Syracuse Orange shut down by Pittsburgh Panthers

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Syracuse couldn’t stop Pitt on Saturday

Syracuse’s long football season came one step closer to the end on Saturday, as the Orange dropped a 30-7 road game to Pittsburgh. The final score, which suggests a pretty significant distance between the two squads, was a little deceiving in that it was actually a much more dominant win for the Panthers (5-6, 3-4 ACC). Pitt missed a pair of field goals and threw an interception in the end zone, allowing the Orange (3-8, 1-6) to hang around into the third quarter before dropping their fourth straight game and eighth of their last nine.

SU was dominated on almost every line of the stat sheet, being outgained by 190 yards in the game, including facing a 256-106 gap in rushing yards. Pittsburgh held the ball for close to 39 minutes in the game and punted only once in the contest.

In what would turn out to be an omen for the Orange, Pitt returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Fortunately, a pair of holding penalties wiped out the score.

After each team punted on their first possession, Pitt had another scoring chance, but their kicker missed a 42-yard field goal attempt. The Panthers were given another chance quickly after when Prince-Tyson Gulley fumbled on Syracuse’s first offensive play and the hosts recovered. Four plays later, Pitt scored a touchdown and held a 7-0 lead.

The Orange offense responded with a nice drive, penetrating as far as the Panther 21, but on 3rd-and-16 from the Pitt 27, A.J. Long’s pass to Steve Ishmael in the end zone slid through the leaping wide receiver’s hands and into a defender’s mitts for an interception. Pitt then drove the length of the field and had to settle for another field goal attempt, this one of 44 yards. Again, their kicker missed and SU remained in a 7-0 hole a few minutes into the second quarter.

» Related: Syracuse football has marred by offensive inefficiency and injuries

Mitch Kimble came into play quarterback for the remaining portion of the second quarter, as was planned prior to the game. Kimble, who would not complete any of his six passes in the game, threw a pair of incompletions on the ensuing drive, which went three-and-out. Pitt converted their possession into another field goal try, but this one was good from 46 yards, making it a 10-0 game with just over five minutes left in the second.

The Syracuse rushing attack did some good work on their next chance, highlighted by George Morris ripping off a 33-yard run to get the Orange to the Panther 17. The offense would not gain another yard on the drive and Cole Murphy’s 34-yard field goal attempt missed with 1:38 left in the half.

Aided by a pair of penalties on the SU defense, Pitt marched down the field in five plays, cashing in the drive on an 11-yard touchdown pass. The extra point extended their lead to 17-0 with 51 seconds left in the half. Two plays later, Kimble was intercepted and the Panthers were set up at the SU 11 with 32 seconds on the clock. On third down, though, a Pitt receiver could not hang onto a pass in the end zone and Antwan Cordy plucked it from the air for a Syracuse interception, sending the game to intermission.

Long resumed taking snaps in the third quarter and led SU down the field, completing a 46-yard pass to Steve Ishmael to get onto the red zone, then scrambling for 11 yards to get the Orange to the two. A couple plays later, defensive end Ron Thompson, who came to Syracuse as a tight end, was lined up as a running back and carried the ball in for a touchdown from a yard out. Murphy tacked on the extra point to make it a 17-7 game less than four minutes into the second quarter.

Pittsburgh responded with a clock-eating drive, using up 6:30 from the clock before tacking a 31-yard field goal onto their side of the scoreboard, extending their lead to 20-7. Following a Syracuse punt, the Panthers put the game out of reach on the first play of the fourth quarter when a tunnel screen pass to a wide receiver turned into a breakaway sprint and eventually a 49-yard touchdown. The extra point stretched the Pitt lead to 27-7.

Pitt closed out the scoring on their next possession with another field goal, this one from 46 yards. The kick made it 30-7 with just under ten minutes remaining.

A.J. Long returned after missing the Duke game due to a nerve issue and completed 10-of-19 passes for 149 yards and an interception. Steve Ishmael was his leading man at receiver, catching six passes for 97 yards.

True freshman Zaire Franklin had a personal-best ten tackles in the game to lead the SU defense. Antwan Cordy had an interception Marcus Coleman added the unit’s only sack of the game.

The Orange will close their season on Saturday when they travel to Boston College for a 12:30pm Eastern kickoff. The Eagles (6-5, 3-4) have dropped their last two games, including getting edged on Saturday by a late field goal by #3 Florida State, 20-17. BC’s dual-threat quarterback Tyler Murphy has thrown for nearly 1,300 yards and run for over 1,000 on the season.

The game will be televised regionally, so please check your local listings, as well as being streamed online at ESPN3.com.

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Jim Stechschulte

About Jim Stechschulte

A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.
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