Panthers pounce

Syracuse can't capitalize on momentum and lose 45-14 to Pittsburgh.

The Carrier Dome was filled with 40,168 spectators for one of the most anticipated football games in recent memory. But by the end of the third quarter, the majority of those fans had filtered out as Pittsburgh routed Syracuse 45-14.

Following a conference opening road win last week, expectations were high for the Orange. However, SU’s offense sputtered on its opening drive and Pitt scored on its first play from scrimmage, a 79-yard bubble screen, setting the tone for the remainder of the game.

“When I go out there and lose a game, I’m shocked, that’s not what we had planned.”
-SU head coach Doug Marrone

“When I go out there and lose a game, I’m shocked, that’s not what we had planned,” SU head coach Doug Marrone said. “Anytime you lose a game I think you should be shocked a little bit, because the goal is to go in and win.”

Despite the Panthers (3-3, 1-0) fast start, SU was able to answer early. Following Pitt’s quick strike, quarterback Ryan Nassib connected with wide receiver Alec Lemon on a 41-yard pass that set the Orange up on the Panthers' 13-yard line. A couple plays later, senior running back Delone Carter found the end zone to knot the score up 7-7.

That’s when things began to fall apart for the Orange (4-2, 1-1 Big East). Poor execution and untimely mistakes led to four consecutive three-and-outs following the scoring drive. Meanwhile, the Panthers were an unstoppable force on third-down, as the Syracuse defense was unable to get them off the field.

“What I feel bad about, is for the people who came out today to watch the game,” Marrone said. “Their expectations were high, as well as ours.”

“We’ll get back to the drawing board, start from the beginning and start working our way back up. We’ll go on the road and get some wins under our belt, then come back home and treat the people of Central New York and Syracuse fans to a better quality of football than what they saw today.”

After struggling during the early part of the season, Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri had his best game as a starter. The Panthers used an uncharacteristically pass-heavy offense, and Sunseri executed. He completed 17-of-24 passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns.

Three of Sunseri’s touchdown passes came in the first half as he connected on a 15-yarder to Ray Graham and a 30-yarder to Mike Shanahan, to go along with the 79-yarder to Devin Street.

Trailing 28-7 with three minutes remaining in the second quarter Syracuse attempted to respond. Nassib completed passes to four different receivers and the Orange were able to move the ball into Panther territory with plenty of time to score. However, Nassib was hit as he let go of his next pass and Pittsburgh’s Jarred Holley intercepted it and thwarted the SU drive.

“Offensive wise, it’s not like we didn’t move the ball, we got the ball up and down the field,” running back Antwon Bailey said. “We just made critical mistakes in the red zone and when we were driving.”

On the wrong side of a 21-point deficit, the Orange defense knew it needed to do something quickly in the second half to change the momentum. Syracuse did just that as they forced the Panthers into a three and out.

Following a good punt return by senior Mike Holmes, Syracuse was again able to move the ball. But again miscues cost the Orange. A fumble would drop SU back a yard on first down, and a false start penalty moved it back another five yards. On a lengthy third-down, Nassib threw his second interception of the game. This time it was returned 80 yards and a touchdown by Ricky Gary to give the Panthers a commanding 35-7 lead.

But after the game Marrone was quick to defend his quarterback.

“How do you criticize the quarterback when it’s the whole team,” Marrone asked. “If the kid goes back there and he’s playing and he throws an interception without anybody in his face, then yes. But hey, there’s always something – poor route, wrong route, people in his face.”

Early in the fourth quarter, Nassib rebounded to connect with Van Chew on a 10-yard strike to end the drought for the Orange. Pitt added 10 more points in the final quarter though, to crush any thoughts of a comeback.

Said Carter: “I feel like we didn’t step up to the challenge fast enough, and that kind of hurt us.”

The Orange schedule doesn’t get any easier as they hit the road for two games – the first of which is a battle against Big East leader West Virginia. 

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.