Fast start by Syracuse against Pittsburgh erased by faster fade

Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey speaks to reporters during a press conference. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

For the second straight week, the Syracuse defense could not stop a running attack they knew was headed for them. This time, a pair of Pittsburgh running backs rolled up 299 yards and three scores on the ground, including the game-winning overtime score, to post a 44-37 overtime home win.

While the Orange had an opportunity to match the score and force a second overtime session, the Panthers’ Therran Coleman ripped down an interception on the first SU play to secure the win, which evened their record at 3-3 overall with a 2-1 conference mark. The second straight loss dropped Syracuse to 1-2 in the ACC and 4-2 overall.

As they have often done this season, the Orange started the game playing well. Their offense marched 75 yards on their opening possession for a score, getting on the board when Eric Dungey floated a play-action pass to tight end Aaron Hackett for a two-yard score. Hackett’s first career receiving touchdown doubled as Dungey’s 50th passing score at SU. Andre Szmyt added the extra point for a 7-0 lead.

Alton Robinson abruptly ended the first Pitt drive by forcing a fumble that Andrew Armstrong pounced on at the Panthers’42. Four plays later, Dungey rambled 29 yards to the two and Jarveon Howard punched it in on the next play for his first Syracuse touchdown. Szmyt’s second kick stretched the lead to 14-0 with under eight-and-a-half minutes off the clock.

Pitt got off the mat quickly, scoring a 69-yard touchdown run and adding a 35-yard fumble return for another score. Barely two minutes after the Orange had taken that 14-0 lead, the game was knotted up.

The Panthers added field goals to their side of the ledger on consecutive second quarter drives to take the lead at 20-14 with just under seven minutes left in the opening half.

» Related: Upward direction of Syracuse football is as fast as its offense

SU struck back with a field goal of their own before intermission. After a Trill Williams punt return gave them a short field, the offense picked up a pair of first downs before settling for a 33-yard field goal try. Szmyt’s aim was true, halving the Pittsburgh lead to 20-17 with 90 seconds left in the first half.

The Panthers quickly moved into the red zone, but Christopher Fredrick ended their scoring hopes with an interception for a touchback, giving Syracuse the ball back with 17 seconds remaining.

Pitt opened the second half with another big play, getting a 68-yard touchdown on the second snap. The extra point gave the hosts a 27-17 lead. At that point, the weather turned for the worse, sending the two teams to their locker rooms for a delay that would last an hour and six minutes.

On their second possession after the game resumed, the Orange offense kicked into gear. Dungey found Taj Harris for completions of 27 and 22 yards to get near the end zone and Howard hammered home another score, this time running the ball in from five yards out. Szmyt tacked on the conversion to bring SU within 27-24.

Two Syracuse drives later, Dungey wrested the lead away from the Panthers. The senior quarterback avoided pressure by rolling right and darted to the end zone, diving past the pylon for a 21-yard touchdown. Szmyt added the extra point for a 31-27 Orange lead with 21 seconds left in the third.

Robinson notched his second forced fumble of the day with a strip sack of the quarterback and Ryan Guthrie recovered at the Pitt 31. SU added a 29-yard field goal from Szmyt for a 34-27 lead with just over 11 minutes left.

Pittsburgh promptly marched for a tying score, but the Orange offense responded. Three plays into the drive, Dungey hooked up with Jamal Custis for a 42-yard pass down the right sideline, then was able to get the ball snapped before Pitt could call time out and challenge the call of a completed pass.

Syracuse lost yards after that, but Szmyt bailed out his offensive mates by drilling a 54-yard field goal for a 37-34 lead with under six minutes to go.

The Panthers responded with a methodical drive of 13 plays, 11 of them on the ground, before settling for a 45-yard field goal that tied the game with eight seconds left in regulation.

The Orange won the coin toss for overtime and opted to play defense. They actually did very little of that, as five Pitt running plays resulted in a touchdown and a 44-37 Panther lead. On the first play of SU’s overtime opportunity, Dungey lofted a pass into the end zone that was intercepted, sealing the Panther victory.

Eric Dungey had a scattershot day, completing just 18-of-38 passes for 195 yards with a score and a pair of interceptions. Dungey did add 70 rushing yards on 13 attempts, leading the team on both categories. Sean Riley had a half dozen receptions while Jamal Custis paced the receivers with 70 yards.

Alton Robinson had a strong day, logging four tackles for loss, including a pair of sacks, and forcing a pair of fumbles. Andrew Armstrong and Ryan Guthrie each had a fumble recovery and Christopher Fredrick had an interception. Kingsley Jonathan and Kielan Whitner each were credited with a half-sack.

At the midpoint of their schedule, Syracuse will have their bye week. In two weeks, they return to action when the Orange welcome North Carolina to for Homecoming. The Tar Heels (1-3, 1-1) had their bye week this week and host Virginia Tech prior to coming to the Carrier Dome.

Game time and television coverage are yet to be determined for the Syracuse-North Carolina game.

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About Jim Stechschulte 894 Articles
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. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by He currently resides in Syracuse.