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Jarrett, No. 25 Pitt ready for road game at Syracuse

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Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

By Jeremy Tepper / Senior Staff Writer

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Tyrique Jarrett will hardly hear the opposing fans in the enclosed Carrier Dome on Saturday, as Pitt’s football team prepared for the roar in practice with speakers simulating crowd noise.

“We go into the game thinking it’s not really their home field. It’s ours,” Jarrett, a junior defensive tackle, said. “We look at our fans, and we look at one another. We just think we’re going to go up, and we’re going to do what we need to do in order to execute, in order to get this W.”

On Saturday at noon, No. 25 Pitt (5-1, 3-0 ACC) will hit the road again against Syracuse (3-3, 1-1 ACC) at the Carrier Dome. Pitt’s 3-1 away record backs up Jarrett’s claim about having multiple home fields, a trend he and Pitt’s defense will try to continue at the Carrier Dome.

Even though Pitt’s played four of its first six games on the road in hostile, raucous environments, Jarrett and his teammates are ready for that atmosphere due to their practice routine.

The dome presents a different kind of environment because its enclosed roof amplifies crowd noise. Pitt center Artie Rowell, though, said it will be nothing they haven’t heard in practice, where the team uses its speakers to simulate crowd noise and make play calling more difficult.

“What we practice with will be louder than anything we’ll play with, unless they show up with 40,000 people that have blow-horns,” Rowell said.

Besides a noisy environment, the Panthers expect a hard-fought game, as two of their last three contests with Syracuse come down to one point. The Panthers won last year’s game 30-7, though senior cornerback Lafayette Pitts anticipates a game more similar to the other two. Pitt won the 2013 contest 17-16 and lost 14-13 in 2012.

“We know it’s going to be a dog fight,” Pitts said.

Coming off three consecutive losses after starting the season on a three-game winning streak, the Orange know this game is important for their bowl chances. The team must win three more games to become eligible and faces a difficult end to its schedule.

Syracuse’s strength comes on offense, where it averages 32.2 points per game, good for 53rd in the country. Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said Syracuse splits the pass and run about 50-50, though he’s been especially impressed with quarterback Eric Dungey.

The freshman signal caller has compiled 810 yards and thrown nine touchdowns to one interception. His 167.1 QB rating ranks 10th in the country.

“I’m very impressed with their quarterback,” Narduzzi said. “The guy’s got some moxie at quarterback, and he’s a football player. He does some great things.”

Schematically, Pitts said Syracuse likes to spread out its receivers and run a lot of empty backfield formations. The Orange also like to throw it deep, mainly to receivers Steve Ishmael and Brisly Estime, who have season-long receptions of 62 and 89 yards, respectively.

“They take shots [downfield] a lot, so we’re going to have to actually be disciplined a lot in the backend and up front,” Pitts said.

Defensively, Narduzzi said he sees a lot of Pitt’s defense in Syracuse’s. The Orange’s tendency for zone pressures and their third-down package are similar to Pitt’s, Rowell said.

Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney sees both positives and negatives in the defense’s similarities.

“I think it’s good, but it’s also good for them. I think it’s going to benefit us because I do believe they run a similar defense to what we do,” Chaney said.

Syracuse ranks 70th in yards allowed per game, and Pitt ranks 17th at 300 yards allowed per game. Rowell praised their defensive line, because it helped the Orange defense generate 15 total sacks this season.

“This is one of the best defensive lines we’ll play, so the offensive line has their hands full,” Rowell said.

Specifically, Rowell highlighted defensive end Ron Thompson as an impact player, as he’s accumulated five sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss this season.

Though the offensive line will have plenty to deal with in Syracuse’s defensive line, the unit will try to replicate the success it had last week against Georgia Tech, when the offense scored 31 points, its second best total this season.

Rowell said Pitt’s offense is ready to play consistently dynamic.

“We show all the signs of it. We’re converting on third downs, fourth downs, driving the ball, holding the ball. We can do it. We just need to do it more consistently,” Rowell said.

The offensive line has been a large part of that optimistic prognostication, as defenses have generated minimal pressure on Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman, sacking him only 2.33 times per game.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had this good of pass protection in my life, even going back to Pop Warner,” Peterman said.

Saturday’s contest may hold more significance for Narduzzi, as he and Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer coached together at University of Rhode Island in the 1990s. Still, the two coaches will put aside any type of nostalgia come game time.

“It’ll be special before the game starts, and after that, it’s war,” Narduzzi said.

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Jarrett, No. 25 Pitt ready for road game at Syracuse