A quick take on Syracuse’s 17-16 loss to Pittsburgh on a cold, blustery afternoon in Syracuse:
WHAT HAPPENED: Pitt head coach Paul Chryst called timeout as the Orange lined up for a 53-yard field goal with 1:08 left and the Orange down one. The timeout proved to be the key play of the game as Syracuse had set up a trick play where Kendall Moore, lined up outside, was left uncovered. Backup QB and kick holder Charlie Loeb threw to Moore, but the timeout was allowed to stand, and SU’s ensuing 4th and 8 attempt was batted away. The differential turned out to be a blocked extra point after Syracuse’s first score of the game way back in the first quarter. Pitt running back Isaac Bennett’s 5 yard rush for a touchdown capped a 9-play, 88 yard drive to close the third quarter in what turned out to be the game-winning score as the Panthers clinched bowl eligibility.
ANALYSIS: This was a tough loss for the Orange who will only have one shot left at bowl eligibility, but a look back at this game will reveal far too many self inflicted wounds. As has been the case throughout the season, Syracuse committed too many penalties, getting flagged 8 times for 77 yards. The Orange also had several drives stall out at the wrong time, with some questionable play calling leading to boos from the Carrier Dome crowd. The blocked extra point and a missed 41-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter proved to the the difference in score.
HERO: Pittsburgh defensive tackle and Lombardi Award Finalist Aaron Donald was as good as his billing. Besides blocking the extra point, Donald was a disruptive force all afternoon, collecting 9 tackles, and three tackles for a loss of 17 yards. The loss spoiled another outstanding performance from the SU defense, which held Pitt to 243 yards and 25 rushing yards on 25 attempts.
ZERO: Syracuse simply needs more from its offense if it wants to head to the bowl season next week. The SU offense, without several key receivers and Prince-Tyson Gulley, could only manage 258 total yards and had too many promising drives ending in punts, as the team was 4 for 12 on third downs. It was a rare afternoon where the Orange won the turnover battle (2-0) and still lost.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Orange will close out the regular season and try to make the postseason when they host Boston College on Saturday, Nov. 30 at 3:30 p.m. TV: ESPN3.