The opportunities were there Friday night for Brandon Sharpe, and he certainly took them.
The Syracuse defensive end had a career-high four sacks in the Orange's one-point win over Pitt, tying for the second-highest single-game sack mark in school history. Sharpe also recorded six tackles for a loss, which are second on the school's single-game list behind Doug Hogue, who had 6.5 in a 2009 game against Rutgers.
Sharpe, who entered the contest with 10 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss on the season, finished with a career-high seven tackles, winning Big East defensive player of the week honors in the process.
"I like to take it one play at a time, so I didn’t even know how many plays I was making," Sharpe said after the game. "I was just in the groove of the game. I just felt relaxed. Other guys, I just tried to keep them amped up. They were playing so good also, so I just like to stay level."
Sharpe, a senior, was a big reason Panthers quarterback Tino Sunseri was on the ground for much of the night. Pitt had allowed just two sacks in its three nonconference games, but after Friday's loss to the Orange, it has now surrendered 11 in its two conference games.
The last Big East meeting between these two future ACC schools went the Orange's way, thanks to the kind of defensive effort that had been missing through their 1-3 start.
"Brandon plays very well. We all know that Pittsburgh is very physical team and they are very well coached," Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said after the win. "You look at what we did today against this Pittsburgh team and the run game. I think that’s difficult to do. Our kids work for that challenge. We challenge them with it. Brandon did a good job."