Everyone thought the matchup that would kill the Panthers against Syracuse was going to be the young secondary getting lit up by Ran Nassib and Marcus Sales connection. K’Waun Williams and Lafayette Pitts weren’t supposed to hold a three-year starter, who was averaging more than 340 yards in the air this year and had thrown for 10 touchdowns in 4 games, to 185 yards passing, no touchdowns and a pick (made by Williams to save a touchdown). They did.
In fact, Pitt’s entire defense pretty much shut down the Orange all night. Pitt outgained Syracuse, recorded more first downs, won the time of possession battle by nearly 10 minutes and the Orange converted only 5 of 14 third downs. So then how the hell did Pitt lose this one 14-13?
Syracuse has the 61st ranked rush defense – not exactly a Steel Curtain – and the Orange had already allowed two teams to run for more than 200 yards this year. Pitt’s running game has run for at least 229 yards since the Panthers started winning games, but the Orange held Ray Graham to just 57 yards…on 24 carries (a 2.4-yard average). The Panthers officially ended the game with 27 rushing yards. Yea, that’s a good way to lose a game.
Syracuse scored the first 14 points of the game – all in the first quarter. The first came on an opening drive touchdown in which Nassib didn’t miss a pass, but the Panthers locked it up after that. And the only other time the Orange found the endzone was when Drew Carswell fumbled and the Orange returned it to the house.
Pitt cut the deficit to 14-10 by halftime and pulled within 1 before the third quarter ended, and even though Tino Sunseri had one hell of a game, he couldn’t pull off the comeback…so people are still going to give him ****. The only thing Tino could have done to change the outcome of this game came in the third, on the drive that Pitt had to settle for a field goal. On a third-and-short form his own 43, Tino had Mike Shanahan wide open downfield but he couldn’t hit him in stride and what should have been a 57-yard touchdown pass ended up only going for 46 yards. The guy hit on 25 of his 33 passes and threw for 319 yards…what more do you want from him? And Devin Street caught 10 passes for 130 yards.
Pitt only had two possessions in the final quarter. On the first, the Panthers racked up three straight first downs and got down to the Orange 29 buuuttt followed that up by getting called for three false starts the next six times they lined up. The drive ended with a fourth-and-34 from the Pitt 47. Pitt got the ball back with 8 minutes left and Tino completed three straight passes to move the Panthers down tot he Orange 17 buuuttt was sacked on the next two plays. The drive ended fourth-and-34 AGAIN at the Orange 41. Ball game.
We’d almost rather see Pitt get their asses handed to them in a shopping bag than see them lose a game like this – especially to Syracuse. 9 times out of 10, if Pitt plays like it did last night, the Panthers are going to beat Syracuse. We’re pissed about this one so the Panthers must be super pissed. Hopefully they take it out on Louisville next weekend because the Cardinals have barely survived their last three games and another upset for Pitt would be huge…get those alarm clocks set for 11 AM – EFF. At least the Orange are coming to the ACC too so maybe this was the start of a new rivalry since WVU’s too good for the backyard brawl now.