The Syracuse Orange (4-8, 2-6 ACC) needed to win Saturday to have any chance at playing in a bowl game. They couldn’t pull out the victory against the heavily favored Pittsburgh Panthers (8-4, 5-3 ACC), but they went out with a bang. In the 76-61 Pittsburgh win, the teams combined to set the FBS record for most points scored in a game.
Syracuse had the advantage in the opening drives of the game. After a surprise punt from Orange QB Zack Mahoney, the Syracuse defense stopped Pitt on their initial drive. Mahoney rode the momentum from the defensive stop and led the Orange down the field for the first points of the game on a QB keeper play.
The next offensive drive for the Panthers set the tone for their day on offense. The team’s leading receiver on the day, Jester Weah, scored one of his two touchdowns after he caught a slant route and bolted 59 yards through the Syracuse secondary.
The Syracuse defense has been struggling all year, and they ended the year by giving up more than ten yards per play against Pittsburgh. In the process of giving up more points in one game than any other team in FBS history, the Orange gave up almost 400 yards rushing to Pittsburgh, more yardage than many college offenses accumulate running and passing in a game. Pitt added on 9 catches as a team for an astounding 251 yards (28 yards per reception).
The biggest defensive play of the shootout occurred on Syracuse’s first offensive drive of the second half. Facing heavy pressure and already down by 14, Zack Mahoney had his only interception of the game returned for a touchdown by Pitt defender Dane Jackson.
Besides the interception, Mahoney threw the ball well, completing 43 of his 61 passes on the day for 440 yards and 5 touchdowns. All of the touchdowns were to Senior receiver Amba Etta-Tawo, who will be missed by Orange fans after having the best season in Syracuse history in terms of receiving yards.
In the loss, Syracuse showed off the explosive offense which has dazzled fans in Dino Baber’s first year as head coach. The team will have their leader, Eric Dungey back next year, along with many of the key components in the high-octane Orange offense.
While ending the season on a loss is disappointing, the Syracuse offense is playing as well as they have in many students’ lifetimes. The thought of Eric Dungey playing with more experience and an improved defense should worry the rest of the ACC, and the defense can’t get much worse.
Until next year,