Strength of schedule helps Orange

Early-season losses to four ranked opponents -- Purdue, Virginia, Florida State and West Virginia -- apparently prepared Syracuse well for the stretch run.

The Orange have won two straight games and are second in the Big East.

Junior running back Damien Rhodes rushed for 103 yards and scored a game-winning 2-yard touchdown in the second overtime to lift Syracuse past Pittsburgh 38-31 at the Carrier Dome on Saturday.

Running back Walter Reyes, playing in his final home game, added 123 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The Orange (5-4) will travel to Temple this week and then to Boston College on Nov. 27 to close the season.

"I think it takes a lot of character and ability to hang in there and persevere," said Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni, who has been on the "hot seat" for most of the season. "It was just persistence, persistence, persistence. It certainly wasn't pretty."

After Rhodes opened the second overtime with a touchdown, Pittsburgh had a chance to tie, but fell short on a fourth-down play. Strong safety Diamond Ferri and linebacker Tommy Harris stuffed running back Raymond Kirkley to end the game.

NOTES, QUOTES

GAME BALL GOES TO: SS Diamond Ferri -- The senior anticipated a weak-side toss to Pittsburgh running back Raymond Kirkley and made the fourth-down stop to lock up the double-overtime victory.

KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Damien Rhodes -- The junior rushed for 103 yards on 23 carries, including 81 yards on 16 carries after halftime, and scored the game-winning touchdown on a 2-yard rush to lead Syracuse past Pittsburgh. Rhodes accounted for all 25 yards on Syracuse's final drive in the second extra session.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was a great win. I think the locker room could have rivaled the Red Sox. It was unbelievable." -- Syracuse tackle Adam Terry, on his team's post-game celebration.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

LOOKING GOOD: A week after surrendering 566 yards to Connecticut, Syracuse's defense held Pittsburgh to 443 yards in two overtimes. The Orange also managed three sacks for 18 yards.

STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: Syracuse was successful on 7 of 16 third-down conversion opportunities. The Orange entered the game ranked last in the Big East in that category (30.8 percent), so it was actually an improvement.

ROSTER REPORT: RB Walter Reyes suffered a back injury, but his status is undetermined.

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