employed a familiar set against Pitt’s goal line defense. Sending the tight ends out wide to pull the linebackers and safeties towards them in order to free up the wide receivers, Devito targeted Jackson who was tightly covered by Dane Jackson. Although it was a ball that could have been caught, would it have been six on the board had Tommy threw it to Taj Harris over the middle instead? SU settled for a field goal as their offense stalled again in the red zone.
10. (5:44 - 2nd) 3rd & 6 at Syracuse’s 35-yard line: Following a Sterling Hofrichter punt from the end zone, the SU defense looked hold firm on the short side of the field by forcing a long field goal. Sending four, Maurice Ffrench was able to get past Trill Williams where he brought in a Pickett reception for 22 yards. Pitt would extend their lead to 11 points on a rushing touchdown two plays later.
11. (00:28 - 2nd) 1st & 10 at Pittsburgh’s 42-yard line: With under three to go before the half, Brian Ward’s unit wasn’t able to get stops when necessary. Two third down conversions and a pass interference on the drive aided the Panthers march down into the Orange red zone. Facing a man defense, Pickett used a back shoulder throw to Ffrench to give Pitt an 18 point lead into the locker room.
12. (11:25 - 3rd) 3rd & 9 at Syracuse’s 6-yard line: Welch would take over the QB position for the rest of the night after Devito took a crushing hit to the shoulder on the Orange’s first possession of the second half that knocked him out of the game. On his first play from scrimmage in the third, Clayton connected with Harris for a 94 yard touchdown reception; the second longest in school history.
13. (4:10 - 1st) 3rd & 4 at Pittsburgh’s 44-yard line: Up until this point in the game, the Pitt offense had been 7/13 in third down situations. Using a stunt to blow by Carter Warren, Josh Black racked up one of his two sacks on the evening and forced a punt in the process.
14. (14:18 - 4th) 4th & 13 at Pittsburgh’s 32-yard line: False starts and sacks have haunted the Orange offensive line through the first seven games of the season. During a drive that looked promising, a penalty at the 20 and a sack at the 25 pushed the Orange out of the red zone for an Andre Szmyt field goal attempt. Seeking to whittle down the Pitt lead, Szmyt hooked a kick wide left to leave the drive empty handed.
15. (7:04 - 4th) 1st & 10 at Syracuse’s 25-yard line: One of Trishton Jackson’s strongest traits is his ability to track the ball. Off of a play action pass, Jackson warded off a Pitt defender to bring in Welch’s throw for a 40 yard completion.
16. (2:48 - 4th) 2nd & Goal at Pittsburgh’s 7-yard line: The Orange capped off a 15 play, 4:19 long drive with a trip into the Pittsburgh end zone. Surrounded by three Panthers, Aaron Hackett was on the receiving end of a Welch throw to bring SU within a touchdown with over two minutes remaining.
17. (2:03 - 4th) 1st & 10 at Pittsburgh’s 35-yard line: Could the Orange defense make a big play to set the offense up for a shot to take the game into overtime? It looked to be that way as Kenneth Ruff took the ball away from Vincent Davis. The play was subjected to review and to the surprise of Syracuse, the referees ruled that Davis’ knee was down despite the footage being inconclusive of when the ball was stripped. The Panthers would go on to milk the clock to send SU to their fourth defeat of the season.
With their second consecutive loss and a record under .500, the Orange now find themselves with their backs against the wall and no room for error remaining. Syracuse heads down to Tallahassee for a match up against a desperate Florida State Seminoles team that is also in danger of missing out on a bowl game. The questions that were asked prior to this game will also be revisited this time with the status of Tommy DeVito in the air. If the Orange are looking to revive their postseason hopes, a victory at Doak Campbell this Saturday would go a long way in doing that.