Progress evident, but 'Cuse still can't close
For nearly three full quarters, SU played like an actual Division I-A team. The offensive playbook magically opened up, as Cam Dantley found Donte Davis and Van Chew for long touchdown passes in the left corner of the end zone. On both plays, Dantley launched a spiral to nearly the same exact spot, allowing his young receivers to run underneath the ball and gather it in on their outside shoulder. After Dantley's second touchdown pass of the day (to Chew) to begin the third quarter, the ‘Cuse enjoyed an eleven-point advantage.
That's when SU's collective fan base opened its eyes from the pleasant dream and the Panthers offense roared to life. LeSean McCoy gashed the much-maligned Orange defense for a season-high 149 yards, including a crucial 34-yard run in the fourth quarter that set up the game-winning score. Backfield mate LaRod Stephens-Howling punched in both of Pitt's touchdowns. The second came after SU's lone turnover of the day. With SU trailing 27-24, Greg Romeus sacked Cam Dantley, forcing a fumble that a teammate would recover. From there on out, it was back to old Syracuse football, as the defense, which was on the field for more than 38 minutes, got pushed around the field on Pitt's final scoring drive of the second half. The Panthers scored on each of their four possessions in the second stanza, outscoring SU 21-7 after the break.
The game didn't start out in Pitt's favor, however. The Orange defense, playing solidly in the first half, forced a 40-yard Conor Lee field goal after Pitt methodically moved the ball down the field on its first possession. Just ten seconds later, sophomore Mike Holmes took the ensuing kick ninety yards to the house, stunning even the sparse scattering of SU fans at the Dome. The defense held strong on the second possession and for the first time in forty years or so (okay, maybe not quite that long), SU had the ball and the lead against a Big East opponent. Mitch Browning then stunningly opened the playbook, allowing Dantley to throw a long pass on third and short. Sophomore Donte Davis hauled it in, but SU's defense was still quickly back out on the field again.
The Orange defense bent, but did not completely break in the first half until Pitt QB Bill Stull fired a short scoring strike to Dorin Dickerson with just over four minutes remaining in the second quarter. SU used an efficient, balanced offensive attack in the first half, seizing a 17-13 halftime lead when Patrick Shadle knocked home a 25-yarder as time expired. Curtis Brinkley finished with 119 yards on sixteen carries to lead the ‘Cuse, who fell to 1-4 on the season with the defeat.
The loss brings up more questions about Greg Robinson's job status, with rumors abundant that former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr was seen on campus Friday. While many have been reporting this, no ‘tangible evidence' of Carr being on campus exists, as AD Dr. Daryl Gross would put it. So now, it's back to the weekly grind of the G-Rob watch and preparing for another humiliating loss (Thank God for the bye week.)
-Lavar Lobdell had 3 catches for 52 yards to finish as the leading receiver. Good to see him get involved in the offense finally. On that note, all three catches were for first downs.
-My musings as to why Max Suter had his kick return duties visibly scaled back were answered today when Michael Holmes raced 90 yards to paydirt in the first quarter. On the defensive side of the ball, Holmes looked much improved in the first half, but as the game wore on, his mental lapses became more frequent once more.
-Seriously, Antwon Bailey?????? Can't Robinson just resign because getting fired is the only thing he's hoping to accomplish with that call. (For those who missed it, Robinson put Antwon Bailey into the game in the fourth quarter in a tie game, despite the fact that Curtis Brinkley had already passed the century mark on the ground.)
-The defensive line got pressure at times, but NO sacks. I counted at least a half dozen times in the first half when they did. Unfortunately, the number of pressures died in the second half, as did their stamina. If football were a 30 minute game, SU might have two or three wins this year.
-Umm, so what's the excuse for that playbook suddenly being unveiled? Did the dog eat the playbook before the season and it took a month to reconstruct it? Great play-action looks and downfield passes from Dantley to Davis, Chew and Lobdell. (I believe both touchdown passes came on third-and-short as well.)
-The lack of ability to tackle means there's no way SU is ever going to be able to take control of any game whatsoever in the near future. Here's looking at you, Syracuse linebackers.
-GRob watch continues and unfortunately, I think it's going to go on for the whole year. It didn't happen after a loss to Akron (who by the way, gave Cincy a run for their money this week…more on that in my Big East weekly recap.) It also didn't happen after the premiere of "The Express" and a six-touchdown shellacking at the hands of once-rival Penn State. It didn't happen after only a nine-point home win over a FBS team. And that's just this year. There's numerous other instances in the last year before where Good Ol' Greggers could have been gone. Can we refer to him as that now? Good Ol' Greggers, or GOG for short. It makes him sound like an incompetent ogre. Not that I'm implying anything here…anyhow, unless SU loses by triple digits this year, I'm guessing he's sticking around for the rest of the year.
-LaRod Stephens-Howling says "We didn't really change anything up. We just kept running the ball down the field" when asked about Pitt's second-half success on the ground. Ahh, so that explains why SU couldn't stop Pitt. Because they were running the SAME play for about fifteen straight downs late in the third quarter. Puh-leeze. GOG once was a defensive mastermind, right?
That's all I've got for this one. (Note: no walls were harmed in the creation of this article because I didn't have the heart to bang my head against one…any sane SU fan should be too far depressed to expect anything positive for the rest of the season, at least on the gridiron)
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