It wasn’t pretty, but Syracuse Orange football pulled out a gritty win over Pittsburgh at Yankee Stadium last Saturday. Tight end Dan Villari and running back LeQuint Allen split time at quarterback, while SU’s usual gunslinger, Garrett Shrader, lined up at receiver with a busted shoulder. Likewise, this week’s third-down and red-zone reports reflect Syracuse’s wacky personnel.
Third down and 1-3 yards: 3-for-5
The Orange have excelled at third-and-short all season, no matter who carries the ball. Villari and Allen each had two conversions this week. Two crucial runs by the tight end in the fourth quarter drained the clock to prevent a Panthers’ comeback.
Third down and 4-6 yards: 2-for-6
With his top two quarterbacks injured, offensive coordinator Jason Beck opted to run five times in this zone. Two designed runs by Villari worked out. On one of them, the tight end dashed up the middle for 38 yards, putting the Orange inside the 10.
Third down and 7+ yards: 1-for-4
SU failed to convert its past 13 attempts from this down and distance coming into the Pitt game. Villari broke the streak immediately, bulldozing his way up the middle for 12 yards on a third-and-11. That was all the Orange got here, as an Allen passing attempt, Shrader run and second Villari scamper came up short.
Third down and 1-3 yards: 3-for-3
Finally. After allowing its opponents to convert over 50% each of the past four games, The Mob stopped Pitt on all three occasions. Alijah Clark and Stefon Thompson combined to stop a Panthers running back short on a pass attempt in the second quarter, then the d-line stopped a run up the gut in the third. Pressure from Anwar Sparrow forced an incomplete pass in the third quarter.
Third down and 4-6 yards: 2-for-4
Jason Simmons Jr. blew up a screen pass in the backfield on a third-and-4, limiting Pittsburgh to a field goal on its first red-zone trip in the first quarter. Two completions from Panthers quarterback Christian Veilleux kept drives going, but Kevon Darton shut down the fourth attempt, forcing an incompletion.
Third down and 7+ yards: 2-for-3
The Orange defense looked okay here in a small sample. One slip-up came when the secondary left Pitt receiver Konata Mumpfield wide open in the red zone, leading to the Panthers’ only touchdown. But Isaiah Johnson made his presence known on another attempt, blasting a Pittsburgh receiver to break up a pass in the second quarter.
ISAIAH JOHNSON!— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) November 11, 2023
Red Zone Offense: 2 trips - 7 points
A perfect first drive. Max Mang caught his first-career touchdown pass, one play after Villari’s aforementioned 12-yard rush. On its second trip, Allen got stuffed at the two on fourth and goal, SU’s first empty trip in three games.
Garrett Shrader to Max Mang for the opening score!— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) November 11, 2023
Red Zone Defense: 2 trips - 10 points
The tackle from Simmons I mentioned above held Pitt to three on its first red-zone trip. The Panthers put together a 4-play, 80-yard drive to take the lead 10-7 in the second quarter, highlighted by Mumpfield’s touchdown reception. That was it, though. It was the fewest defensive red-zone trips SU allowed since Army.
What do you think about these numbers? Will Syracuse keep it up against Georgia Tech this weekend? Let us know in the comments.