Panthers crush the Orangemen 34-14

Pitt came up with an outstanding defensive performance before 61,421 fans on Homecoming to defeat Syracuse and improve to 5-2, 2-0 on the season. Syracuse RB Walter Reyes entered the game as the nations 4th leading rusher but he was held to under 100 yards rushing and big play receiver Johnnie Morant was held to one catch for two yards.

Syracuse QB R.J. Anderson came into the game as the only division-1 QB to not throw a interception this season, but the Panthers defense picked him off twice during their dominating performance. He finished completing only 7 of 18 passes for 49 yards. Cornerback Josh Lay had a 20-yard fumble return for a TD just before half that swung the momentum in Pitt's direction. Shawntae Spencer played a sensational game at cornerback and finished with one interception and 3 deflected passes. Defensive tackle Dan Stephens helped control the interior line as he came up with two tackles for a loss. For the first time this season the Panthers played a swarming defense for 4 quarters.

The game started off on shaky ground as the Panthers offense was going backwards on penalties and botched plays that resulted in big losses. Then the Panthers fumbled a punt that was returned for 7 yards and a TD. The Pitt offense answered the call though with a 7-yard pass from Rod Rutherford to Larry Fitzgerald. Kris Wilson also caught a 19-yard TD pass from Rutherford that tied the game at 14 points before Lay's fumble return gave them the lead at halftime.

Rutherford had a fantastic game as he completed his first 12 passes and ended up completing 21 of 32 for 310 yards and 3 TD's. His one interception came on a pass that went off of his receiver's hands.

Larry Fitzgerald had another Heisman-worthy performance as he caught 8 passes for 149 and 2 TD's. He tied the NCAA record with his 13th consecutive game TD reception. He also broke the all-time Big East record for TD's in a season that was held by former Pitt receiver Terry Murphy at 13. Fitzgerald now has 15 TD catches on the season with 5 games remaining.

Fitzgerald's 7-yard TD catch in the third quarter put Pitt up by two TD's and the defense pitched a shutout in the second half. David Abdul added two field goals of 30 and 43 yards to complete the scoring.

The Panthers were able to put early struggles behind them and come back from 7-0 and 14-7 deficits. They did it with a defense that played like Panthers defenses from the past, and an offense that used all of its weapons to make it difficult for the Syracuse defense. Princell Brockenbrough had an excellent game as he made many big catches to keep the chains moving. He finished with 4 catches for 64 yards. Wilson also made several leaping catches and totaled with 3 catches for 49 yards. Jawan Walker also added 4 receptions for 31 yards. The running game still isn't where the Panthers need it, but Walker and Tim Murphy provided a solid one-two punch that kept the Syracuse defense honest. Walker finished with 47 yards rushing and Murphy added 21 yards.

Pitt improved to 5-2 on the season and 2-0 in the Big East. Next up is a game at Boston College (5-3, 1-2) this Saturday. Pitt defeated BC 19-16 last year in overtime. Pitt has not won at Boston College since 1989. The Panthers should have plenty of motivation for this game, as this will be their last conference game against BC before they move to the ACC conference. Boston College deceived the Big East conference into believing they would stay in the conference, on two separate occasions, and all the while they were working on deals behind the scenes.

Brian Gold

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