Panthers trek north for 75th renewal of Syracuse football rivalry

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Panthers trek north for 75th renewal of Syracuse football rivalry

Alex Kessman (97) gets a running start before kicking a field goal.

Alex Kessman (97) gets a running start before kicking a field goal.

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Alex Kessman (97) gets a running start before kicking a field goal.

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Alex Kessman (97) gets a running start before kicking a field goal.

By John Riskis, Staff Writer

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Pitt football (4-2, 1-1 ACC) looks to continue its three game win streak after another close victory at Duke when it faces rival Syracuse (3-3) away this Friday.

In their road game last week, the Panthers built an early lead only to watch it disappear late in the game once again. They managed to fend off Duke’s late game surge with a final go-ahead score that capped a six-play, 82-yard drive.

Reviewing last week’s game, Narduzzi commented on the team’s resilience and will to win.

“Our kids hung in there … On that final drive, Kenny Pickett led the show, our offensive line did a good job and players made plays like they’re supposed to,” said Narduzzi.

Looking ahead to Friday, Pitt will face a familiar foe in the Syracuse Orange. This will be the 75th installment in a long-standing series between the two squads. Pitt leads the series 39-32-3 in all-time wins through their collective time in the Big East and ACC. The Panthers also won last season in a thrilling 44-37 OT victory at home.

Part of the nail-biting nature of the Pitt-Syracuse rivalry can be attributed to the similarities they share, especially on defense. Narduzzi referenced some of those details in his weekly press conference.

“Probably their favorite blitz is the double A blitz which looks just like our blitz, so we know what to do with that,” said Narduzzi.

Narduzzi recognized the competitiveness of Syracuse rivalry and the hostile atmosphere the Carrier Dome will present.

“We know we’re in for a dog fight,” Narduzzi said. “We get to go up in the dome. We know it’ll be hot, it’ll be stuffy, it’ll be loud one way or another.”

Led by stars like senior defensive linemen Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman, the Orange defense looks menacing. Additionally, sophomore defensive back Andre Cisco, having captured seven interceptions last season, can lock down on the back end for the Orange. Pitt will need to give junior quarterback Kenny Pickett good protection against these talented edge rushers.

Offensively, Syracuse runs a tempo offense similar to that of UCF with quick snaps and no-huddle pace. The Orange are led by sophomore quarterback Tony DeVito, who has passed for 1,534 yards this season with a 65.5% completion rate. Senior running back Moe Neal and junior wide receiver Tristan Shannon top their offensive weapons.

To return home with a win, Pitt must continue its defense dominance against opponents so far. Coming into this game tied second in the FBS in sacks, we know what this defensive line is capable of doing. Finding pressure and forcing turnovers will prove critical in putting this game away. On the flip side, Pickett and the offense must not commit erroneous turnovers of their own, lest the Panthers repeat another second-half scare.

More importantly, finishing games like they have in the past three outings will be paramount. A recipe similar to last week at Duke may not always end so favorably, especially on the road. Narduzzi must learn from mistakes and execute wins when leading.

Prediction

Pitt: 17, Syracuse: 14

The Pitt defense will once again be the star of the show with sophomore defensive lineman Jaylen Twyman, sophomore defensive back Paris Ford and crew holding Syracuse to under 300 yards in this game. Another Pitt defensive score will result off a key fumble by the Orange offense.

The Panther’s offense will struggle on the road against a strong defensive rival, but offensive coordinator Mark Whipple will once again piece together another late game-clinching drive, this time being a field goal off the foot of junior placekicker Alex Kessman.

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