A quick take on Syracuse’s 31-14 loss to Pittsburgh at the Carrier Dome on Saturday night, ending the 2021 season:
WHAT HAPPENED: After Syracuse scored on its opening drive, Pittsburgh reeled off 28 unanswered points, culminating with a Kenny Pickett five-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Addison with 4:45 left in the third quarter to put the Panthers up 28-7. Though the Orange would pull within two scores to close the third quarter, the Panthers added a field goal with 6:20 left to put the game out of reach, and to end another frustrating season of Syracuse football. For the second time in three seasons, the Orange finished one win outside of bowl eligibility, and it was another typical November fade as SU dropped three straight games, all by large margins.
ANALYSIS: Syracuse has plenty of needs heading into the offseason. The immediate question will be whether Dino Babers returns as head coach. The buyout is likely high, but the administration may be growing impatient with a coach that has won only 11 games in the past three seasons. In terms of personnel, Syracuse may want to bring in another transfer to compete for the starting job next season. Though Garrett Shrader is a capable rusher, he struggles with his throws and is not an ideal fit for Dino Babers’ hurry-up offense. Or, perhaps, Babers goes all in on the former Mississippi State transfer, and tailors the entire offense around his abilities next year. Regardless, he will need to improve his passing for SU to be effective. The Orange will also have to replace its entire defensive line and will lose a starter on the offensive line. And that’s even before attrition through the transfer portal.
HERO: Pickett continued his stellar season, throwing for 209 yards and four touchdowns, two of them to Addison, who finished with 81 yards receiving. Deuce Chestnut wrapped up a promising freshman campaign by picking off Pickett, producing the defense’s first turnover in six games.
ZERO: Syracuse curiously didn’t look to feature its best offensive weapon, with Sean Tucker only carrying 13 times for 29 yards. He did, however, finish with stellar numbers, rushing 233 times for 1,467 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has previously said he’s likely to return, pending the coaching situation.
WHAT’S NEXT: A long offseason wondering “what if?” Syracuse had its chances to head to the postseason, with three straight losses by three points (Florida State, Wake Forest and Clemson).