Strong start for Syracuse football, with same old ending

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Nov 27, 2021; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange head coach Dino Babers speaks to reporters following SU's 31-14 loss against the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Judy Salamone/The Juice Online.

Syracuse closed the book on their 2021 season with their third straight loss with bowl eligibility on the line, playing #17 Pittsburgh tough for a quarter-and-a-half before falling at home, 31-14.

The game illustrated two teams headed in different directions, as the loss sends the Orange (5-7, 2-6 ACC) into another long offseason while the Panthers (10-2, 7-1) will play Wake Forest for the ACC title next week.

SU jumped out to a 7-0 lead on their first drive, but Pitt broke through for a touchdown midway through the second quarter. Devaughn Cooper fumbled after a reception to end Syracuse’s next drive. The Panthers cashed in the turnover for their second touchdown in just over two minutes, turning the game sharply in their favor.

Pittsburgh essentially buried the Orange by tacking on touchdowns on each of their first two drives of the third quarter, extending their lead to 28-7.

The SU offense simply could not consistently move the ball as the Panthers stifled Sean Tucker all night long. Tucker closed his season with his worst output, posting just 29 yards on 13 carries with a long run of ten yards.

Meanwhile, Garrett Shrader posted a decent stat line through the air (17-of-24 for 217 yards, two touchdowns), making a lot of hay on two scoring drives, but not much else. Courtney Jackson was the primary beneficiary when Shrader was on target, catching eight passes for 92 yards and both Syracuse touchdowns.

Mikel Jones was everywhere on defense, logging 17 tackles. Fellow linebackers Stefon Thompson and Marlowe Wax each had ten stops, the latter notching the defense’s lone sack. Duce Chestnut grabbed his third interception of the season, ending a turnover drought going back to the second quarter of the Wake Forest game, the sixth game of the Orange campaign.

» Related: The importance of Syracuse getting to a bowl game in 2021

QUICK HITS:

  • Maybe Garrett Shrader is actually streaky with his arm instead of just generally inaccurate. On the first SU scoring drive, he connected on all six of his passes for 59 yards, then hit on 5-of-6 on the second touchdown march, picking up 82 yards. Outside of those two possessions, Shrader completed just 6-of-12 passes for 76 yards.
  • Courtney Jackson was the apple of Shrader’s eye on those two successful drives, as seven of his eight catches came on those possessions.
  • The last set of downs seemed to be an encapsulation of the Syracuse offense. Sean Tucker ran for six yards on first down, then Shrader was sacked, giving those yards right back. The Orange committed a holding infraction on third down, then Shrader scrambled for 14 yards on 3rd-and 20 before being sacked on fourth down.
  • In the second quarter, offensive linemen Kalan Ellis and Darius Tisdale drew back-to-back unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. A.J. Calabro also picked up one on a touchback once the Orange were in a 31-14 fourth quarter hole. That lack of discipline is troubling, particularly since the first two came with the Orange down just 14-7.
  • With his 17 tackles, Mikel Jones finishes the season with 111. He had 107 stops combined in his first two seasons.
  • If not for his final extra point, Andre Szmyt’s final kick for the Orange would have been a kickoff out of bounds to start the second half.
  • Ian Hawkins had a solid effort in the finale, averaging 43 yards on seven punts, forcing a pair of fair catches and getting two punts inside the Pitt 20.

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About Jim Stechschulte 858 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 NBA.com. He currently resides in Syracuse.