The Syracuse defense came into their match-up with the Pittsburgh Panthers on the rise. After allowing over 170 yards of offense on the ground alone in the first half against Stony Brook, the defense responded by giving up a mere 45 yards in the second half en route to the Orange's first victory of the season.
Versus Minnesota, Syracuse's defensive unit forced numerous punts, nixed touchdown attempts through the air, and got to Max Shortell, sending the Golden Gophers farther back or off the field completely. However, their efforsts were not matched the offense as the Orange went on to lose 17-10.
With the Big East no longer on the horizon, Syracuse opened the doors to a second chance at this season with their conference opener at home where they played host to Pittsburgh.
The Orange offense scored early in the game off a short carry from running back Adonis Ameen-Moore, which got Syracuse out in front 7-0. But the Orange offense would not score for the remainder of the game, a drought that lasted from 9:54 left in the first quarter all the way to the final whistle.
Enter the defense.
Consistent defensive threat and quite possibly the best of the entire defense combined, free safety Jeremi Wilkes came on ferocious in coverage, forcing Panthers' tight end, Drew Carswell, to fumble. The fumble was scooped up by Wilkes' teammate, linebacker Dyshawn Davis, and taken straight into glory territory for a touchdown.
The defense added in this touchdown to give the Orange 14 points after another Ross Krautman extra point and then prevented the Panthers from achieving more than one touchdown; Pittsburgh had to settle for two field goals.
In all of the second half, the defense allowed a mere field goal and salvaged the game despite the continued faltering of the offense when it comes to scoring.
What once was a high-scoring, highly-competitive offense has now laid down in the last few games, only to be picked up by their brethren on the other side of the ball. This upcoming-and-coming defensive unit has led the Orange to two wins in three games.
Against the run. Though Syracuse allowed a rushing touchdown, they condensed Pittsburgh running back Ray Graham to 57 yards on 24 carries for an average on less than 2.5 yards per carry. Overall, the defense gave up 27 yards on 37 carries by the Panthers, an average of 0.7 yards per carry, thanks to their play versus Pittsburgh Tino Sunseri, who lost 51 yards on the ground.
Defensive end Brandon Sharpe led to numerous losses for Sunseri as well as for the running game in general, taking Pittsburgh backward for a total of 45 yards on his own in this game.
Against the pass. Despite 319 yards allowed through the air by the Orange, they did not give up a single passing touchdown in the entire game. Panthers' wide receiver got the best of the Syracuse secondary numerous times, finishing the game with 130 yards on 10 catches, but the Orange got the best of Street by keeping him out of the end zone.
In his first return since being injured in the Syracuse-Stony Brook match-up, cornerback Brandon Reddish made sure Sunseri remembered his name, coming off the corner to provide a hard hit and take down of the Pittsburgh quarterback for a sack that took the Panthers out of field goal range, and a chance to win in the fourth quarter down 14-13.
Defensive player of the game. Brandon Sharpe has the game of his career, recording four sacks in the game for a total Pittsburgh loss of 42 yards.
His overall pressure on Sunseri which led to success against the passing game as well as his tackling which negated yards on the ground helped the defense to prevent more than 13 points, resulting in the team's first win against a BCS-opponent this season.