Syracuse loses to No. 20 Pitt 31-14, falls short of bowl eligibility
Syracuse loses to No. 17 Pitt 31-14, falls short of bowl eligibility
The Syracuse football team fell to No. 20 Pittsburgh on Senior Day, 31-14. At 5-7, the Orange will miss out on a bowl game for the third season in a row.
“Obviously disappointed about the loss, but really excited about the bridge that our super seniors left us,” head coach Dino Babers said.
Pitt clinched the ACC Coastal Division prior to the game but still played as if they had something on the line. The Panthers’ stout run defense held Sean Tucker to his lowest output of the season, limiting him to 29 yards on 13 carries.
“They played hard all game,” Tucker said. “They definitely were trying to stop the run and it was hard for us to move the ball on them.”
Syracuse did get off to a great start with a 75-yard drive that included a fourth-down conversion and ended with a 12-yard touchdown strike from Garrett Shrader to Courtney Jackson. The 14-play drive took up half the quarter, an ideal scenario for the underdog Orange.
However, the SU offense struggled for a long stretch after that initial score. Their next seven series resulted in six punts and a lost fumble.
Pitt finally put an extended drive together in the second quarter by mixing up runs and passes. The Panthers’ possession culminated in Kenny Pickett throwing a short pass to Rodney Hammond Jr., who ran it past the goal line to tie the game at seven.
Pitt then took advantage of that Syracuse lost fumble by scoring a touchdown a few plays later on a 25-yard connection from Pickett to Jordan Addison to go up 14-7.
Back-to-back unsportsmanlike penalties on Syracuse put their offense in a bad spot on their next possession. The boo birds started to rain down in the Dome as the team stalled out and had to punt from their own endzone. Neither team scored the rest of the half.
The Pitt offense went right down the field to begin the third quarter. The Orange appeared to have the Panthers stopped on a key third down, but a Syracuse sack was nullified by a face mask penalty. A couple of plays later, Pickett hit Gavin Bartholomew on a four-yard touchdown to extend the Panthers’ lead to 21-7.
Following a Syracuse three-and-out, Pitt went on a nine-play, 73-yard drive. In the end, Pickett threw a quick pass to Addison, who strolled into the endzone from five yards out to give the Panthers a commanding 28-7 advantage.
The Syracuse offense finally woke back up by opening up the downfield passing attack. Shrader hooked up with Jackson on a 15-yard score to cut the deficit to 28-14 near the end of the third.
Early in the fourth quarter, Pitt converted a fourth-and-1 from the Syracuse 45. On the next play, Pickett launched the ball into the endzone, which Duce Chestnut intercepted for the third pick of his true freshman season.
The Orange’s next offensive series resulted in yet another punt from their own endzone, which Addison returned 27 yards to the Syracuse 24 yard line. Pitt tacked on a Sam Scarton field goal from 26 yards out to complete the scoring at 31-14.
Pickett, who is rising up NFL draft boards, threw for 209 yards, four TDs and one INT. With that, he broke Hall of Famer Dan Marino’s Pitt record for passing touchdowns in a season (now up to 40) and tied him in career touchdowns at 79.
Vincent Davis was steady on the ground for the Panthers with 79 yards on 13 carries. He also added a 48-yard kickoff return. Addison was effective in the short passing game, catching 11 balls for 81 yards and two TDs.
Jackson led the Syracuse offense with eight catches for 92 yards and two TDs. Shrader went 17/24 for 217 yards and two TD passes in one of his better performances through the air.
During the game, Tucker was recognized for breaking the school record for rushing yards in a season, which he accomplished the previous week against North Carolina State. The previous record-holder, Joe Morris, appeared in the video montage to congratulate Tucker.
After the game, the departing Syracuse players took part in the Senior Walk for their final farewell. For senior Cody Roscoe, the loss left a bitter taste for himself and his fellow seniors, but he believes that the underclassmen can come back next year with a better team.
“They should really build on this and know that there’s enough talent,” Roscoe said. “We’re good enough to compete with these teams and beat these teams.”
As for Coach Babers, he is not focused on questions surrounding his job security. Instead, he is turning his attention to honoring the outgoing seniors and preparing his remaining players to meet their goals for next season.
“We’ve got the majority of this football team coming back,” Babers said. “With some additions, I think that we can be extremely different and exciting in 2022.