Syracuse shattered all kinds of single-game records in a shootout against Pitt on Saturday in a 76-61 loss at Heinz Field.
With a combined total of 137 points, the closing game of Syracuse’s 2016 season set a new FBS scoring record, in no small thanks to Zack Mahoney and Amba Etta-Tawo.
Mahoney finished the day with 440 yards and a school-record seven total touchdowns, tying Ryan Nassib’s 2010 record five passing touchdowns in a single game. The recipient on all of Mahoney’s passing touchdowns, Etta-Tawo, also set a school record for touchdown receptions in a single game.
Still, Mahoney didn’t get the ultimate stat he was worried about.
“It’s fun being out there and putting up all those points, but when it comes down to it, the only important stat that matters at the end of the day is wins and losses.” Mahoney said. “Walking away with a loss, especially on the last day for some of these seniors, it’s very disappointing.”
The scoring started early for Syracuse and continued all afternoon. Mahoney got the Orange on the board first, rushing two yards for a touchdown, giving his team an early lead. Although that would be the Orange’s only lead during the game, Mahoney was far from done scoring.
Trailing by 14 in the second quarter, Mahoney found Etta-Tawo on a short 5-yard pass for a score. But the Orange went into half trailing 35-21.
Mahoney got into trouble on Syracuse’s opening drive of the third quarter when he was intercepted by Pitt’s Dane Jackson, who returned the ball for a Panther touchdown.
That prompted a meeting with head coach Dino Babers.
“I said [to Mahoney], if you don’t throw the ball, we can’t win,” Babers said. “We’re going to keep throwing the ball and if you throw a pick-six, you just throw a pick-six, because the next one’s going to be a doggone touchdown pass. We can’t win without you. We’re going to throw, you’re going to throw it, and you’re going to do good.”
Mahoney, heeding his coach’s advice, connected with Etta-Tawo for another short touchdown, narrowing Pitt’s lead to a 56-34 margin to close the third quarter.
“We were clicking, we were getting the first first down,” Mahoney said. “I think seeing [Pitt] getting tired and us going, it was a big moral boost for us all.”
Mahoney started the final quarter with a 19-yard rushing touchdown. Following another Pitt score, Etta-Tawo found the end zone for a third time after a pass from Mahoney, bringing the Orange within 15 of the home team.
Mahoney and Etta-Tawo linked up two more times on scoring plays, keeping SU close, despite never being able to overcome the deficit.
“Throughout the game, it was good to see the team fight. It’s more than just a team, it’s a family,” Etta-Tawo said. “It was good to see the family fight back, but we just hit the wall a little bit.”
“We wish that we could have done more to slow them down on offense, but they are very talented. This is the same group that went up and upset Clemson and put huge numbers on that defense, where we couldn’t get off of a goose egg with [Clemson].” Babers said. “They’re very talented and they’re playing at home. My hat goes off to them, it was a fine performance by them.”