Orange can't overcome injuries, lose to Pitt

At 5-5 on the year, Syracuse needed one win to become eligible for a BCS bowl game. But injuries and a sputtering offense derailed the Orange in a 17-16 loss.

When Syracuse's first drive against Pittsburgh started, the offensive line's run block looked strong. The Orange's first series lasted only ending with a 36-yard run by Jerome Smith in the first three minutes.

But then Sean Hickey went down with an injury and left the game, and the offensive attack began unraveling.

Photo: Lenny Christopher
Senior Christopher Clark (No. 18) breaks through Pittsburgh's defense as the Orange move the ball down field in the Carrier Dome on November 23, 2013.

In the battle for bowl eligibility, Syracuse (5-6) could not pull out the victory, losing to Pittsburgh (6-5), 17-16. Though the defense helped keep the Orange the game, the offense sputtered throughout, failing to muster another touchdown drive.

Syracuse had possession of the ball for 10 of the 15 minutes of the fourth quarter, but could not use it to its advantage.

Mackey McPherson, the Orange's starting center, said the defensive unit is the reason the team has succeeded so far.

"We owe the season to them," McPherson said. "They played their buts off, and we aren't scoring enough points, which is evident by the score."

The kicking unit also struggled. Kicker Ryan Norton missed a fourth-quarter field goal that would have given Syracuse the lead. And after Smith's first-quarter touchdown run, Pitt's special teams unit blocked SU’s extra-point attempt.

"Aaron Donald (Pitt's starting defensive lineman) came through . . . and knocked them back," said Scott Shafer, Syracuse head coach. "They did a nice job of getting penetration over our guard."

With 12:28 left in the game, Pitt quarterback Tom Savage threw to his left for a slant route. The pass was bobbled, tipped and intercepted by linebacker Luke Arciniega around midfield.

It appeared that Syracuse would have another shot to score. But, keeping with the trend, the offense failed to convert, and the team had to rely on its defense once more. Shafer felt that his defense is the reason the Orange stayed competitive in this game.

"I was proud of the fact that the kids just kept fighting," Shafer said. "I was disappointed that we couldn't find a way to get the win, but I was really happy with how the kid's fought."

Pitt's passing attack woke up in the second quarter. Savage, who ranks third in the ACC in passing touchdowns, marched the team down the field, ending the drive with a seven-yard touchdown to tight end Manesseh Garner.

At the half, both Syracuse and Pitt had approximately 150 yards of total offense. Pitt's came mostly through its passing game, while Syracuse chugged down the field with the run. 72 percent of Syracuse total offense, at the half, was manufactured by the run (112 of 154 yards).

Savage finished with 218 yards and one touchdown with a 68.3 pass completion percentage.

Cameron Lynch came up big in the pass-rush for Syracuse in the second quarter. With Pitt with a first and goal on the Syracuse three-yard line, Lynch sacked Savage for a 10-yard loss. Then, during Pitt's third down on the 19-yard line, he sacked Savage again, leading to a Pitt field goal to make the score 6-3.

In their last meeting in 2012, the Orange beat the Panthers, 14-13.The Syracuse-Pittsburgh rivalry is the second-longest in Orange football history.

Syracuse has played the Panthers 69 times, with an overall record of 31-35-3. This was the first meeting of the two schools as members of the ACC.

Now the season rests on the Boston College game next Saturday, where a win will make Syracuse bowl-eligible.

"We got one shot to go to a bowl game and to end the season off right," said Jay Bromley, Syracuse's starting defensive tackle. "Pittsburgh was the better team today, and we can't go into this game against Boston College thinking that we are the good team.

"We have to practice better, we have to play better, we have to do a lot of things better."

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.