Can Syracuse limit its mistakes? — 3Qs4 Syracuse v. Pittsburgh

Syracuse will play Pittsburgh on Friday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Can SU win a conference game for the first time since it’s dramatic 49-23 win over West Virginia on Oct. 21, 2011?

Here are three other questions to ask.

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Can SU limit its turnovers?

CAN SYRACUSE STOP MAKING MISTAKES?

Syracuse played one of its sloppiest games of the season in a 17-10 loss to Minnesota on Sept. 22.

The Orange turned the ball over four times on offense and was flagged 10 times for 79 yards as the team limped into its bye week. Syracuse used the extra week to try to eliminate some of those mistakes.

“I’ve done a poor job with penalties, turnovers,” SU coach Doug Marrone said during the weekly Big East coach’s teleconference on Monday. “We’ve done that consistently in the four games we’ve played. (We’re) working quite a bit on ball security and greater awareness.”

Marrone also mentioned other areas Syracuse will need to improve including tackling, third down efficiency and scoring in the red zone.

“The team has been working extremely hard,” Marrone said. “They’re focused on the areas that we have to do a better job of. I just have to make sure we did all the right things.”

» More SU football: Non-conference report card

WHAT KIND OF IMPACT WILL JUSTIN PUGH HAVE?

There was some good news for Syracuse in the bye week. Tackle Justin Pugh, who hasn’t played because of a shoulder injury, will return to the starting lineup against Pittsburgh on Friday.

He will help a rushing attack that is 83rd in the NCAA at 145.8 yards per game. The move will allow Sean Hickey to shift back to the right side of the line, which gave SU problems against Minnesota.

Marrone was asked the compare Pugh returning from injury as opposed to Alec Lemon, who missed the season opener against Northwestern.

“Justin’s been working extremely hard for weeks now with wanting to come back and play but not being cleared from the doctor,” Marrone said. “I think his progression’s different than Alec Lemon, (who) had a lower body injury and wasn’t able to run, and had to stand stationary and catch passes and not run around and block. I think Justin was able to do a lot more things to prepare himself to be ready to play.”

» Related: Is Doug Marrone the right man for SU?

CAN PITT KEEP IT UP ON DEFENSE?

After giving up an average of 33.5 points in its first two games (both losses), Pittsburgh has clamped down on defense.

In a 35-17 upset of Virginia Tech, the Panthers allowed just 324 total yards, and just 59 rushing yards. Pitt also forced four turnovers. The Panthers also had no problem against Gardner Webb, limiting the  Runnin’ Bulldogs to 10 points.

What has led to the turnaround?

“We’re getting some pressure on the quarterback,” head coach Paul Chryst said. “Guys are getting a feel for where they fit into the scheme. We’re giving less plays away whereas the first couple of games we did do that.”

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.
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