Cuse turns it around with win over Pitt

October, 5, 2012
10/05/12
10:38
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Pitt and Syracuse will soon be the ACC's problem. Maybe that conference can figure each team out, because both remain mysteries in the Big East little more than a month into their last hurrahs.

The final meeting between these programs in Big East play went the way of the Orange, as they edged the Panthers 14-13 in a Friday-night home contest. It had been almost a year since Syracuse won a Big East game, that one also coming during a Friday-night home game over an outgoing conference member (West Virginia).

Make no mistake: This is a huge victory for the Orange, who did themselves no favors in the tough nonconference portion of their schedule and need every win they can get to have a shot of getting to a bowl game. Coach Doug Marrone shouldered much of the load publicly during the bye week, and his players answered early and held on strong late to pull out the tight victory.

Syracuse marched 70 yards on its first drive of the game to go up 7-0 ... and did not score offensively afterward. A 52-yard fumble return by Dyshawn Davis -- on a turnover forced by Jeremi Wilkes -- made it 14-0 before the first quarter was over, and the Orange defense stepped up big against the Panthers.

Pitt, also coming off a bye, entered this game riding a historic two-game offensive stretch but failed to generate much momentum. Ray Graham had trouble throughout the night, rushing it 24 times for just 57 yards and the team's lone touchdown. He added 31 yards on four catches. The Panthers as a team finished with 27 rushing yards on 37 carries, and they did themselves no favors by committing six penalties.

Pitt's Tino Sunseri put up pretty numbers -- 25 of 33 for 319 yards with no turnovers -- but was on his back much of the night, getting little help up front but stepping up time and again. Brandon Sharpe led the charge for the Orange, recording four of the team's five sacks and stopping Pitt whenever it threatened, often forcing the Panthers out of field-goal range. Sharpe finished with six tackles for loss.

Five games (and two conference tilts) in, and it's fair to call Pitt the Big East's biggest enigma, looking awful for two weeks, great the next two and falling somewhere in between Friday. Next Saturday the Panthers host preseason conference favorite Louisville, which will be coming off a bye, so all bets are off with this bunch moving forward as it looks to improve off its 0-2 Big East start.

Syracuse (2-3, 1-0) visits Rutgers next Saturday.

Matt Fortuna | email

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