LeSean McCoy ran for 140 yards and one touchdown on 31 carries in Pitt's 20-17 Big East win against Syracuse Saturday afternoon at Heinz Field and in the process became the Panthers' first running back to surpass the 1,000-yard mark since Kevan Barlow in 2000. McCoy is just the third Pittsburgh freshman to reach the plateau behind Dorsett (1973) and Curvin Richards (1988).
Dorsett had 1,686 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in 12 games, including Pitt's bowl contest that season, while Richards had 1,228 and eight scores. Through nine games for Pitt (4-5, 2-2), McCoy has 1,065 yards and 11 touchdowns on 198 carries (5.4 average).
"(Dorsett), he's the man,'' McCoy said. "(But) to talk about him, there's some big shoes to fill. He's one of those great players that you can't even talk about comparing yourself to him. It's special, but to actually see that happening is kind of crazy. I had 31 carries? I'll feel it tomorrow. I feel it right now, but I'll feel it a lot more tomorrow.''
McCoy also can set the Big East's single-season rushing mark for freshmen. Rutgers' Terrell Willis had 1,261 yards in 1993, while West Virginia's Avon Cobourne had 1,139 in 1999 and WVU's Steve Slaton had 1,128 in 2005.
"Eventually, I thought I'd get it, but I don't know about my first year,'' McCoy said. "I knew I was going to play, but I really didn't know if I'd get that much time. So, I'm kind of excited, but I just have to roll with it and get ready for the next game. ... We still have a chance to turn this season around.
"It hasn't really hit me yet. I have it (1,000 yards) and it's cool, but it hasn't really hit me as far as looking back to see what I accomplished. We still have three more games to go this season, so I'm looking ahead to them. Eventually, I'll look back at it and be celebrating, but not yet.''
Pitt probably played its most complete game against Syracuse (2-7, 1-3), with all three phases contributing, but a sluggish start and early goal-line stand by the Orange kept the came close. The Panthers went 80 yards in 15 plays during their second possession, but after getting to first-and-goal at the 5 junior fullback Conredge Collins ran four yards to the 1. Then, a slam into the line by Collins and two by McCoy netted nothing.
"That was rough,'' Collins said, "but when you don't get it in you have to forget about it and go on to the next play. But that happens. Good teams make plays, and we didn't make it at that time.
"I thought I could give an extra effort there, but I don't know. It doesn't always flow the way you want it to flow. I thought I was in (on second down), but we won. So, you can't be mad about too much when you win.''
This is when Pitt's special teams turned the game around. After a 36-yard field goal gave Syracuse a 3-0 lead, senior Lowell Robinson returned the ensuing kickoff 64 yards to the Orange 23. On third-and-four, quarterback Pat Bostick connected with Oderick Turner for a 17-yard touchdown.
"Oderick made a nice play on that pass,'' Bostick said. "We have a lot of good receivers, but when we get in the red zone I look for him a lot.''
Conor Lee kicked the first of two field goals from 32 yards, but Syracuse tied the score at 10-10 on a 56-yard post pattern from backup quarterback Cameron Dantley to Taj Smith. Lee also missed from 41 yards.
"Defensively, we gave up one long pass play, which we shouldn't have,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "They've run that play before, and we should've stopped it. But, overall, I was very pleased with our defense.''
The Panthers held Syracuse to just 30 rushing yards and recorded six sacks, but Pitt's special teams turned the game around again to help snap the tied score after three quarters. Sophomore Aaron Berry returned a punt 53 yards to the Orange 13, and McCoy ran for 12 to the 1. Two plays later, McCoy plowed in for the touchdown. Lee's second 32-yard field goal with 3:21 remaining appeared to seal the win for Pitt, but Syracuse battled back.
Dantley capped a 10-play, 63-yard drive in just 1:35 with a three-yard scoring pass to Mike Williams. And he nearly pulled off a miracle comeback after the Panthers were stopped on four downs at the Syracuse 30.
Dantley dropped back to pass six times, completed a 16-yarder to Mike Williams and nine-yarder to Smith that went out of bounds with 24 seconds remaining. However, on second down, redshirt freshman defensive end Greg Romeus sacked Dantley to force a spike on third down to stop the clock. Dantley's fourth-down pass to Williams was incomplete as time expired.
Notes: Bostick was 21-for-30 for 153 yards and one TD. He was sacked twice, but was not intercepted. ... Scott McKillop had a team-high 12 tackles, including seven solo, while Joe Clermond had seven tackles and 2.5 sacks. ... LaRod Stephens-Howling has a sore shoulder and had just one carry for minus-4 yards. ... Pitt honored its 1982 Sugar Bowl team. ... The attendance was 31,374.
McCoy Hits 1,000; Pitt Wins 20-17
Panther More Top Stories
Go premium and get SI free for a yearGo premium with PantherMore.com today and get Sports Illustrated for free.
Panther More8:53 AM
ONE YEAR LATER: Canada vs. ChaneyFormer Pitt offensive coordinator Jim Chaney bolted back to the SEC when he accepted the open offensive coordinator job at Georgia this past offseason, leaving Pitt coach Pat…
Panther MoreYesterday at 1:36 PM
Pat Narduzzi listed as "hot commodity" coachScout.com gives you its mid-season list of coaches who could take head coaching positions elsewhere after 2016. Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi is listed among college football's hottest…
ScoutYesterday at 10:00 AM
Four-star Thompson set to visit PittFour-star Pitt commit Aaron Thompson slated to check out Pitt's campus.
Panther MoreYesterday at 8:40 AM