As if the four-game losing streak wasn't bad enough for the Orange,it spotted Pitt 10 points early on. Dorian Graham bobbled the opening kick after it fell short of where he expected, and the Pantehers recovered. On the very next play, Tino Sunseri found a wide-open Isaac Bennett out of the backfield for an easy 22-yard connection.
Seconds later, on Syracuse's second offensive play, Ryan Nassib was intercepted by Brandon Lindsey. After a roughing the passer penalty on Marquis Spruill, he atoned for the mistake with a third-down sack of Sunseri to force a field goal try. Kevin Harper connected from 37-yards out to put Pitt up 10-0 less than three minutes into the game.
Nassib and company responded, with a nine-play, nearly six-minute drive to slow the pace down. After making plays with his feet to allow receivers to get open, Nassib executed a screen pass to Antwon Bailey to perfection against a Panthers blitz, and the tailback took it 26 yards for a score.
Even with some momentum behind it, the Orange would not hold up on defense during the ensuing possession. Sunseri found his running backs in the passing game and backup QB/tight end Anthony Gonzalez strolled into the end zone on a 17-yard keeper after breaking Chandler Jones' contain and getting by Jeremi Wilkes in the open field.
After another short kickoff, this one out of bounds, SU managed just one first down as Nassib was pressured on every pass attempt in a short span. Pitt responded with another easy-looking drive, until an odd play resulted in an SU sack of Sunseri. Olando Fisher came through untouched, as the Panther offensive line froze after appearing to have drawn SU offsides.
Once the Orange regained possession, Nassib became locked in with Alec Lemon. The two hooked-up for gains of 22 and 27 yards to put SU inside the 10-yard line. However, a pair of Bailey carries and a misfire from Nassib to Nick Provo at the back pylon led to a short field goal from Ross Krautman.
Pittsburgh moved right down the field soon after, but the drive stalled after Fisher made another great play in the backfield on the way to the quarterback. Harper could not connect from 44-yards out and the Orange was in business before Pitt continued to pressure Nassib up the middle.
Harper made good on his next attempt, connecting from 36-yards out with minimal time remaining in the opening half. Syracuse manufactured little in the two-minute offense as did Pitt once it obtained the ball one final time before the break.