Prediction: Panthers to crush the Orange


Chawntez Moss runs the ball for the Panthers in the Saturday, Sept. 30, game against Rice University. (Photo by Thomas Yang l Staff Photographer)

The last time Pitt and Syracuse met, the Panthers won a hectic back-and-forth offensive game 76-61 — the highest combined total score in NCAA history.

But now the Panthers and the Orange both come into this game 2-3 and are desperate for a win, especially in the ACC.

Pitt dominated Rice 42-10 last week, ending its three-game losing streak and giving the team some much-needed life. Redshirt senior quarterback Max Browne starred in the game, having a completion rate of 88 percent — for 28 of 32 passes — and throwing for a career-high 410 yards. After redshirt sophomore Ben DiNucci replaced him in the game against Georgia Tech, Browne played the best game of his collegiate career.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers have struggled. They rank 103rd out of 129 teams for defense with 433.4 yards given up per game and 106th for allowing 263.4 passing yards per game.

As for Syracuse, the team started out its season 2-1. The Orange easily beat FCS opponent Central Connecticut State, but lost a close game against Middle Tennessee State at home — a game which could end up being vital if they don’t make a bowl game. The Orange then came back for a crushing defeat over Central Michigan, 41-17.

Syracuse continued adding to its losses, recording one against Louisiana State University and one against North Carolina State University. The Orange managed to keep both games close, losing by nine to LSU and eight to NC State. In the game against NC State, the Orange tried to come back after being down 26-7 at the half, but ended up losing 33-25.

The Orange have a great leader with second-year coach Dino Babers at the helm. Babers set out to revamp the football program and promised to bring up-tempo football and fast scoring. Junior quarterback Eric Dungey and senior wide receivers Steve Ishmael and Ervin Phillips have proven how explosive this offense can be.

Dungey is currently ranked 12th in the NCAA for passing yards this season. He has completed 64 percent of his passes — 135 of 212 — and has 1,437 yards so far.

Ishmael and Phillips rank first and third, respectively, in the NCAA for receptions per game with 10.2 and 8.8, respectively. Ishmael is also second in the nation for total receiving yards at 632 and is third in receiving yards per game at 126.4.

The Panthers will have to stamp out this high-powered offense and give special attention to Ishmael and Phillips if they want any chance of winning this game. They can’t expect to win if they have another game like Oklahoma State, when they allowed quarterback Mason Rudolph to throw for 497 yards.

The Panthers can’t waste two men covering one player, either. While Ishmael has been the better receiver, Phillips had an impressive game last week. For example, when Ishmael was covered by two men in the game against NC State, Phillips was more open and had 17 catches for 188 yards — an ACC record for most receptions in a game.

On a positive note, Pitt has All-ACC defensive back junior Jordan Whitehead back. He wasn’t able to demonstrate his defensive prowess against the run-heavy triple option of Georgia Tech, but against Syracuse he will have the chance to show those skills.

The Panthers have also had trouble with running the ball. Against a weak Rice defense, they only accumulated 69 yards on 33 rushing attempts, and their longest run was by Whitehead for 24 yards. With players such as redshirt junior Qadree Ollison and sophomore Chawntez Moss, the Panthers have the experience at the running back position to run the ball better than they have been.


Passing the ball will be key to a Pitt win on Saturday. Browne showed last week that with time in the pocket, he can throw some brilliant passes. Still, playing against a Rice defense, which ranks 122nd, is not the same as the ACC defense of the Orange.

The last time these two teams met, they set a precedent for scoring. Even though this game should be lower-scoring, don’t be surprised both teams try to rack up the points.

Pitt: 35, Syracuse: 31