Football Takeaways: Syracuse misses bowl game for a third straight season

The Morning After: Takeaways from SU's loss to Pitt

The Orange (5-7) lost to Pitt 31-14 at the Dome in the final regular-season game of the year.
Published: November 29, 2021
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Pittsburgh held Sean Tucker (34) to his lowest output, 29 yards on 13 carries, all season.

Kenny Pickett, Pat Narduzzi and the Pittsburgh Panthers strolled into the Dome on Saturday night and took Syracuse’s chances at bowl eligibility with them.

After a late-season bye week, the Orange (5-7) lost their last three games by an average difference of 26 points. Syracuse won’t play football again until Sept. 10, 2022, against the UCONN Huskies.

Offensive rhythmic woes

Syracuse’s defense held the Panthers’ offense, which averaged 43.9 points per game before playing the Orange, to 31 points and 333 total yards. SU appeared to solve its early scoring troubles after Courtney Jackson‘s opening drive TD to go ahead 7-0.

But Garrett Shrader, who threw two touchdowns and 217 yards, and Sean Tucker, who gained just 29 yards on 13 touches, struggled to gain momentum after that. Jackson led all receivers with eight catches for 92 yards and two scores. The Orange only rushed for 25 yards on 30 carries between Shrader and Tucker.

“I think we found a rushing attack (this season). I think we need to have an opportunity to be able to throw the ball, to match that so we can become more balanced and unpredictable,” head coach Dino Babers said. “(Pitt) is a good run-stop defense, but what they were giving us was massive throws all over the football field which we need to be able to take advantage of.”

A senior send-off

Syracuse football recognized eight seniors who played their last game in an Orange jersey on Saturday night. No one had a bigger impact this season than defensive lineman Cody Roscoe, a transfer from McNeese State, who finished his second season in Syracuse with 7.5 sacks and 45 tackles.

Defensive lineman Josh Black made 156 tackles and nine sacks over six seasons with Syracuse. Offensive tackle Aaron Servais ended his Orange career with 60 consecutive starts: the longest active streak among FBS offensive linemen.

“(We’re) obviously disappointed about the loss but really excited about the bridge that our super seniors left us,” Babers said. “They gave us an opportunity to rebound from that COVID year, that asterisk year, to get us back to where we can start to do some things.”

What’s next for Dino?

Linebacker Mikel Jones and defensive back Garrett Williams may forgo years of eligibility for the NFL, but what about Syracuse’s head coach? Since Babers took over in 2016, Syracuse is 29-43 and 15-35 in ACC play.

SU’s 2018 Camping World Bowl win is Syracuse’s only bowl win/appearance under Babers. Ten players have left the Orange football program since the start of fall practice. Tucker said earlier this week he planned to come back to Syracuse next season but that a coaching change would make that decision more difficult.

“My job belongs to my employer. My career belongs to me,” Babers said Monday when asked about his future at Syracuse. “I only control the things that I can control. I also believe that good coaches get hired and good coaches get fired. And really, really, really good coaches get rehired.”