The Syracuse Orange saw their hopes at extending the season into bowl territory leave them this year, as the Pittsburgh Panthers came into the
Carrier Dome Stadium and left with a 31-14 victory. The loss puts the Orange at 5-7 on the season and out of bowl contention.
The Syracuse offense is consistently inconsistent.
Garrett Shrader and the offensive unit are about as streaky as you can possibly get. Shrader had 59 yards passing in the first drive, that’s more than against Louisville and almost as many as he had the NC State matchup. The rest of the first half, The second drive of the second half included all the things we’ve wanted out of this offense, tempo, pump fakes, accurate throws, and a touchdown. The drives between the first one and that one were the complete opposite of that. It’s not going to ever be known if that’s a Shrader thing, a Gilbert thing, or something that no one has any clue about, but the streakiness was definitely apparent.
At the half, the Orange had run Sean Tucker 10 times for 29 yards, and Shrader had run 11 times for a total of 1 yard. Pitt blanketed the Syracuse run game for most of the night, and kept their best weapon in Tucker from being a factor. The combination of the defense called by Pitt and the play of the Syracuse line in the run block game really didn’t help out things for anyone on the ground. That said, if you’re not going to run your best threat, getting him a swing pass in space would seem like a great idea. Unfortunately Tucker only got 15 total touches in the game, and only 4 of those, somehow, coming in the second half.
The line repeatedly kept the offense out of manageable situations as well. In the first half, there were back to back third downs that Darius Tisdale, then Matthew Bergeron gave up bad outside speed rush sacks. With time running down in the fourth, Tisdale again let his man beat him outside, losing his hips and his man teeing off on Shrader.
Coach speak: Control the controllables.
Penalties and odd decisions also led to some situations for the offensive side of the ball. At one point, they were whistled for back to back unsportsmanlike conducts on Kalan Ellis and Darius Tisdale, really killing any chance of getting something going on offense to answer Pitt’s second touchdown. Another point, the team accepted a delay of game on third and long, setting up a punt with 1:03 left and two timeouts remaining? Seems an odd choice.
Early in the second half, Stefon Thompson came up with a great sack, but it was pulled back on a facemask, ultimately leading to to a touchdown reception for Gavin Bartholomew. Duce Chestnut’s great pick was returned and left the offense on the five, instead of kneeling for a touchback. That led to another Pitt score after the punt.
Late in the game when the Orange needed to put points on the board, there was little to no sense of urgency from Garrett Shrader at the line of scrimmage. There were numerous times where he took sacks where throwing the ball away would have been apt. All in all, the game management wasn’t the worst the Orange have showed on the year, but it wasn’t great by any stretch. Combine that with an offensive game plan that was all over the place, and the night was a long one.
This defense kept Pitt relatively in check.
Tony White’s defense showed up at the start, forcing a four and out. Followed it up with a few solid drives, until Pitt decided to pound the ball up the gut and force a reaction from the unit. Overall they had a solid first half, holding the No. 17 team in the country to only 14 points and 152 yards, only giving up a short field dime over the top to Jordan Addison and the sustained drive that ended with a Rodney Hammond touchdown. The first half was as much as you could expect from the defense. Kenny Pickett was kept in relative check with only 209 yards passing on the day, though that included 4 touchdowns.
Mikel Jones (17 tackles), Marlowe Wax (10 tackles) and Stefon Thompson (10 tackles) all looked decent on the day, though the interior run game was much more porous than it has been in past weeks. It’s possible it was an overcorrection for the holes to the exterior in the past few weeks, that left that seam open. It’s also possible that Pitt’s line opened holes that let Hammond and Davis hit the seams well en-route to 50 and 79 yards respectively.
Swing passes and tight end seam routes hit consistently, either putting linebackers on an island, or isolating 6-foot-6 tight ends against the Syracuse secondary, which is a matchup the Orange were bound to lose. All in all, the defense held Pitt to within four of their season low point total, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Orange in the game.