2 Comments Published on 12.07.2011 by Brian Harrison
Yeah, we didn't like it either Doug.
Syracuse was 5-2 after beating then #15 West Virginia. A team that would later go on to win the Big East and play in the BCS Bowl for the league. Syracuse then proceeded to lose their last five games and not become bowl eligible. It is with that bitterness that we fill out the grades for the final game, knowing that we were probably going to lose this game anyway.
Syracuse should have won this game looking at the final statistics. They had as many first downs as Pitt (20), converted third downs better (6-13), had more total yards (345) and led in time of possession. But Syracuse committed six turnovers, four of which were due to Ryan Nassib (23/32, 225yds, 1 TD, 2 INT) fumbling two balls, and throwing two picks. The most costly being in the final drive (with two timeouts and 3 minutes to go) fumbling right into a Pitt defender's hand for an easy scoop and score. Despite SU having 120 rush yards, Antwon Bailey never got loose and wasn't even the leading rusher on the team. Five losses, five games without touchdowns. Just saying. Either way, turnovers and empty possessions against a beatable Pitt team (Broken Record) led to another loss.
The defense wasn't even close to any receiver on Pittsburgh's first play. An easy score as someone didn't follow their assignment. Overall though, the Syracuse defense bent but never really broke. They gave up some ridiculously long plays that had they turned around when the receiver slowed should have been easily defended. Giving up big plays is one thing if you get burned. But because you just covered a receiver poorly is another matter. This happened all too often in the game. Syracuse's run defense was stout however. A refreshing change from the last few games, especially Louisville and USF. And Chandler Jones had the defensive highlight of the day, and maybe his career with a pick and a nice run back. All in all, Syracuse was very beatable if all Pitt did was pass the ball. The defense did just enough though, where Syracuse probably could have won had they not turned the ball over so much on offense.
Playing from behind never helps. Thanks for fumbling the opening kickoff to give Pittsburgh easy field position. The defense didn't help you, but just giving away the ball really doesn't help. Additionally, they gave Pitt pretty good field position for several of their drives. Ross Krautman was perfect on field goals and extra points, and Jonathan Fisher was good on punting. But the muffing of a ball is the worst special team offense ever.
Syracuse is down two scores in the fourth quarter. What does Syracuse do on offense? Take 9:30 to go down and score a field goal. A small sense of urgency that late in a football game when playing from behind would be encouraging to see. The play calling in this game was bad on offense. While the turnovers were the players failure of executing on the field, Syracuse then needed to score more points. The offensive play calling, weather ahead or behind never changes. That cannot be the case. You have to adjust your strategies depending on the situations in game that are presented to you. Taking that much time on a drive in the 4th quarter should never happen unless you are ahead. Period.
While it is no surprise that Syracuse could have won this game, it is definitely no surprise that they lost. Turnovers and a really bad start to the game helped contribute. But no set of circumstances aligned for Syracuse to retake this lead or have enough time to attempt to do so. It will be a long off season and changes in staff and players will occur. For now, this is a bitter end for the seniors departing for bigger and better things.
A+ to Hines Field. One of the better NFL stadiums and a great place to watch a college football game. Good food and all the condiments I could ever want. All hail the Condiment King.
A+ to those Pitt Bloggers out there that were very welcoming, along with Pitt fans in general. They are a more pleasant bunch of football fans in the Big East in my experience.
We'll be back by the weekend with a season recap and final grades for the football team. After that it's all basketball until February. Look for an Orange::44 Lawdog update on the Bernie Fine case later tonight as well.