The Syracuse Orange went into this one attempting to win for the first time on the road against the Pittsburgh Panthers since 2001. It seems that trend is going to continue, as the Panthers took down the Orange with a strong running game that overpowered the Syracuse defensive line and similarly, a defensive effort that shut down any hope of a Syracuse running game. The final score of 19-9 didn’t fully show the 145-339 yard discrepancy between the two teams.
The first quarter was a bit of a blur, lasting only 30 minutes in real time. With the ball on the ground, both the Orange and the Panthers ate away at the clock. Syracuse started the game off with a three and out, but confirmed that Carlos Del Rio-Wilson was under center. Garrett Shrader warmed up with the team, but changed to street clothes prior to kickoff. The drive stalled out with a Chris Bleich false start and a Del Rio-Wilson sack, leading to the punt.
The Panthers took over and kept the ball on the ground for most of the drive, riding Rodney Hammond for 28 yards on the drive. He got the start for the injured Israel Abanikanda and showed he’s got some legs of his own. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they got tricky, dialed up a pass heading into the end zone and Ja’Had Carter snagged a Kedon Slovis pass for his third pick and fourth takeaway on the year to keep Pitt off the board.
Syracuse responded with a drive of their own, seven and a half minutes of varied run and pass that kept the Pitt defense on their toes. Despite false starts from Bleich and Wes Hoeh, Syracuse marched down the field, with receptions from Trebor Pena, Damien Alford and Devaughn Cooper amidst the usual yeoman’s work from Sean Tucker. Unfortunately on third and goal from the six inch line, it seems the playcalling got in it’s own way and an attempted toss to Tucker was tackled for a loss of four yards. Andre Szmyt opened the scoring with his thirteenth field goal of the year, opening the scoring at 3-0, Syracuse.
The score from the Orange was promptly answered by another drive of the Panthers chunking yardage. Hammond still got consistent carries, but they were helped by a 24-yard Jared Wayne reception on a play action that Slovis put on a dime to the open receiver. Hammond finished the drive walking in for a 6-yard touchdown, 7-3, Pitt.
Even though Syracuse attempted passes to three different receivers, the result was another Max VonMarburg punt. Subsequently the Orange defense gave up some yards, but Ja’Had Carter came up big with a stop on Wayne to set up third and long that somehow resulted in a touchbacked punt that Karter Johnson tackled Trebor Pena on, for an unnecessary roughness. The great field position lead to a first down throw from CDRW stepping up in the pocket for a 31-yard reception by Damien Alford. The Orange were able to work the ball into field goal range, but not connect on another streak by DaMarcus Adams and Szmyt brought the Orange within a point, 7-6.
Pitt and Syracuse traded three and outs and the Panthers ran the two minute drill to get some points on the board before the half. While the Orange gave up some yardage, they were able to hold Pitt to a field goal to head into the half at 10-6 on the day.
Syracuse was on defense to start the half, they were able to prevent any damage with a Ja’Had Carter stop after a real heads up play by Kevon Darton on a screen to send it back to the offense. Del Rio-Wilson had a great look when the Orange took over, but it was negated by a holding call, and a sack and miscommunicated route left Syracuse punting from their own endzone. While Pitt took over with a short field, they couldn’t capitalize, and a trick play throwback from the wide receiver allowed Isaiah Johnson to rack up his first career interception.
While the Pitt offense continued to march down the field, opening the second half scoring and bringing it to 17-6 on a C’Bo Flemister rush from the one yard line. No flash, just battering the ball against a beaten up Syracuse defensive line. The teams again traded three and outs, with Pitt’s resulting in a comically botched 2-yard punt giving the Orange an opportunity on the Pitt 28. To put some salt on the wound, Syracuse could only come up with a field goal attempt from the Pitt 29, a 46-yarder after accounting for field goal fees, which Szmyt left just short.
A huge stop for the defense again gave the Orange a chance to put points on the board, but the offensive line seemed to implode, sending it back to Pitt. Deciding to play ping-pong, Pitt again sent it back to the Orange, pinning them on their own 15. On third and 16, and assumed left for dead, CDRW got elusive, and got the first on the ground, followed by a great toss to DeMarcus Adams to put the Orange in a position to have a shot at the endzone. The Orange settled for a 49-yard field goal, putting the Orange back in the game, 17-9, with 4:52 to go.
To give the offense a shot at the win, the defense held big, forcing a punt. Unfortunately the Orange got the ball on the one after the punt was downed by none other than Sir’vocea Dennis. The Syracuse native gave the Orange no room to breathe and Deslin Alexandre gave Pitt the seal on a sack of Del Rio-Wilson for a safety, sealing the scoreline at 19-9.
The stats for the offense on the day were not pretty at all. Del Rio-Wilson completed 8-23 for only 120 yards behind an offensive line that did him absolutely no favors. Tucker only ran the ball 10 times for 19 yards, with zero holes being opened for him. Damien Alford looked alright receiving, but only had two grabs for 48 yards, both in the first half. DeMarcus Adams grabbed a 45-yarder of his own.
Counter to that, the defense gave about everything they had, with Marlowe Wax finishing with his career high in tackles at 13, Ja’Had Carter with a pick and 10 tackles of his own and Jason Simmons with 8 of his own. Caleb Okechukwu had 8 and a sack and Isaiah Johnson grabbed 4 with his first career interception as well. Also needing a mention was Kevon Darton, who won’t appear on stat sheets much, but was doing a ton to at least help hold that Pitt front.
There will be a good bit of work to be done this week, and some corrections to right some of these issues that have arisen. The Orange prepare to host Florida State in the Dome this coming Saturday at 8:00pm.