Pitt vs. Syracuse Recap (11/22/14)
By: Andrew Ziemba
Playing in the cold against an ice-cold Syracuse team, the Pitt Panthers keep their bowl hopes alive and gave their seniors a proper sendoff with a definitive 30-7 win. The Panthers are now 5-6, as well as 3-4 in the ACC. Note that this is just Pitt’s second victory in their last 8 games.
QB Chad Voytik threw a pair of touchdown passes and finished 14/20 for 189 yards. Sophomore Tyler Boyd produced another solid game, hauling in seven catches for 126 yards, one of which resulted in a 49-yard catch-and-run play for a score in the early fourth. Running back James Conner scored his 22nd rushing touchdown in the first quarter, tying Tony Dorsett’s school record and setting the new ACC single-season record. Conner, however, left the game in the second quarter with a hip injury. He was seen later on the sideline standing under his own power, a good sign for him and Pitt football. His replacement, freshman Chris James, performed admirably in relief, rushing for a career-high 122 yards on 19 carries. Senior Isaac Bennett, in his last game, also saw solid time in the backfield, garnering 75 rush yards while averaging 6.8 yards per carry.
Another huge factor in the Panther victory was the inability of Syracuse to get anything going on either side of the ball. Freshman quarterback AJ Long, who sat out two weeks ago with nerve troubles in his throwing shoulder, looked anything but accurate in his return, as the Orange fall to 1-6 in the ACC, just 3-8 overall. They turned the ball over three times to a Pitt defense that has looked anything but consistent this season. The Orange’s sole touchdown came from a one-yard run by Ron Johnson… A defensive lineman.
Tyler Boyd started the game off with a beautiful kickoff return for a touchdown, which unfortunately was called back due to a holding penalty around midfield. After Conner’s early strike, kicker Chris Blewitt overcame two early misses (42, 44) to nail a 46-yard field goal to make it 10-0. Voytik then hit receiver Dontez Ford for an 11-yard score, putting the Panthers ahead 17-0. The Orange responded with a solid long drive and punched it in, making it 17-7. After that, the game belonged to Pitt. Blewitt hit another two field goals (31, 49), and Boyd burst out for his 49-yard wide receiver screen. He has now topped 100 yards receiving for the fourth straight game and the fifth time this year.
The Panthers have now poised themselves for an all-or-nothing showdown in Miami next weekend, either sealing a trip to their seventh straight bowl game, or succumbing to a long offseason after squandering a 3-0 start this year.