It was the running game for Pitt that closed this one out, however. After running the clock down to three seconds behind a rushing attack that ate up most of the fourth quarter, Chris Blewitt made a 24-yard field goal as time expired and the Panthers defeated the Orange 23-20.
"I thought the kids played hard," Shafer said. "Both sides of the ball. I thought it was a very good football game. Nip and tuck, guys going at it. Playing a good, tough, hard nosed brand of football on both sides. Obviously, very disappointed to come up short again two weeks in a row.
"Football's a game of inches. It's one play here, one play there that can make the difference in the outcome and we saw that."
Syracuse got off to a hot start with a 55-yard run by Jordan Fredericks on their opening drive after Pitt initiated the scoring with a field goal. Eric Dungey hit Ervin Philips for a 20-yard touchdown on the next play. Syracuse led for most of the rest of the first half, with Qadree Ollison knotting things up at 10 with less than two minutes left in the second quarter.
The Orange answered with a touchdown drive, capped by an Ishmael four yard scoring catch. A special teams penalty gave Pitt a field goal at the end of the half. Syracuse led 17-13 heading into the locker room.
Syracuse had a chance to extend their lead on the first possession of the third quarter when a scary moment occurred. Dungey scrambled and took a hard hit that saw him lay motionless on the turf for a couple of seconds. He got up but had to go to the locker room. Zachary Mahoney filled in on the drive that saw Syracuse go three and out.
Dungey came back on the next possession.
Both offenses struggled in the third quarter, which saw Dungey throw two interceptions in Pitt territory.
"Got to get rid of the interceptions," Shafer said. "On the first interception, just a little bit behind on the spot throw and got ricocheted up in the air. On the second one, going down the field with two verticles there, the corner did a nice job, by Pitt, of coming back and making a play for number two."
Ollison opened the fourth quarter with three consecutive runs after the second of those turnovers. The third was a one yard score that putt the Panthers up 20-17. Syracuse answered with a drive that tied it on a 37-yard Cole Murphy field goal early in the fourth.
The Panthers never gave the ball back to the Orange, however. They capped a 19-play drive with a field goal as time expired for the three point win.
Syracuse seemed to have made a stop on Pittsburgh's final drive. Pitt was facing 4th and 7 at their own 48 with under four minutes to play. Syracuse was going to get the ball back with a chance to win. Then the Panthers called a fake punt, which saw punter Ryan Winslow hit Matt Galambos for 12 yards a first down.
"Good call by them," Shafer said. "We were high-low on it and tried to get a return and they made a play."
Pittsburgh ran the ball down Syracuse's throats from there, converting two third and ones and a third and six along the way. Syracuse next faces Florida State on the road as they look to end a four game losing streak. Despite the results, head coach Scott Shafer still believes things are headed in the right direction.
"At the end of the day, we came up short," Shafer said. "Disappointing, but we'll get back to work. I like the way our kids are playing, like the way they're competing. The good part of it is, a bunch of these kids are going to be back for quite a while. So I've been pleased with that. Just disappointed to come up short."