Syracuse Loses Another Heartbreaker to Pitt in Overtime
By Adam Unger
Assistant Sports Director
PITTSBURGH, PA — Syracuse (4-2, 0-2 ACC) and Pittsburgh (3-3, 2-1 ACC) were up against more adversary than just each other on Saturday: Mother Nature. The Orange and the Panthers saw their 12:20 kickoff last nearly four and a half hours. A rain delay and an overtime later, SU fell by a score of 44-37.
The Orange jumped out to a 14-0 lead with a balanced offense that ran as quickly as advertised. Senior quarterback Eric Dungey was throwing and running all over Pitt’s defense and looked to be just getting started.
It took just two big plays to take all of the wind out of Syracuse’s sails. A 69-yard rush by redshirt senior running back Qadree Ollison and a fumble return for a touchdown by redshirt junior defensive back Dane Jackson tied the game up at 14 by the end of the first quarter.
“Keep playing,” Syracuse Head Coach Dino Babers told his team. “It’s going to be one of those Pitt-Syracuse games; and it was… We’ve got a rivalry.”
The second quarter became a kicker’s battle: Pitt’s Alex Kessman, who was just 1-2 on field goals on the season, booted kicks of 53 and 55 yards; he now holds the title of kicking the longest field goal in Heinz Field history at the college or professional level. Syracuse’s Andre Szmyt countered with a 33-yard kick of his own to close the first 30 minutes of scoring. Pitt led the Orange 20-17 at halftime, heading into the locker room for what was thought to be just a brief sabbatical.
Pitt’s first possession in the third quarter struck like lightning. A short route to wide receiver Rafael Araujo-Lopes became a 68-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett. Then, with the Panthers up 27-17, there was actual lightning in the area, forcing the teams back into the locker rooms they just vacated.
The weather delay lasted over an hour. The last time Syracuse football endured a weather delay, they were on the wrong end of a 56-10 shellacking thanks to Lamar Jackson’s Louisville Cardinals last November. This time, Syracuse took advantage of some extra time indoors.
“Coaches went through some things and put some things in,” Babers said. “We try to take advantage of every minute to come back out in the second half and put our best foot forward.”
Syracuse did just that. Jarveon Howard punched in a 5-yard touchdown run on Syracuse’s first possession after the delay. Then, with just seconds left in the third quarter, Eric Dungey scrambled for 21 yards, finishing with a diving stretch to the front right endzone pylon to get the lead back for the Orange.
“Once we got up, we couldn’t get comfortable,” Howard said. “Because anything can happen.”
The game reverted to a kicking contest once again. Andre Szmyt added two more to maintain an Orange lead despite a touchdown run by Pitt’s Darrin Hall. Kessman drilled his third field goal of the day with eight seconds left in regulation to tie the game 37-37.
For the first time in the Dino Babers era at Syracuse, 60 minutes was not enough to decide a winner.
Pittsburgh got the ball first in overtime and put the pressure on SU. Darrin Hall scored another touchdown on Pitt’s first possession of overtime, a clinical display by the Panthers who were able to steadily march through the tired Orange defense.
Syracuse needed to respond with a touchdown of their own to force a second overtime.
Eric Dungey decided to go for it all on the first play from scrimmage and tossed a ball into the endzone to Nykiem Johnson. The problem with the play, Johnson was surrounded by two Panthers, and Therran Coleman snatched the ball out of the air to end the contest.
“We were running a sprint-out,” Babers said. “If it’s a zone, we’ve got a guy that’s going to be six to eight yards deep, we’ve got one guy deep to back the safeties up, and if we run, we’ve got our quarterback on the perimeter… we thought it was a really good call. We’re not second-guessing that at all.”
“We had a one-on-one with Nykeim [Johnson],” Dungey said. “I had pressure on me, so I wasn’t able to really run into the throw. I just threw it up to Nykeim hoping he was going to make a play. Unfortunately, the defender made a good play on the ball.”
The road struggles continue for Dino Babers, who is 3-10 in true road games in his Orange career. In addition, SU once again showed their difficulty with playing in Heinz Field as Syracuse has not won there since 2001.
Syracuse has two weeks to look at the film and right the ship after its second straight loss. The Orange hosts North Carolina in the Carrier Dome on October 20th.
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