Syracuse Outlasts Pittsburgh

On Senior Day, it was a junior that helped carry the Syracuse Orange (5-4, 3-1) past the Pittsburgh Panthers (5-3, 3-2), 38-31, in double overtime in the Carrier Dome Saturday.

Junior running back Damien Rhodes carried the ball 23 times for 105 yards, including all 25 yards on the game-winning drive in double overtime. Rhodes took over for senior Walter Reyes, who left in the third quarter with a back injury after running for 123 yards himself. For Reyes, it was his 14th 100-yard rushing game of his career. It was the second time Rhodes reached the century mark in a game. Saturday's win also marked the second time this season the two have each rushed for 100 yards (the first time was against Rutgers). Rhodes was confident he could carry the load when Reyes went down.

"My teammates did a great job and made it easy for me," said Rhodes. "The offensive line was blocking well. When I saw Walter go out I knew I had to step up. Things just happened to work out pretty well."

It was Rhodes who put Syracuse ahead in the second overtime with a two-yard run. On the next possession, though, Pittsburgh was stopped on a fourth down and one by a horde of Syracuse defenders, led by Tommy Harris. The 37,211 fans in the Carrier Dome, along with both teams, anxiously waited while the referees measured. When the referees signaled the ball was short of the first down, the Dome erupted, sending the Orange players and fans rushing the field.

"I ran into the middle and then I ran out to see my parents and thank the Syracuse fans," said senior captain Matt Tarullo. "They did an awesome job, especially on those last couple of downs. It was deafening. That was my last game in the Dome and I'm so glad that we had this kind of turnout."

Syracuse took the lead early with an 11 play, 62-yard drive, capped off by Reyes' 45th rushing touchdown of his career. The Orange then opened the lead to 21-6 on a 60-yard option pass from quarterback Joe Fields to wide receiver Jared Jones. The play was the only one Fields was on the field for. Offensive coordinator George DeLeone said it was a designed play after they put Fields in last week against UConn and ran an option. With Pitt looking for an option with Fields in again, the defense bit on the run, leaving Jones wide open for the touchdown. Jones racked up his first 100-yard receiving game of his career, catching four balls for 136 yards.

Pittsburgh came back to tie the game at 21 in the third quarter on a two-point conversion after Tyler Palko found Erik Gill in the endzone for a 15-yard TD pass.

Trailing 24-21 late in the fourth, the Orange drove 70 yards and tied the game on a 27-yard field goal from senior Collin Barber. Both Barber and Brendan Carney had missed field goals earlier in the game. Barber said when he lined up for the last field goal, he just wanted to block out any thoughts of the earlier miss.

"I was just trying to think positive thoughts," said Barber. "I just wanted to put the team in a good position to win the game."

With the win, Syracuse moves into second place in the Big East standings, and one game away from becoming bowl-eligible. For the 14 seniors on the team, it was a great way to end their careers in the Carrier Dome.

"It's a great win for the seniors," said senior safety Diamond Ferri. "We got to do it at home in front of our families and friends, and we got to do it together. It was great."

Cuse Nation Top Stories