Entering Saturday afternoon’s clash, Pittsburgh had won five straight matchups with Syracuse and 18 of the last 21. The Orange hadn’t beaten the Panthers in a venue other than the Dome since 2001 (most of Team Fizz was not born). Nonetheless, SU made the decision to forgo its seventh and final home game worth it as it took down Pitt 28-13 at Yankee Stadium.
This may have been the most unorthodox offensive game plan Dino Babers has ever put into motion. With the exception of Syracuse’s opening drive where Garrett Shrader threw a touchdown pass to Max Man, QB1 as a passer wasn’t really in the playbook. Shrader wasn’t throwing a lot in warmups, and on his limited pass attempts during the game he didn’t look super comfortable. How do you counter that? Ground and pound. Shrader, LeQuint Allen, and Dan Villari all had a presence running the football, with a 100-yard game from both Allen and Villari. Where had this been the last few weeks?
You know the old saying “defense wins championships”? That’s something Rocky Long’s crew held very dear today. It was bend but don’t break when Pitt scored 10 points over a 2:30 stretch, but other than that the defense had an admirable performance. Right after the offer just fell short of a touchdown on fourth-and-goal, Jayden Bellamy responded with a pick-six two plays later, one of three takeaways for the defense. The Mob put up far and away its best performance since the Army game with timely stops throughout the contest. The stock of the 3-3-5 went up tonight.
So, how does this game impact this team’s future aspirations? SU is now one victory away from lucky number 6 to earn bowl eligibility in back to back seasons for the first time in Babers’ tenure. Syracuse needs to win one of a road clash with Georgia Tech or senior night in the Dome against Wake Forest. By record alone, both teams are a leg up from Pitt. But based off the resiliency this team showed today, you have to feel better about its chances. A bowl game is no lock by any means, but they are still two very winnable games.
Even though the game wasn’t played inside the Dome and it wasn’t a full house by any means, Orange Nation still had a very good showing. When all hope seemed lost, SU pulled through to nab a potentially season-saving victory. It’s going to be fascinating to see if it can make it worth it.